Tawny Chatmon

(Tokyo, Japan 1979 -)


Tawny Chatmon (b. 1979, Tokyo, Japan) is a photography-based artist residing in Maryland. In 2010, the then commercial photographer's outlook and relationship with her camera shifted when she began photographing her father's battle with cancer, consequently documenting the disease unexpectedly taking his life. With her father's passing, she gradually began to look to her camera less as a device for monetary gain and more as a way for her work to serve a higher vocation.

While the camera remains her primary tool of communication, the self-taught artist takes a multi-layered approach in her process. She does not restrict herself to following any set of rules and does not subscribe exclusively to traditional photography practices. Her photographs are often digitally intensified by exaggerating the hairstyles of her subjects (who are often her children and other family members), lending them the eyes of someone older and wiser, and elongating their form, drawing inspiration from the Byzantine period to signify importance. Thereafter, she typically combines overlapping's of digital collage and illustration. After refining and printing, she frequently experiments with various art practices by hand-embellishing with acrylic paint, 24-karat gold leaf, and materials such as paper, semi-precious stones, glass, and other mixed media. In choosing to frame the achieved iconography in golden antique, repurposed, and contemporary baroque frames, the artist composes a touching counter-narrative that is more than just a photograph, but a new, meaningful compositional expression.

Chatmon suggests that our life experiences and memories are largely responsible for who one ultimately becomes and that "what we are exposed to, what we are taught, and even the toys we play with as children" contributes immensely to shaping us into adulthood. A Black woman and mother of three Black children, she is motivated by "leaving something important behind" to the world her children will grow up in while creating imagery that celebrates and honors the beauty of Black childhood and familial bonds while at times addressing the absence and exclusion of the Black body in Western art.

Chatmon is among the eight African American artists featured in the 2022 Venice Biennale exhibition The Afro-Futurist Manifesto: Blackness Reimagined, curated by Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis. The exhibit explores the theme of Black life on the continuum of its imagined future presented in the Personal Structures art fair.

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Alternate Text

Remnants/ I Was Born to Stand in the Light