Jamaican-American artist Renee Cox premiered her 12-foot long photograph titled “The Signing” at the Boca Raton Museum of Art as a way to reimagine the U.S Constitution. In a modern twist, Cox features women and men of color in the place of the Founding Fathers signing the Constitution in extravagant and contemporary clothing.
Presented for the first time in a museum, the Signing is inspired by Howard Chandler Christy’s historical painting, “Scene at The Signing of the Constitution of the United States.” Chandler Christy’s 1940 oil on canvas painting depicted the signing of the U.S Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, featuring George Washington as the main figure and the founding fathers surrounding him. The historical painting is currently located in the U.S Capitol Building.
“The Signing was created on a grand scale and in the tradition of history painting,” said Kathleen Goncharov, Senior Curator at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. “This is a revisionist look at one of America’s most historic events – the founding of the nation. The image brings to light that although people of color did not participate in the signing of the Constitution, they have most certainly played important roles and made vital contributions to the building of this country. Museum visitors are encouraged to acknowledge that people of color have been largely left out of history books.”
Each individual dramatically poses across the picture, dressed in clothing to depict modern-day founding fathers with people who represent what the present-day U.S looks like. Instead of 1700 period clothing, the founding fathers are dressed in African garments.
As an artist, lecturer, and political activist, Cox aimed to create pieces that were visual representations of African Americans and motivated to break down stereotypes. She has gained a reputation for her controversial works as an African American artist and has shown an interest in social issues and black womanhood, which is seen through the Signing.
“This work aims to unleash the potential of the ordinary and bring it into a new realm of possibilities,” said Cox.
The Boca Raton Museum of Art exhibition of Cox’s The Signing is currently on display and can be viewed now.