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Sensual ExcessQueer Femininity and Brown Jouissance$
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Amber Jamilla Musser

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479807031

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479807031.001.0001

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Surface Play

Surface Play

Flash, Friction, and Self-Reflection

(p.46) 2 Surface Play
Sensual Excess

Amber Jamilla Musser

NYU Press

This chapter delves more deeply into the matter of the black vulva in arguing for a revaluation of narcissism, friction, and superficiality by dwelling on Mickalene Thomas’s use of rhinestones as excessive decorations in The Origin of the Universe (2012). A reimagining of Gustave Courbet’s infamous headless, nude portrait of a woman, Origin of the World (1866), Thomas’s work positions rhinestone-embellished genitals in the center of the frame. This chapter argues that Thomas’s painting offers a meditation on Audre Lorde’s matrilineal womanism while also allowing us to think with the idea of surface within the medium of painting. Both this calling forth of 1970s- 1980s black lesbian feminism and the textures of the surface bring forth friction as a form of relationality and narcissism as a necessary form of self-creation. Brown jouissance, this chapter argues, inheres in the excesses of surface that the painting presents.

Keywords:   Mickalene Thomas, Audre Lorde, surface, rhinestones, womanism, lesbian feminism, narcissism, friction

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