Created by
Rozeal, American, born 1966
mixed media : acrylic paint , ink and graphite on wood
H x W x D: 72 × 60 × 2 in. (182.9 × 152.4 × 5.1 cm)
H x W x D (Crate): 80 × 68 1/2 × 9 3/4 in. (203.2 × 174 × 24.8 cm)
Rozeal’s work has been referred to as a visual mash-up that juxtaposes elements of Japanese art and culture with African American hip hop pictures and fashion. Brown creates her figures by combining traditional Japanese characters and ukiyo-e printmaking with contemporary hip hop style and imagery. She has termed her ongoing project A3…Afro-Asiatic Allegory after discovering the Ganguro subculture born in the mid-1990’s among female Japanese teenagers.
Rozeal has incorporated many cultural references into this painting. The figure’s hairdo mimics the braids and dreads so popular amongst black teenagers and hip hop enthusiasts of varying backgrounds. The scarab, traditionally an Egyptian amulet in the shape of a beetle, hanging from the pearl necklace, has long been a popular jewelry item and good luck charm, sometimes interpreted as a symbol “of rebirth or regeneration.”
The dedication to Aretemisia may refer to Italian Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-c. 1656). Although Artemisia was a great sartist, she was also known for the court trial in which her accused rapist was successfully prosecuted. Brown’s young woman seems fearless as well—confident in her wardrobe and self-presentation.
The title, SWANstudy, may reference the Greek myth of Leda and the swan.
Rozeal’s lavishly adorned woman draws together many elements that make this image so rich—the excess and folly of the young, the homage to intersecting traditions, and the universal irresistibility of pop culture. It serves as a handy demonstration of the myriad connections to African American culture found around the world.
A recurring character in Rozeal's work is Yoshi, a wise female war hero—sporting an afro and classical Japanese garb—whose enlightened state allows her to exist as a communicant between divinities and mortals, guiding those still on earth.
The artist's paintings have been widely exhibited, and she received a solo show at Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art in 2010. In 2011 she was commissioned to create a performance for the Performa biennial.
This stylized figurative painting, reminiscent of a Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print, features a female figure with vivid blue hair holding a string of pearls in her teeth. The woman's head tilts to her left. Her long, braided hair is gathered into a twist at her neck, and heavy bangs frame her face. A single braid runs down the left side of her face, through a large hoop earring in her right ear, and down to her leg. The necklace hanging from her mouth features a large blue scarab affixed at the bottom of the loop. Her right shoulder is covered with a red cloth, and her left shoulder is draped by an abstracted white fur garment that wraps around to her right, behind the red cloth. Part of the woman's face and torso are a dark brown, with a thick set edge implying a mask or garment. Her pale skin is painted or tattooed in a blue pattern around her shoulder, arm and breast. At the lower edge of the painting, the hilt of a Japanese katana-type sword is visible, topped with a tsuba, or a guard that is placed at the end of the sword grip. The edges and many details of the painting are outlined in black ink to heighten the evocation of an etched print. The entire top edge, and left and right borders, of the front panel of the panel are trimmed in red. Across the panel, there are carefully spaced and controlled drips of paint running both vertically, such as across the woman's face and torso, and horizontally, near the sword grip. The sides of the panel are painted the same teal blue as in the woman's hair.
Visual Arts
acrylic paintings
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Dr. Carl and Shirley Schwartz
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
© Rozeal
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.

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