Art of Fashionism
In a modern society’s paradigm, in which increasing consumption of goods is desirable, people started to define their identities in reference to external, superficial values. The age of consumerism made a massive impact on culture, thus making the art of fashion, style, and branding, synonymous with power, wealth and social status. Being concerned with this change in cultural values, Jamaal Peterman, a young artist from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, created a highly sophisticated art form in which he explores the modern false perception of success.
Intentionally choosing the art technique of trompe l’oeil, which creates an optical illusion that the objects on the canvas are in three dimensions, Peterman depicts hyper-realistic luxury brands, challenging the thinking viewer to re-examine the illusion of wealth and success. First, within the frame of the canvas, and then within the frame of the modern social and cultural constructs. Implying the necessity for confronting detrimental changes in cultural values, Peterman’s work examines the possibility of illusionary objects in the painting having more value than the painting itself.
In and Out of Canvas
Due to the fact that Peterman grew up in Prince George’s County, in Maryland (the richest black county in America), the artist started to analyze the treatment of African Americans throughout American history. These observations and insights led him to create artworks in which he represents the disposition of African Americans within the social hierarchical structures:
“I want my viewers to understand the narrative of the black body that is viewed in America and understand how the past is still being reflected onto the present.”
Depicting a background of his paintings in a reference to abstract expressionism, an art movement in American painting after the World War II, Peterman reminds the viewer of the time when America had undeniable economic and cultural supremacy over the world. Cleverly putting the black body in such a context, the artist let the silhouettes fade in and out of the canvas, using that kind of a movement as a symbol of resistance and liberation from the restricted social structures.
Jamal Peterman’s work represents an original liaison between the modern culture and the ongoing battle for maintaining an identity in a world obsessed with material possessions. Fighting for the freedom of individual expression, the artist removes the human model from the painting, forcing the viewer to bring into the question: what defines our identity, without the luxury brands? If we judge our self-worth through consumerist lifestyle and limiting social constructs, is it not our identity empty like a “blank canvas”?