Sweet Indian Doll III by Qiana Mestrich
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 30"x24" ($1200)
Qiana Mestrich is back, and just in time to wake up our gallery walls for fall. Today’s new edition by the Brooklynite, artist, and educator represents our second select from her photo-based project The Black Doll Series. Like her first edition, Mestrich’s second began as an internet product pic of a vintage Black doll for sale. Through precise digital painting and manipulation, Mestrich transformed the original image into something else all together—an unrecognizable abstracted form made of layered aligned and misaligned geometric shapes in a subdued, earthy color palette, centered in the frame against a solid taupe background. One of only a few scant clues to the image’s past life is the item description Mestrich has retained in the title of her artwork: Sweet Indian Doll III. Just because a past is invisible, doesn’t mean it’s been erased.
Mestrich’s use of abstraction in The Black Doll Series is both deconstructive and generative, dismantling the stereotypes on display in each doll, and enabling her to harness complete control of an image’s transfiguration through sharp lines and angles and a tight composition. (Read more about The Black Doll Series here.) The geometric components that make up the central arrangement in Sweet Indian Doll III are not unlike kaleidoscope fragments—we are looking through a lens of Mestrich’s own making, a narrative she commands. Abstract though it may be, Sweet Indian Doll III is a representation of Blackness brought to life by a Black woman, methodically and decisively decolonized. In this there’s a commentary on the fictionality of the original. Though the abstracted form is nearly as far from figurative realism as one could get, it’s more authentically human than the stereotyped product pic from which Mestrich ministered its metamorphosis ...
The edges of the shapes are intentionally pixelated, and as the print size increases those pixels become more visible—a doubling down on the artwork’s integrated geometry that also means this edition literally evolves on its own. This is not a stagnant, lifeless form. Sweet Indian Doll III is dynamic by nature.
What to make of the title, then? Mestrich has held onto this, inextricably linking her artwork with the commercial photograph of a doll that served as her jumping off point. She’s also kept a quietly powerful color palette that calls to mind the richness of skin and hair-toned hues, and situated her subject such that it’s suggestive of portrait style. Though this edition bears no resemblance to its origin image, and only subtle similarities to any sort of figurative affair, something from its past sticks around. “Can colors and geometric shapes be used to deconstruct stereotypes?” Mestrich wonders. “Can abstraction help the viewer unsee their own mental archive of oppression?” Sweet Indian Doll III keeps us asking these important questions, and it does so in a triumph of abstract grace.
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200