Karice Mitchell: 1b, black legs, 52”

March 5 – May 29, 2022
Gallery Stratford

Karice Mitchell, 1b, black legs, 52” (Install view)

Black legs, smooth, long and rich, held open by freshly manicured French-tipped fingers for their own sake. Legs held in position, poised and at the ready for pleasure long awaited. Pleasure well-deserved. Through a flash of a heavily lined eye that sees you, adjacent to exposed brown breasts heightened by hardened nipples, a collage of cropped close-ups speak of the excitement of Black centrefold models baring their bodies for the camera, for you. In Mitchell’s world we become the lover, seduced by images of these women as they touch themselves and invite us into heady, daring bliss. And although we see them in supine position, open and enticing, somehow, these women remain still – just ever so slightly out of reach.

In the lives of Black women, across space and time, their bodies (much less their pleasures) have rarely been their own. Instead, many bear a life of servitude where sex can, and often does, take the shape of duty. And so, ripe in this work is the possibility of agency and autonomy, foregrounding a sense of freedom. Unearthing the Black pornographic archive allows our imagination to burst at the seams and give way for renewal and transformation. It suspends the temporal to remind us that pleasure, and the autonomy afforded us through it, gives us the opportunity to traverse through space-time to a present past and future reality where Black women belong to their own selves.

Furthermore, our foray into this world disrupts the idea of what the Black female body is intended for – more than a site of extraction but instead a fully-formed vessel with deep capacity for sensuality, feeling and agency. This depth captured in the gentleness of how a leg is held, how the skin is pulled, how the breasts are suggestively handled in anticipation. Through the nakedness and vulnerability of Mitchell’s subjects, the hegemonic belief on who can and should experience this boundless pleasure is refused and we enter the room to face these women and what they have to teach us.

The question then posed by Mitchell’s work is this: what could happen if black women in this industry, in the world, experienced the safety and freedom to choose how their bodies are represented and to whom? Where do Black women experience the freedom to be totally and freely consumed by their own sex and sexuality? By Mitchell’s hand we are given a glimpse into the lives of these women and begin to wonder – who were they? What lives did these women lead and what did they have to give up before they ended up here, before me, mounted and magnified on these white walls, pleasure out in the open for all to see?

Essay – Omi Rodney

Karice Mitchell (b. 1996 Toronto, ON) is a photo-based installation artist whose practice uses found imagery and digital manipulation to engage with issues relating to the representation of the Black female body in pornography and popular culture. Her work seeks to re-contextualize pre-existing images to reimagine the possibilities for Black womanhood and sexuality detached from the white gaze and patriarchy. She received her BFA at York University and MFA at the University of Waterloo. She currently resides on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people where she is a full-time lecturer at the University of British Columbia.

Also on view at Gallery Stratford
Cathy Daley: Dans la Nuit
Sepideh Dashti: From “She-Self” to “She-Other”
Stuart Reid: Folds of Dreams

And outdoors as part of our Art in the Trees Series
Kriss Munysa: The Eraser

Gallery Stratford
54 Romeo Street S.
Stratford, ON N5A 4S9

Gallery Hours: noon to 6 PM Wednesday through Sunday

Admission is Free
Partially accessible


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Exhibition Info:

Information and Media Inquiries:
Angela Brayham
519-271-5271 x 222

Gallery Stratford gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Stratford. Our Free Admission program is supported in part by Orr Insurance & Investment