Jillian Hernandez gives voice to girls and women of color in her 2020 book Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment. In this episode, you’ll hear how she’s been delving into the aesthetic hierarchies of femme culture for more than a decade. Research, critical writing, and personal experience come together to enrich this vividly illustrated book. Hernandez shares a few stories of her own fraught adolescence, along with those of Women on the Rise!, a community of teenage girls for whom she and local artists created opportunities to collide with art, through the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.
Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Special Audio: Chonga Girls, “Chongalicious,” Crystal Pearl Molinary, “Off the Chain” | Photographs courtesy the artists via Jillian Hernandez
Jillian Hernandez, a Miami native, is currently Assistant Professor in the Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research at the University of Florida. She is a transdisciplinary scholar interested in the stakes of embodiment, aesthetics, and performance for Black and Latinx women and girls, gender-nonconformists, and queers. In 2020, Hernandez completed her first book, Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment, through Duke University Press. She is developing other book-length projects on the radical politics of femme of color art and performance and Latinx creative erotics, ontologies, and relationalities. Hernandez received her Ph.D. in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University and teaches courses on racialized girlhoods, Latinx sexualities, theories of the body, social justice praxis, and cultural studies. Her scholarship is based on and inspired by over a decade of community arts work with Black and Latinx girls in Miami, Florida, through the Women on the Rise! program she established at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, in addition to her practice as an artist and curator. via University of Florida
Aesthetics of Excess: Heavy makeup, gaudy jewelry, dramatic hairstyles, and clothes that are considered cheap, fake, too short, too tight, or too masculine: working-class Black and Latina girls and women are often framed as embodying “excessive” styles that are presumed to indicate sexual deviance. In Aesthetics of Excess Jillian Hernandez examines how middle-class discourses of aesthetic value racialize the bodies of women and girls of color. At the same time, their style can be a source of cultural capital when appropriated by the contemporary art scene. Drawing on her community arts work with Black and Latina girls in Miami, Hernandez analyzes the art and self-image of these girls alongside works produced by contemporary artists and pop musicians such as Wangechi Mutu, Kara Walker, and Nicki Minaj. Through these relational readings, Hernandez shows how notions of high and low culture are complicated when women and girls of color engage in cultural production and how they challenge the policing of their bodies and sexualities through artistic authorship. via Duke University Press