Portrait on Mantel with My Grandmother Who’s Cherokee, 2018
Acrylic, spray paint, ink, and mixed media collage on canvas
60 x 48 inches
Private collection courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery

Luxury fashion is inextricably linked with money, power, and, often, whiteness. Jamea Richmond-Edwards’ collages are a direct response to the marginalization of Black bodies in the world of couture. “It’s this idea of the pursuit of status, and what that means within the Black community when you have structural boundaries that exist,” she says. “Fashion is a sense of empowerment.”

In the 1980s and ’90s, boostin’ was a way of becoming empowered, of owning the otherwise unattainable by shoplifting from high-end stores. Fendi bags, Gucci sunglasses, Armani gloves. Black men received the most recognition for boostin’— think Dapper Dan, who worked with Gucci on its most recent collection—while women boosters were dismissed.

Richmond-Edwards reclaims the relationship of Black women and fashion in her collages showcasing boosted or knock-off multi-patterned dresses, crocodile purses, and statement jewelry. The color-saturated clothing and backgrounds contrast with the monochromatic subjects—women with piercing expressions, natural hair, haloes, and, sometimes, wings. Of the singular figure in each of these collages, Richmond-Edwards says, “[She’s] somebody who is confident. She’s super fly. She’s front and center and that’s what we aspire to be.”

—The Editors