Unleashing the Power of Color

Photography By Amanda Lopez

Throughout history women of color have been nearly invisible within traditional art and media. Rather than expose diverse images truly representative of our country, females that reflect unrealistic beauty standards are plastered ubiquitously. With the world slowly adjusting to the diverse features that embrace women of color’s strength and grace, there are individuals progressing that agenda further. Adornment by photographer Amanda Lopez and stylist/jewelry designer Tanya Melendez unleashes the unknown power and beauty women of color possess.

While photographing reimagined braids inspired by ancient Africa and Maya civilization, the duo also incorporate nostalgic accessories like bamboo earrings and braid chains within the project. The diverse models embodying Lopez and Melendez’s message of inclusivity command the viewer’s attention with dark eyes and radiant skin in various colors and shades. The creators’ hope is that viewers see themselves reflected in the exhibit.

Adornment is showing the significance of diverse women in art settings and changing the way females of color are perceived through their powerful embellishments of silver and gold. We caught up with Sacramento native Lopez, to talk about her hopes of inspiring and creating space for diversity to thrive while also discussing the paradigm shift the exhibit is helping to progress.

TS: How did the idea come about for this project? Did you and Tanya have a similar moment of, “We should do this”?

AL: Tanya and I have known each other for years and have a mutual respect for each other’s work. One day she showed me some work she had created where she added door knockers onto a model’s braided hair and I was blown away. Soon after, we started talking about the importance of adornment and decided to collaborate on an adornment photo shoot. The rest is history. We knew we had created something special and decided to continue working on the series.

TS: What was the process like in bringing this exhibit into fruition? How long did it take to complete?

AL: We worked on the project for over a year and a half before debuting the show in Los Angeles this past March. The photos were shot in my studio in Highland Park. Each portrait session took between 5–8 hours depending on the complexity of the hairstyle.

TS: Adornment celebrates the regal spirit and resilience of women of color, can you elaborate a bit more on this and how it connects to you personally?

Women of color are underrepresented in so many areas of life: business, education, the media, etc,– you name it. And there is a lack of inclusivity.

AL: As an artist, I felt that it was important to create this work to honor the beauty and strength of women of color since it’s not something you typically see. However I will say that I feel like the paradigm is shifting. With the access to social media, you are beginning to see more and more people embracing their own unique beauty and creating space for others to do the same. I love that!

TS: The color silver is associated with the progress of the future and gold is often relative to the traditional past. What prompted the decision to use both in this project and what is being said by utilizing both hues?

AL: Tanya and I are both fans of silver and gold adornments. I always say when we are shooting, “ lets add more jewelry, more gold, more silver, the more the better.” To me, gold and silver are both equally regal so it made sense to incorporate both metals into the series.

TS: Your portrait work is impressive and uses vibrant colors to tell a story about whichever subjects you are focusing on. Can you tell me a bit about your love of portraits and the power the portraits create in this exhibit specifically?

I’ve always loved portraiture. There’s something really special that happens when you can connect with someone and create a powerful image together.

AL: For this series, I knew that I wanted to share the strong, radiant, and confident side of each of the women I photographed so I chose to use the bright colored backdrops as a way to highlight each person’s unique style and boldness.

TS: With the clear strength of the photos and women within them, what do you want audiences to take away from the show?

AL: I hope anyone who looks at the work feels inspired. Inspired to create art. Inspired to love themselves more. Inspired to honor their unique beauty. Inspired to decolonize antiquated standards of beauty. Inspired to adorn themselves. Inspired to be fearless. Inspired to honor the women in their life. Inspired to become artists.

TS: How do you feel about showing back home in Sacramento at Sol Collective?

AL: I was born and raised in Sacramento so it feels great to exhibit the work here. I also am really grateful that we were able to share the work at Sol Collective because they are an amazing organization and true vanguards of the art and activism community.

Adornment is definitely a must see. Make sure to catch the exhibit in Sacramento before it closes on Monday, August 7 at Sol Collective located at 2574 21st St. For more information visit: http://www.solcollective.org/