Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, video, fashion and advertising.

Throughout the history of Western art and image-making, beauty has been idealized and challenged, and the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. Posing Beauty explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class and gender within art, popular culture and political contexts.

The first of three thematic sections, “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second theme, “Body & Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The final theme, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves. Posing Beautyfeatures approximately 120 works of art representing more than 45 artists and photographers including Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Anthony Barboza, Sheila Pree Bright, Renee Cox, Victor Diop, Leonard Freed, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dave Heath, Lauren Kelley, John W. Mosley, Ken Ramsay, Jeffrey Scales, Stephen Shames, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas, among others.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. The exhibition is curated for the Harn by Jade Powers, Curator of Contemporary Art.

This exhibition is made possible locally by the generous support of Dr. M.F. “Midge” Smith, Ken and Laura Berns, Visit Gainesville, Alachua County, David Etherington and Jeffery Dunn, Eric and Yvette Godet, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital, Wells Fargo Foundation, Charles and June Allen, and Congregation Beth Jacob, with additional support from the Sidney Knight Endowment.

Past Programs

Curator Talk
Jade Powers, Harn Curator of Contemporary Art
Sunday, February 19, 2023

Posing Questions on Posing Beauty: A conversation with Deborah Willis
Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair, Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
Thursday, March 30, 2023
HESCAH, Harn Eminent Scholar in Art History program

"Posing Beauty" exhibitionUF Student Workshop: Figure Drawing Figure on Diversity
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Participants toured the exhibition and guest artist Angela DeCarlis, Director of Figure on Diversity, led a lesson on the art of figure drawing with live models.

Museum Nights: Africa Everywhere
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Visitors of all ages experienced tours, art-making and music and dance performances offered in conjunction with the exhibition.

Museum Days: Pose!
Saturday, April 8, 2023
Visitors of all ages toured the exhibition and then participated in a photography activity.

Art Cart: Art of Posing Scavenger Hunt & Blind Contour Drawing
Friday, February 24, 2023 + Thursday, March 24, 2023
The Art Cart offered art activities, tactile opportunities, games and more for visitors to the exhibition.

Tot Time: Picturing Me
Friday, May 5, 2023
Children ages 2–5 and their caregivers. enjoyed an age-appropriate docent-led tour then created art based on their tour.