It’s joyous and yet, at times, painful to grow up a black female child in “America” Deborah Roberts
Roberts could have given up long ago. With a mother who worked as a maid and a father who worked as an electrical lineman for the city of Austin, Tex., she grew up trading her drawings of cars, horses, dolls and airplanes for her classmates’ fat red pencils.
“It meant nothing to them, but it was everything to me,” she said. “I did not know what an artist was. I just knew that I wanted to do this.”
Intricately composed collages, Deborah Roberts articulates a pictorial images
of African American girlhood that emphasizes the changeable nature of identity and its potential to both empower and oppress. The Austin-based artist uses photographs, magazine clippings, and images from the internet to emphasize the implications of societal pressures and privilege that dominate popular media. Roberts’ style of collage suggests bodily fragmentation, but the composite figures at the forefront of her world also exude imagination and uncanny vitality. Roberts presents an exploded view of beauty that makes room for excluded and marginalized narratives while fighting generalized and discriminatory perceptions of black female experiences. Asked what she hoped for viewers to take away, Roberts said, “When you look at my work, you have to look at every part of the face and make something out of those fragments. That’s one of the gifts of the work—to see people differently, and not just as one being. Blackness is global.”