Florida State University College of Fine Arts would like to recognize alumni Zoë Charlton for her achievements and her feature in the upcoming exhibition Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness. Zoë Charlton received her MFA degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her BFA from Florida State University in painting and drawing. Charlton has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and at The Creative Alliance in Baltimore, MD. Her work has been included in national and international group exhibitions including the Contemporary Art Museum (Houston, TX), the Studio Museum of Harlem (NYC, NY), the Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw, Poland), Haas and Fischer Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland), Clementine Gallery (NYC, NY) and Wendy Cooper Gallery (Chicago, IL). Her work has been reviewed in ARTnews and Art in America. Her experience ranges from being an animator for Flat Black Films in Austin, Texas to teaching positions at Missouri State University (MO) and Southwestern University (TX). She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at American University in Washington, DC and beginning this semester as the chair of the department.
Over a hundred years old, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a classic novel that examines the perils and triumphs of European exploration of Africa, the “Dark Continent.” It is a novel that speaks to the heart of man; the desire to achieve economic and social success is a journey that not all come out of unscathed, nor without stain.
Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness is an exhibition that seeks to give people of African descent a voice, one that has been discounted throughout history. The works in this exhibition examine the legacies of mythology, psychological notion, economy and language that were used during the colonization of Africa, and how these elements remain major factors in the way black culture is viewed in America and beyond. In concert, the works and themes featured within Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness illustrate the long‐standing impact of colonialism on prevailing societal attitudes that define black culture. Moreover, the exhibition displays the cyclical nature of these factors and how they are at work in our current society.
According to curator Rhema Barbara:
The process of developing Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness has helped me realize that this may be the first step for people of African descent — and all people — to move beyond the shadows of the past and head towards a future that is shaped by our own minds and hands. In essence, we must all come to terms with the past influences upon our modern world and venture out of the darkness.
The exhibition will include works by national and international artists representative of the African Diaspora.
An ongoing interest in race, gender and class motivates my work. Using the nude body—often, a corpulent black female figure—as metaphor, I explore the ironies of contemporary social and racial politics. My deliberately humorous and sexual content challenges what we view as moral and ethical. Playing on racist and sexist jokes, I point to xenophobic imagery that, in turn, alludes to collective stereotypes. The work evaluates prejudice based on appearances by literally undressing it; the particulars of cultural histories are writ large in these naked bodies.
My sketches hold a sublingual psychological immediacy while the more detailed large-scale renderings represent a deeper sort of character study. Both allow me to contemplate notions of blackness and whiteness. I depict most of my subjects as isolated female figures. Their relationship with the world is signified by the colorful adornments they wear and the culturally loaded objects they embrace—among them, white hoods, suburban housing and sports gear. Whether penciled into a defined context or left to pose awkwardly against a blank backdrop, these characters embody ripe cultural dilemmas.