Is Blackface Gone? [1999]

No, not fade away.

1. Used by volunteer firemen in a parade in New Jersey---depicting the lynching of a black man in Texas in 1998 dragged behind a pickup truck. The firemen were reprimanded.

2. In fashion photography. The shot to the left published June 1999, an illustration for an Italian designer, Bottega Veneta, to show off a ribbed turtleneck fabric.

Blackface here: what can it mean?? A black-and-white photo among many rival "spreads" in a fashion mag using color---black and white meant to denote the "classical," the timeless?

The make-up is applied carefully--is it supposed to become just a more extreme case of fan-skin fashion coloring? Yet it's also carefully limited---the model's much lighter skin is carefully shown, highlighting the sense of the coloring as a mask and nothing more? Merely a color note, or, rather, a gray note?

Blackface here has no history, no meaning---it's just a tone in the picture's formal scheme, an accessory meant to add to the visual allure of the shot and thus help sell the garmet. Meant to have to same attention-grabbing effect as the model's two deftly marked nipple-points. (Were they computer-enhanced, btw?)

Marking up.... Marking out: blackface here as an erasure of meanings, a scarification of the history of how blackface has been used in vaudeville, blackface minstrel shows, cartoons, etc.---as part of the U.S.'s strange and violent dance of masks around the color-line(s). All this is here blacked out, the designer hopes, for fashion's sake.

Progress? Progressed black'd out?

Clio, dame Historia, shakes her head thoughtfully and gathers up her skirts to depart....

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