AMERICAN WOMAN

  • About the Project

    We are Black (magic) women. Us, who can have a conversation with just the word “girl.” Us, who affirm each other with nothing but approving nods when we cross paths. We all we got. Soulmates with coiled hair that weaves through the sky and full lips swollen with words of knowledge, ache, desire.

    We are constantly asked to chose. Black liberation OR Feminism? “Class” OR promiscuity/objectification? Black women are the mules of the world (word to Zora) because the world refuses to allow us to define ourselves or listen when we proclaim who we are. This is particularly true of Black American women. We live in the country of our captors. We’re directly descended from ancestors of the African diaspora who built this country sans free will. Our existence is a balancing act.

    AMERICAN WOMAN will pushback against the archetype of the American Woman--the white, thin, privileged one whose roads are gilded in gold. The one you see when you google “american woman” or “beautiful woman.” Non-Black women are celebrated for adopting style and characteristics Black women get shamed for, i.e. brightly colored hair, acrylic fingernails, big lips, big asses. All of the participants in the AMERICAN WOMAN project will be Black American women, but that the project is not called BLACK AMERICAN WOMAN is intentional. This is a recasting of the mold that’s been lazily accepted. We’re not to be invisible, silent, or othered any longer. We’re not an insignificant monolith, we’re a resilient, powerful myriad.

    AMERICAN WOMAN will be realized as a series of mixed/multi-media portraits, videos, and an accompanying website. I’ll travel to 5 cities (Pittsburgh, NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles) to photograph and interview participants. A select number of the resulting portraits will be printed at 4’x6’ (life-sized) and embellished with gold foil, paint markers, acrylics, and more. These accoutrements will ideally function as a visual interpretation of each woman's thoughts, fears, and passions. The remainder of the portraits will either be printed at smaller sizes and/or included on the website along with video shorts from the interviews. My goal is to present the project as a multi-layered experience that engages multiple senses.

    AMERICAN WOMAN will exalt Black American women as art, but not as possessions or decoration. Our resilience is an art form. And it’s undeniably Black girl time. From the popularity of the #blackgirlmagic movement, to the #prettylipsperiod hashtag, to Beyoncé's Lemonade, to the success of Misty Copeland and Serena Williams in fields previously reserved for white women, to Michelle Obama hosting Black girl dancers at The White House to learn traditional African dance: Black women are using our voices, talents, and style to define ourselves. We’re beautiful, nonconforming works. We are a museum of modern art. We are the AMERICAN WOMAN.

  • Artist Statement

    My name is sarah huny young. Be it visual or performance, art has been my gift for all of my recollective life. Drawing, dancing, acting, photography, writing--all my creative mediums of choice. I've an affinity for technology, too; the way it’s constantly evolving and the access it provides. Art, to me, is meant to be seen or deciphered and tech makes that instantaneously possible. It was a natural evolution for me to become a web designer. And I became so at the very advent of the internet as we know it now. Before social media, when blogs were web logs, when being honest and raw in this wild digital space was still the domain of young, techy art nerds like me.

    My first website was Thatbitch.com. It was 2000 and I was a 20-year-old with a new BFA from Howard University and a NYC neophyte--a city I’d only visited once but immediately fell in love with. NYC was electric and I was electric. I wrote openly about my young, tumultuous life and designed layouts that were full of gorgeous, provocative imagery of voluptuous Black women. My philosophy was that this was art, that we were art, that I--full-bodied, full of dreams, and exploring my own concept of sensuality in a society that demanded either modesty or sex for male consumption only--was art. With that sole goal, to express myself in this exciting medium, I would help pioneer what’s now called the Black blogosphere and establish myself as a web design industry trendsetter. My many personal projects since then include a plus-size lingerie blog, an award-winning soul music site, a Tumblr that curates the myriad beauty of women of color, and a 12-hour digital conference, the first of it’s kind, that “broke the internet” amplifying the success, activism, concerns, and very existence of women of color worldwide. Thus, it’s never lost on me that the ability to build a web presence to house any idea that sparks is mighty. The specific intersection at which art + tech meet is one I’ve been working in and stretching the confines of for over 16 years.

    Intersectionality, then, is a concept that informs me as a person, and my art is an extension of that. As a bisexual Black woman, I’m often tasked with choosing only one facet of my being to use as my representative at any given moment. I’ve never felt comfortable choosing, however, and my work as an artist reflects that pushback. I’m greatly influenced by female artists of color who’ve also historically explored intersectionality, and I find myself inspired by the thought of what their work would look like if they were alive, in their thirties, and reaching what felt like a crossroads in their artistic career today like I am. How would technology inform how Frida Kahlo expressed pathos through self-portraiture; how would Josephine Baker’s cross-section of sensuality and cheekiness translate to a livestream? Like Frida, Josephine, Eartha Kitt, Anaïs Nin, Billie Holiday, and others who've paved the way for me, I exist with my militancy, feminism, sensuality, vulnerability, and badass-ness working in tandem. My approach as an artist echoes the refusal to choose. I'm going to be magical and human. Gangsterly and vulnerable. I, and other women like me, get to be an unapologetic enigma. We get to be complex and dizzying. We get to be a myriad of things. In my work I never attempt to hide my imperfection. I have a depressive disorder. I procrastinate. I stress. But I'm here and it's magic. My work is a love letter to my muses/allies in this beautiful, painful dichotomy.

Participants

Your consent to be photographed and filmed is required to participate in AMERICAN WOMAN. You must be 18 years of age or older, a Black woman (cis or trans and prefers she/her pronouns), and an American citizen (native-born, foreign-born, or naturalized). Additionally, you must live in or be willing to travel to the following host cities and be available on the following dates:

  • New York (July 20 - 23, 2016)
  • Chicago (September 30 - October 6, 2016)
  • New York 2.0 (TBA)
  • New Orleans (TBA)
  • Los Angeles (TBA)
  • Pittsburgh (ONGOING)
  • Detroit*
  • Atlanta*

* Pending additional funding

For consideration, please email the following information to hi@american-woman.co (note: The contents of your email will not be a part of the project nor used publicly in any way without your express written consent):

  • Name
  • Age (20's, 30's, 40's etc will suffice)
  • Host City (see above)
  • At least one recent photo (sans photo manipulation)
  • Why would you like to be a part of the AMERICAN WOMAN project?
  • (As this project gains popularity, I may not be able to accomodate everyone. Mad bonus points if you have a theme and/or location for your shoot already in mind. I'm especially interested in recreating famous/infamous imagery that resonates with you and/or shooting in extremely picturesque locales.)

Funding for AMERICAN WOMAN was provided by the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

I am seeking additional funding to enable travel to more cities. Email hi@american-woman.co for additional information on how to invest.