Body Paint: Visual Artist Dawn Okoro on Status, “Selfsploitation,” and Sexting Friday 28 September, 2012
“Art chose me.” Inspiring words from artist Dawn Okoro, considering that she has a degree in psychology as well as a license to practice law attached to her name. Extremely talented and very intelligent, Dawn practices art out of a natural impulse to create. For Dawn, painting and drawing becomes very natural, almost like breathing. [...]
“Art chose me.” Inspiring words from artist Dawn Okoro, considering that she has a degree in psychology as well as a license to practice law attached to her name. Extremely talented and very intelligent, Dawn practices art out of a natural impulse to create. For Dawn, painting and drawing becomes very natural, almost like breathing. After going after career options that she thought were more practical at the time, Dawn uses art as a medium to express herself because, in the end, art is really where her heart is.
Live Unchained couldn’t be happier with Dawn’s decision. With a portfolio that includes a variety of materials, including oil, acrylic, pencil, and other mediums, Dawn’s brilliant use of color highlights the beauty of the African Diaspora. Her artwork embodies space, movement, pattern, design, texture, and color; as well as lived experiences and self-reflexivity. In this interview about Dawn’s aesthetic journey, we discuss relevance of material status, the prominence of ‘selfsploitation’, and the epidemic of sexting.
Can you give us some insight into the birth of a piece?
Each piece starts with an idea. Then I shoot photos of a model in various looks and poses related to that idea. Since I usually draw or paint human forms, I use photos as a guide so that I can keep the body in proportion. I use oil or acrylic paint or both depending on the blending needed and the look I am going for.
Your “Potential Ideal” series is all about young women in the midst of everyday routine. What does “potential ideal” mean to you? Do you think that any of the women portrayed in these paintings obtain it?
To me, the “potential ideal” is the possibility of perfection. The women portrayed in the paintings are trying to obtain that ideal image. Most people I know are searching for that ideal in one way or another.
“Bag Girl” and “Is That a Real Gucci Bag” focus on the consumption of expensive, brand name products while the title’s bring into question status and authenticity. Could you tell us about the inspiration and meaning behind these paintings?
When I was younger, I was very interested in monogrammed name brand purses for myself. I couldn’t afford most of them so I collected an armful of counterfeit bags that I purchased in New York, Dallas, and the internet. I eventually became uninterested in those counterfeit bags, especially after I learned about their seedy origins.
The bags ended up piled in a closet. I looked at them and thought about how silly it is that some people judge others based on how much disposable income they appear to have.
Your “Selfsploitation” series is a stark departure from your previous work. Instead of depicting women in powerful positions, the “Selfsploitation” paintings show women in objectified and sexualized positions. Where does this perspective come from?
At the time that the series was conceived, I was noticing more of these “self portraits” online. I became intrigued. Why were women taking sexualized photos of themselves and making them public? “Selfsploitation” was and exploration into that.
In your essay, Selfsploitation: Women, Technology, and the Fading Dichotomy between Public and Private, you ultimately state: “I do not believe that women who choose to take sexualized photos and share them electronically should be condemned. I do believe that many women, especially teen girls are pressured into such activity, and will later regret their decisions to partake in sexting.” How did you come to think this way about sexting?
The research that I did showed that some young girls were pressured into sexting by boyfriends. It also seemed that some girls were sexting for attention. Sometimes private pictures sent to one person end up in the wrong hands. That’s a reason why doing something so taboo under pressure could lead to future embarrassment.
As an artist, why do you think it’s important to create social awareness about sexting?
When I shared the “Selfsploitation” series, I would have been happy to at least get a conversation about the topic going. It’s a very sensitive subject and I do think it is important to create social awareness about it.
Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?
To me, living unchained means living free without mental bounds.
Written by Aleyna Jones