My Female Gaze - Statement

My Female Gaze –

I place women on a pedestal. Pensive, poetic and alluring, my figurative sculpture pose questions of identity, hybridity and womanhood.

An area of my practice has been devoted soft activism driven by historical narratives, feminism, social justice, and my (hidden) African American ancestry. I am fascinated by the complexities of identity and concerned with the dialogue surrounding the many forms of social construct. Those hidden narratives that highlight unspoken truths intrigue me. It is through this lens that I create my figurative sculpture.

I am interested in cultural hybridity and borrow mythology. Narratives from different cultures to add layers of personal meaning to my work. I think it is important to be able to express ourselves through our world experiences, rather than speaking strictly through our own race. America is a melting pot of cultures that we each experience every day and that shapes our beliefs. I try to respectfully acknowledge our integrated multicultural world in my work.

Mirrors and reflections have crept into my work which I use as a visual device to explore identity further. I use the mirrored face as a tool for self-reflection or as a vehicle for the viewer to embody the sculpture. In Mirror, Mirror, her mirrored face reflects into the mirror infinitely. While the mirrored faces, outward and convex, adds a futuristic effect, which is enhanced further by the expression of my figurative style.

Recently, I have used symbols borrowed from mythology, cultural narratives I love the way Holbein handles symbology in his paintings. Feathers, dogwood flowers, a book, all hold both personal and universal meaning. Deer Woman is a symbol of feminine power in Native American tribes, and you can find similar figures in Celtic mythology.

The idea of a breastplate first appeared on the sculpture, The Journey, drawn in glimmering gold luster with markings borrowed from a feline. The markings also appear on the back of The Unknown and are unique to each being. I imagine all women have a metaphorical mechanism that acts as a breastplate for self-protection, self-preservation and to keep our power safe. When I made What We Carry, I was thinking of the beautiful armor and decorative metal work of the Renaissance and my life’s journey, but also in the collective sense, women’s life journey. The dogwood flowers represented reliability, durability, and affection in the Victorian era. The hanging shards of mica and beads, fragments of our lives. When I tried to fire the piece a third time, pushing the temperature beyond its limit to achieve an improved glaze result, a slit opened above the heart. I chose to leave it as is, feeling the universe was contributing to the work.

- Jocelyn Braxton Armstrong


I realize my humanist view of how we move forward as a multicultural society is perhaps misunderstood by many in the art world because we have been forbidden to stray from our perceived identity. So, I was bolstered to read a new book just out by Yascha Mounk, The Identity Trap, in which he explains this point of view best.

“For much of history, societies have violently oppressed ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. It is no surprise that many who passionately believe in social justice came to believe that members of marginalized groups need to take pride in their identity to resist injustice.”

“But over the past decades, a healthy appreciation for the culture and heritage of minority groups has transformed into a counterproductive obsession with group identity in all its forms. A new ideology aiming to place each person’s matrix of identities at the center of social, cultural, and political life has quickly become highly influential. It stifles discourse, vilifies mutual influence as cultural appropriation, denies that members of different groups can truly understand one another, and insists that the way governments treat their citizens should depend on the color of their skin.”

“This, Yascha Mounk argues, is the identity trap. Though those who battle for these ideas are full of good intentions, they will ultimately make it harder to achieve progress toward the genuine equality we desperately need. Mounk has built his acclaimed scholarly career on being one of the first to warn of the risks right-wing populists pose to American democracy. But, he shows, those on the left and center who are stuck in the identity trap are now inadvertent allies to the MAGA movement.”