In If I’m No Longer Here, I Wanted You to Know, photographic artist Tawny Chatmon overlays portraits of young children and families with dabs of 24-karat gold leaf, precious stones, and watercolor details. The heavily adorned images are the latest in Chatmon’s superimposed works, which veered from digital collages to the hand-gilded pieces evocative of Gustav Klimt’s Golden Phase that are similar to those shown here, and respond to themes of unity and togetherness born out of the ongoing pandemic.
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While many of Chatmon’s works previously centered on a single subject, she’s transitioned to also photographing two children at play or entire families, including fathers where she otherwise had not. She explains:
My father played such a paramount role in my, my sisters’, and my mother’s lives. It did not sit well with me that I wasn’t celebrating that in my work, too. It has been 10 years since we lost our father to prostate cancer, yet still, his lessons and love carry us through our days. I thought of my husband too, my brother-in-law, my friend’s fathers and husbands, and all of the world’s compassionate fathers and how important they are, and I especially wanted to celebrate Black fathers who are often depicted as anything other than what they truly are… phenomenal.
Through gilt embellishments, Chatmon emphasizes the beauty and value inherent in her subjects, whose joyful, tender expressions and gestures exude warmth and affection. “The past year’s pandemic revealed to me once more that time with our loved ones is not infinite… While the revelations of injustice leading to civil unrest reminded me of the urgency to continue to work towards a better future for our children,” she says. “I do not wish to wait for the perfect time, the perfect place, or the perfect day to express my love for family and friends.”
Currently based in Maryland, Chatmon will show some of her portraits with Galerie Myrtis at the 2022 Venice Biennial. She’s working on a new series titled Remnants, which explores themes of futurity and harmony through mosaic-style pieces comprised of snippets of the artist’s previous paintings. You can follow her progress on Instagram.