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Lightening Lipstick

Artist Robert Colescott (American, 1925–2009)
Title Lightening Lipstick
Date 1994
Medium Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions Overall: 90 x 114 in. (228.6 x 289.6 cm)
Credit Line Museum purchase with funds from Lawrence and Lucienne Glaubinger, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer CARE Foundation, the Elisabeth P. Myers Art Acquisition Fund, and the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2005.2

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About this Work

Using parody, satire, and humor in his paintings, Robert Colescott addressed serious contemporary social issues. Lightening Lipstick reflects how the complex politics surrounding skin color in the Caribbean informs the identity of those descended from slaves. In the lower left, an enslaved black woman is pictured with a slave owner or trader. Her nudity signals the sexual power he holds over her. Above them, a rainbow of portraits, each featuring a different skin tone, comment on the result of mixed race relations between slaves and masters. The light-skinned woman at the lower right exclaims in Spanish “¡Soy latina!” (I am a Latina!), indicating her own cultural identification, while a darker figure—her reflection—challenges her with the response “Negrita!” (Black woman).

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Lightening Lipstick | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.