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Theresa Chromati, tearing me apart, so much so that I become beautiful ( woman exploring a smile ), 2019. Acrylic, glitter, and vinyl plastic on mdf and canvas; 90 × 90 inches (228.6 × 228.6 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with funds provided by Doug Smooke (A.B.’90) and Kim Blackwell (A.B.’89, H.S.’94-’00), 2020.1.1. © Theresa Chromati. Image courtesy of the artist and Jeffrey Deitch and Kravets Wehby, New York.
Theresa Chromati, tearing me apart, so much so that I become beautiful ( woman exploring a smile ), 2019. Acrylic, glitter, and vinyl plastic on mdf and canvas; 90 × 90 inches (228.6 × 228.6 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with funds provided by Doug Smooke (A.B.’90) and Kim Blackwell (A.B.’89, H.S.’94-’00), 2020.1.1. © Theresa Chromati. Image courtesy of the artist, Jeffrey Deitch, and Kravets Wehby, New York. Photo by Sebastiano Pellion.

Theresa Chromati makes large-scale paintings of women of color that explore vulnerability, sexuality and the dynamics of gender and race. The artist fills her works with colorful, distorted female figures that stretch and reach with exaggerated features and poses. Chromati’s charged figures are often autobiographical and intended as empowered representations of the black female body. The work, tearing me apart, so much so that I become beautiful ( woman exploring a smile ) shows a highly distorted central face with smaller faces on either side that, according to the artist, are allegorical representations of her past present and future.

As Chromati has explained, much of her recent work, including tearing me apart, so much so that I become beautiful ( woman exploring a smile ), has a surrealistic and nightmarish quality. Black femininity is depicted as a source of power that can be consumed or appropriated against a woman’s consent. Ultimately, Chromati’s works engage with issues of agency, self-representation and survival, subjects of particular relevance in a cultural moment of the Me Too movement and pervasive online and media objectifications of women. She recently designed three large-scale outdoor banners at The Delware Contemporary.

Chromati was born in Baltimore to a Guyanese-American family. This is her first work to enter the Nasher Museum’s collection.

Learn more about the contemporary collection.

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