It’s not often that I’m stunned by art, but in the case of Johannesburg artist Mary Sibande’s Sophie I was totally taken aback. I honestly feel like I can’t do this description justice, so I’m going to cut and paste this description of her work:
Inspired by the explorations of race, gender and sexuality in the work of American artists Kara Walker and Cindy Sherman, and London-based Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, Mary cast her own body in fibreglass and silicone to create Sophie. She then painted her a ‘flat black,’ so that she stands out like a dark and static shadow … Sophie’s eyes are always closed as if in a ‘constant ecstasy of fantasy’ and it’s in her mind that her dress becomes a thing of voluminous Victorian splendour. ‘If she opened her eyes, it would be back to work – cleaning this, dusting that. Her dress would become an ordinary maid’s uniform,’ said Mary.
I think what I love about this is how fantastic and beautiful it is but also how poignant and meaningful her work is. She says that she’s “concentrating on shadow of apartheid”, and that even though things have gotten better in South Africa there are still lingering elements. I would really love to see these pieces in person, I think they would be beautiful and quite moving.