Heyd Fontenot & Erin Stafford
Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 2021
Ft. Worth, Texas
CIVIL LIES, a two-person art exhibition at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, opens September 10 and runs through October 30, 2021. Texas-based interdisciplinary artists Heyd Fontenot and Erin Stafford each present their complex artworks in a thematic and aesthetic dialog. Visually delightful, yet politically provocative, the artists tread dangerously through a minefield of questioning power structures, nationalism, history, gender, and the false promises of comfort-in-conformity.
Recognized as a figurative painter and former director of the artists’ residency CentralTrak, Heyd Fontenot presents a continuous 68 foot wall-scaled painting featuring multiple figures and a plea for empathy. Alluding to the so-called “greatest artist of the Twentieth Century”, Pablo Picasso who utilized the Minotaur as an unconscionably permissive avatar, Fontenot imagines the mythical half-man half-beast as a more spiritually-stunted and tragic character. The artist reveals America’s obsession with titillating material, both sexual and violent, as so pervasive that it acts as a decorative backdrop for ill-informed self-indulgences. These painted panels introduce such problematic obstructions as toxic masculinity, rape culture and misogyny, gay panic and homophobia, which imitate an archeologically-significant codex that might give future generations some explanation of our contemporary dysfunction and lower impulses.
With a travel grant from the Dallas Museum of Art, Erin Stafford visited plantation homes in Louisiana to study Southern mystique. Confronting her own often-troubling “white, female” identity, the artist became increasingly unsettled by realizations around her cultural conditioning. The assumption that Caucasian women had a passive role in the enslavement of Black people resulted in a cognitive dissonance when Stafford’s research revealed that these women were often willing participants in human trafficking. This newfound knowledge was the catalyst for new sculptural and two-dimensional artwork. The intoxicating effect of these beautiful objects has masked the intention of actively reinforcing and promoting sexist and racist ideologies.