Entering the Dupont Gallery I at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts on August 14 gave me a jolt. Having read the excellent notes written by Assistant Curator Susan Isaacs should have cushioned the shock but the seven stark graphite and gouache works of Zoë Charlton’s Imitation of a Life left me breathless.
Perhaps it is because Charlton has captured the good and enchained it in evil – as often happens in life. She has taken a loop from a 1934 film Imitation of Life directed by John M Stahl which is a scene in which a successful black businesswoman comes to find her daughter who has run away and is trying to pass as white. Charlton has put a Ku Klux Klan hood on the daughter’s head.
So is this an imitation of success? When the tearful mother tries to woo back her daughter to ‘black’ life, is it begging her to fail?
The seven works seem also quite stark – all on creamy white paper with no frames, the graphite figures of naked women seem indefensible – vulnerable – enslaved to the unseen evil powers that have made them toys of their masters. The occasional spots of color are mocking accessories to the crime.
If you need a lift when you leave the Dupont I, visit the Fractious Happy installation by Heather Harvey in the Constance S and Robert J. Hennessy Project Space or just wander the halls and acquaint yourself with works of the studio artists who are the mainstay of the DCCA – or come back on September 4 and see the brilliant colors of a Ken Mabrey or a fanciful construct by Jane Quattarone.
Read excellent curator notes by J Susan Isaacs and find out about future exhibits and dates : www.thedcca.org