Lilian Cotton: A Slow Battle
The artist in her own words:
I was born in Lithia Springs, a suburb of Atlanta, GA and spent most of my childhood in various cities in the north and southeast. I attended a magnet art school for visual and performing arts; concentrating in painting and drawing. During high school I attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. In 2008 I received a B.F.A in Painting and Drawing from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. In that same year I received the Rohm and Haas Fine Arts Achievement Award.
Since graduating from college my work has been shown at various venues and charity events in Philadelphia, notably the 2010 Battle of the Canvas (an event which promotes art that affects and influences social change). I participated in Adopt–a-Pig, a fund-raising event to help children with cancer. I also participated in a second two-person show called “Four Women” (inspired by Nina Simone’s Song by the same name) at Vivant Art Collection in Philadelphia, PA. In September 2011 I relocated to South Carolina and continued my work with community projects. In collaboration with HEART ministry we completed “Project Valentine of February 2012,” an effort that presented gift baskets to women in shelters who had suffered abuse.
The concept of my work emanates from summer vacations spent in South Carolina with my extended family; particularly my grandparents and cousins. As fashion- conscious teenagers we spent a great deal of time shopping, sharing beauty secrets, and styling and braiding each other’s hair. I enjoyed immensely the creative aspects of hair styling
while pursing my main passion for drawing and painting and began collecting books and magazines on the subject.
During my undergrad years I became more socially, culturally, and politically conscious and my new awareness had a profound effect on the subject and theme of my art work. I studied women, especially African-American women and their attitudes towards coiffures and how they used it to define and make bold and interesting statements about themselves. I began to paint women, focusing on their hair and using it as a means and tool to portray their wealth, identity, social class, ethnicity, religion and sexuality.
While well-groomed appearances, especially hair, have always been an indication of social class, wealth, and prominence; unkempt hair has been a marker of poverty, derangement, and low self-esteem (stemming from various forms of negligence and abuse). It was from that moment of realization that I began to infuse the concept of women’s perspective of hair, with all its implications, into my paintings thus allowing the condition of her hair to non-verbally speak of the state of her mind.
Visual, decorative, and figurative abstractions best describe my work. I love patterns; particularly, African wax print fabric and lace. However, I am also highly influenced by graffiti, Abstract Expressionism, and the Art Nouveau era.