Endia Beal - Artist's Talk - Professional Development Week

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Bello Grand Hall

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Endia Beal is a North Carolina based artist, educator and activist, who is internationally known for her photographic narratives and video testimonies that examine the personal, yet contemporary stories of women of color working within the corporate space. Beal currently serves as the Director of Diggs Gallery and Assistant Professor of Art atWinston-Salem State University.

The artist’s talk will provide a brief retrospective of four bodies of work including Office Scene, Can I Touch It, 9 to 5, and Am I What You’re Looking For? These works examine the personal and contemporary stories of women of color working within the corporate space. Below you will find brief summaries of each project.

Am I What You’re Looking For?
The photographic series, Am I What You’re Looking For? focuses on young African-American women based in North Carolina who are transitioning from the academic world to the corporate setting, capturing their struggles and uncertainties on how to best present themselves in the professional workspace. This project provides an in-depth investigation into the experiences and fears of being a woman of color in corporate America. The photographs allowed the young women to express their own style of professionalism and their deepest concerns as they transition outside of college.

Can I Touch It?
Almost every woman has toiled before the mirror, trying desperately to look “professional.” My work explores this frustration that occurs so often in the corporate sphere, this feeling of otherness that asks women, quite simply, to change. For women of color this change is often far more difficult, as the ideal corporate appearance remains, in most cases, the white male.
For the photo series entitled Can I Touch It? I approached white women in their forties — some colleagues, others strangers — and gave them a hairstyle typically seen on black women. After the makeover, the revamped women posed in corporate portraits, suits and all, donning their cornrows, braids and finger waves. The resulting images offer a striking juxtaposition of the women’s demure button-ups and pearls and their intricate, seemingly out-of-place coifs.

9 to 5
The video, 9 to 5 is a narrative comprised of real interviews given by women of color about their personal experiences with prejudice and racism within the corporate space. Each woman participated in a 5-minute video interview. The similarities between their stories were remarkable and formed the baseline of the narrative. Together, these women become one voice.

Office Scene
In Office Scene, I speak about an experience that is personal, yet universal to many
women of color working within the corporate space. A rumor circulated at work that my thick, kinky Afro and ethnic hairstyles fascinated my white male colleagues. These men were curious about how my hair felt and wanted to touch it. I developed a piece that explores the thin line between personal and private within the workspace. With the melody of spoken word, I transform into a voyeuristic actress fulfilling the desires of my male colleagues. However, the viewer is left with their imaginations as the tentative voices of the men discuss conflicted feelings of touching me within a very corporate office setting.

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Bello Grand Hall

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