This collection of photographs began with the tableau of three African figures (first image). The tableau is in the Colonial Figure style made by the Baule from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Carvings such as this are made to sell, which requires that they resonate with buyers' tastes. One may find them even in ethnographic museum gift shops. The Malian trader from whom the tableau was purchased had a second, almost identical one, painted a bit differently.
The Baule tableau is the only narrative carving in this series, but it draws attention to the implicit messages of the other carvings. All of them, no matter their origin, play on stereotypes that are now mostly considered beyond the pale.
We show each figure in an extremely non-contextual light and space in order to maximize both its iconic characteristics and formal qualities. We also attempt to set up a tension between the non-precious nature of “folk art” and the rarified characteristics of the “exquisite” fine art photographic print.