Christa Blackwood is a photo, text and installation artist working with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. Her visual voice was developed while a student at New York University, when she began producing street installation art such as Butcherknives (1991), a work that addressed issues of sexual violence. A chilling juxtaposition of billboard-like close-ups and text from poet Michelle Kotler, Butcherknives, was plastered all over the streets of lower Manhattan on the evening that the William Kennedy Smith verdict was announced. The poster’s timely and provocative appearance resulted in heightened critical attention for Blackwood, including an invitation to join the Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) from renowned artists and scholars, Kiki Smith and Lucy Lippard.
Her works employ multiple techniques and methods, fusing traditional, historical and alternative processes with contemporary practices, street art and clandestine installations at cultural institutions. Blackwood received her Masters in Studio Art from New York University and Bachelors in Classics from The University of Oklahoma. Her work has been featured in several publications including The New York Times, NYQ, New York Newsday, The Village Voice and The Chicago Sun Times. She has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Beauty Revisited
2015 – 2017
Beauty Revisited celebrates the majesty of the male form via a re-interpretation of classical photographic nude studies of the human figure.
The small 8x10 inch gilded platinum prints on vellum and large 20x24 inch hand pulled photogravures are a continuation of the Prix West series, a genealogy of classical photographic studies of the human male form in the great outdoors. The models, all local Austin youths - Sam, Blake and Morgan, ages 19-22, perused my photo library of historical images, photography books and photo biographies to select images that they would like to use as inspiration for our shoots. Most recently their selections have included works by Weston, White, Stielglitz, Newton, Frielander, Gibson and Man Ray. The works are primarily shot in my studio studio with large format view cameras, and, at times, on location. The location sites have included White Sands, New Mexico and the Texas Gulf Coast, as substitute for the sand dunes on the West Coast in California, an homage to Edward Weston's work with Charis Wilson at Oceana, California.
When and where did Beauty Revisited begin?
A couple of my models and I left Austin in the late summer of 2013 and drove to White Sands, NM to begin making some of the first images for the series. There’s so many sources of inspiration behind Beauty Revisited, but a few of the primary influences are from taking photo workshops and always seeing the same kind of gender disparity between creator/photographer and subject. The subjects were/are pretty exclusively thin, long, lean and evenly proportioned young women and the same type of image makers, primarily older, male photographers. We see the same type of representation in movies, on TV and in art galleries and photo magazines. There’s a real disparity in the way women bodies are presented compared to men. So much emphasis is placed on how a woman looks, not on what she does.
I’ve had a few gallerists that reached out to me and and were interested in images from Beauty Revisited, asking for jpgs, but when I told them that the images they responded to are images of young men, not women, they lost interest. One said, “My clientele wouldn’t go for that.”
Where do you see this project going?
It’s been exhibited in Austin, New Orleans, Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver and Fort Collins and it has been received a nice response in terms of sales from collectors on the East and West Coast of the US and in the UK. The idea behind the work is always what’s most important to me, so I‘d love to see it continue to be exhibited, nationally and internationally. Let's get the work out there and hopefully folks will think a little bit more about the images that we see everyday.
What’s next for you?
I am starting two new series – yikes – and trying to figure out how to make my ideas resonate visually-playing around with different films, models and make-up and continuing to shoot with my old 4x5 camera and different films-expired Type 55 film, color negative film and slide film.
One series deals with gender fluidity and sexual identity in young men and the other one deals with beards, or folks that have been in relationships with a closeted partner or spouse. Sadly and surprisingly for me, there’s still a lot of closeted folks in Austin. We’re a hip town stuck smack dab in the middle of a big red state.