IF I'M NO LONGER HERE, I WANTED YOU TO KNOW
The past year's pandemic revealed to me once more that time with our loved ones is not infinite. Our time on this earth is fleeting, and we often do not recognize the importance of "giving people their flowers" until devastation has already occurred. While the revelations of injustice leading to civil unrest reminded me of the urgency to continue to work towards a better future for our children.
I do not wish to wait for the perfect time, the perfect place, or the perfect day to express my love for family and friends. If I'm no longer here tomorrow, I wanted them to know the person I grew to become. I want to remind my children of the never-fading love I have for them, my extended family, and for you.
During periods of stillness in 2020, I reflected on my life and its brevity. I know I will not be here for an eternity, but my art, my writings, and every action I take as a human being will."
- Tawny Chatmon
In, If I’m no longer here, I wanted you to Know… Chatmon expands her oeuvre beyond materiality of the gilded imagery and the influence of Klimt, which she has come to be known. Drawing inspiration from the Byzantine period, Chatmon adorns black bodies with semi-precious stones meticulously placed to construct a narrative on black children and dignity through cultural memory.
Chatmon's imagery rewards the viewer who looks beyond the nuanced surface of the photographs and contours of her subjects. A deeper examination reveals allegory and iconology steeped in metaphors protesting racial and social injustice. Chatmon’s cultural and political discourse also extends to the titles of her work. In your Hoodie or White Tee sends a clear message that black boys, regardless of the clothes they wear, are human beings whose lives should be respected, preserved, and valued by society.
Chatmon’s photos emotively and melodically speak to the legacy she seeks to leave behind. She has transformed the visual to lyrical through undulating figures that sway with the rhythm of a lullaby—a mother's love song to her children filled with memories she wants them to hold on to and life lessons to pass down through generations.
Chatmon is an award-winning photographer; among them is the People Photographer of the Year, International Photo Awards 2018 and First Place, International Photo Awards 2018. Institution Collections: Minneapolis Institute of Art and Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art.
-Myrtis Bedolla, Curator