Very rarely do people walk into an art gallery or museum and say, “Wow, look at the lighting on that!” despite it making the art the star of the exhibit. Understanding the way a piece of art is lit can help the viewer better appreciate the artwork, so let’s shine some light (pun intended) on the technical side of things today.
Burroughs’ work in the visual arts took the form of painting, some sculpture, and a large body of relief prints. In Black Venus, Burroughs surely sought to reinterpret Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s iconic Birth of Venus. Dr. Alain Locke, along with other Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and writers, set out to redefine their image as the New Negro, which would counter the stereotypes associated with Jim Crow America. They challenged artists to forge a new, authentic iconography for a re-envisioned identity. The arts would draw inspiration from the South, the Caribbean, and pre-colonial Africa—their true cultural roots. Burroughs borrowed compositional elements from Botticelli’s painting of the classical goddess rising from the sea, but provides a renewed definition of beauty by replacing her fair hair and complexion with a rich, dark skin tone.