Created by
Baker, Rachelle A., American
Commissioned by
ELLE DECOR, American, founded 1989
Duration: 00:00:30, 10.33 MB
For this commission for the cover of Elle Decor magazine, illustrator Rachelle A. Baker was asked to “re-see" the iconic “Yellow Room” designed by American socialite and decorator Nancy Lancaster for her home on London’s Avery Row. The original room featured marigold yellow walls along with two “blackamoor” figure tables. The term “blackamoor” describes a dark-skinned Black figure, often a man. The use of blackamoor depictions in decorative arts began in the 17th Century and expanded in popularity through the 1850s to 1890s. The figures are most often shown holding tables or trays above their heads, while wearing brightly colored gold and jeweled turbans or jewelry, and are common representations of race, bondage, and exoticism in the decorative arts. Baker told NMAAHC she “re-imagined the room as something more modern and featured a seated figure (a Black woman), making eye contact with the viewer and commanding the room.”
Baker’s illustration was one of two featured covers for the March 2021 issue of the magazine, the first complete issue overseen by Elle Décor’s first Black editor, Asad Syrkett.
A silent time-lapse MP4 file depicting the illustration process for a magazine cover by visual artist Rachelle A. Baker, commissioned by Elle Décor.
The video opens with a frame of the final sketch that was ultimately used for the magazine’s cover, before quickly jumping to a blank screen. At 00:00:01, a vertical brown line appears towards the left portion of the screen, before quickly disappearing. By 00:00:02, four (4) parallel horizontal brown lines appear from the right edge, stretching to the middle of the screen where they intersect perpendicular to another brown line. Several other brown lines appear in the right angle formed by the previous four lines but are instantaneously erased. The video continues in this fashion, with lines appearing and disappearing until more brown lines that connect to the persisting right angle appear and remain, loosely creating the outline of a room with a barrel vault ceiling, wall moldings, and double doors.
At 00:00:03, the ink changes to green and rectangular shapes begin to appear along the left side of the back wall. At 00:00:04, all the brown lines disappear, leaving only the green ones. A green chandelier is added to the sketch, before the erased brown lines are re-imposed unto the digital drawing. More green fixtures and furniture are then added to the sketch, including sofas along the left wall and a rectangular desk, complete with drawers and a keyhole, in the foreground. At 00:00:06, part of a purple chair appears in the bottom left corner, and a second later, more purple sketches are included, outlining chairs, curtains and desk items, before the screen goes completely blank again. Shortly afterwards, the sketch is completely replaced by a new one with blue lines that form part of a circular table and the back rests of two chairs. The new sketch continues in the same manner as the first, where lines and objects are added and subtracted until a full sketch of a furnished room is achieved (identical to 2021.47.3). At 00:00:09, a blue sketch begins but is quickly abandoned for another in pink. At 00:00:10, the first sketch completed reappears with new additions: a circular table and a desk lamp, which are quickly replaced by a blue woman.
A new sketch begins at 00:00:11, consisting of a red chair, red columns, a green divider, orange doors and yellow lines outlining the ceiling and walls. Occasionally, the video rotates through the different sketches. At 00:00:15, the background changes from white to a deep yellow and the sketch with the green chair and table begins to populate the screen. During this sequence, the position of the blue woman shifts between different chairs in the room. More furniture is also added and subtracted, and the colorful sketches are darkened by replacing the color with black. At 00:00:23, the sketches are filled with color, one piece at a time and at 00:00:28, the drawing of the room is replaced by a blank screen, which is then populated with an outline of a seated woman. The outline is then quickly filled with color: brown for her skin tone, yellow for her dress, red for her shoes and black for her hair. In the final second of the clip, the woman is superimposed onto the drawing of the yellow room.
Place depicted
London, Greater London, England, Europe
London, Greater London, England, Europe
Visual Arts
Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design
Media Arts-Film and Video
video art
digital media - born digital
Interior design
Mass media
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Rachelle A. Baker
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
© Rachelle Baker

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