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Glittering Gold Portraits Celebrate the Beauty of Black Hair in the Style of Gustav Klimt Paintings

Art Photography by Tawny Chatmon

Photography-based artist Tawny Chatmon celebrates the beauty of Black hair through her glittering series titled The Redemption. The collection of portraits features young people wearing their hair in an array of styles—no two are alike. But in this variety, the same visual thread is woven throughout each mixed-media piece. Chatmon paints atop the photos to adorn the kids with dazzling 24-karat gold accessories and outfits.

Each gold accent evokes the feeling of a Gustav Klimt painting, in which the shiny yellow tones are punctuated by tiny blue, red, and purple shapes. This homage to the Austrian painter’s work is intentional, and Chatmon hopes that viewers will instantly make the connection. “Visually, Klimt’s use of gold and decorative elements brought about strong feelings of grace, magnificence, and beauty within me upon my first discovery of his work and have remained in my subconscious mind ever since,” she explains in a statement about the series. “Likewise, these are the emotions I am looking to evoke within the viewer of The Redemption.”

The attitudes towards a Klimt painting are often markedly different than the opinions held of the hair types and styles that are distinctive to Black people. “While we proudly celebrate and adorn these styles with beads, barrettes, and other accessories within our cultural norms, they continue to be labeled unacceptable,” Chatmon writes. “In schools worldwide, there are rules set in place deeming cornrows, barber designs, hair beads, afros, locs, and protective styles that use hair extensions as ‘violations of the dress code.’ ‘Violations’ that are punishable by ridicule, suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and expulsion.” The Redemption is not seeking validation of Black hair, culture, and tradition, but is rather affirming it through these gorgeous artworks.

Tawny Chatmon creates artistic photography that celebrates the beauty of Black hair in a style akin to a Gustav Klimt painting.

Art Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon

Each portrait is adorned with golden accents.

v Art Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon Art Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Portraits by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Portraits by Tawny Chatmon Artistic Photography by Tawny Chatmon

Tawny Chatmon: Website | Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Tawny Chatmon.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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