Toile des Enfants

Toile des Enfants, 2004, is an art wallpaper and textile that made it's debut in an installation of the same name at a fundraising event for the Studio Museum in Harlem in the spring of 2005.  I designed the toile pattern as a counterpoint to traditional Toile de Jouy decorative patterns which historically have depicted white Europeans (often peasants) in idyllic pastoral scenes. From it's atypical color palette, to the substitution of houseflies for farm animals, to it's genre scenes of 20th century-era brothers and sisters (adapted from a 70's photo essay about a black family living in project housing in Harlem), this toile inverts the symbolism of quaint rustic poverty that toile patterns represent.  In doing so it ponders whether contemporary black poverty in this context is viewed as sentimentally as it's white counterpart, either implicitly or explicitly?  And if so, how have visual producers and cultural gatekeepers normalized and reinforced cliches about poverty for cultural consumption? Toile des Enfants offers an alternative narrative that centers and elevates a specific black American experience while also calling out entrenched racial and class stereotypes.