In finding out more information about Banks’s life, might I somehow redress the bodily and archival violence that rendered her an unnamed figure in a museum display? Moreover, how could I tell Banks’s story—or, a story of racialized violence—without committing further violence in my own act of narration?
This research note reflects on the ways in which portraits function as complex indicators of racial, cultural, and regional identities and histories. It argues that the flexibility of meaning for such paintings lies not only with the artist and the sitter, but is equally shaped by audiences and historians.
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