Review of Fatimah Tuggar: Home’s Horizons, at The Davis Museum, Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA through December 15, 2019. Originally printed in the November/December 2019 issue of Art New England magazine.
Eccentricity is an undeniable factor in Fatimah Tuggar’s art. Her most renowned pieces are visually dissonant. Like the inkjet-on-vinyl photomontages Voguish Vista and Lady and the Maid, where she juxtaposes cherry-picked images from the past and the present (the lo-fi and hi-res, understated and glam, the rural and the scenic) in order to confront matters of globalization, unrest, societal roles and the inquisition of what technological advances really entail for humanity. Such as in Robo Entertains, a robot with a Mona Lisa smile is the server of a traditional African gathering.
These artworks are a part of Tuggar’s biggest solo exhibition yet, Home’s Horizons, at the Davis Museum. Assistant curator Amanda Gilvin chose to focus on Tuggar’s collages, and along with the commissioned augmented reality project Deep Blue Wells, Home’s Horizons is accompanied by a monograph, a first for the artist.
Divided into six sections, most of the iconoclastically repurposed art has a uniquely African vantage point and a neutral-colored palette. Minus, the bolder installations of Fan-Fan, Broom and the splicing of vintage videos.
Then there’s Fai-Fain Gramophone created in tribute to a woman’s musicianship, workmanship, and clever hacks as it is a crocheted raffia disk that (from an obscured MP3) plays the music of late Hausa singer Barmani Choge (1945-2013). The record’s also in defiance of what’s been reduced to “world music” in the West, a term Tuggar disdains.
“What does ‘world music’ even mean?” she asked with a laugh. “It’s as if there’s everybody else and then there’s ‘Western music’!”
Noticeably, Tuggar has fandom for music and pop art aestheticism. But states to rarely looking at other art while creating. “I try to focus on what I’m trying to communicate.”
And while there is a high sense of blackness in her art, for Tuggar, born in Nigeria, she feels that when appraising a woman’s work, and biology and identity are noted, there’s a fine line between genuine acknowledgment and disturbing fixation.
“There is an exoticization of me when you mention my gender, ethnicity and [then] that I’m an artist,” she said. “I’ve earned being an artist regardless of being a woman and what color I am.”
–Reviewed and written by C. Shardae Jobson