The Spotless Mirror (2011-2013)

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2011, I began making photographs at my husband’s grandfather’s house in the San Fernando Valley. Once home to seven people, the large house is now inhabited by my husband’s grandfather alone. The ball machine on the tennis court is overrun with crickets. The pool is faithfully cleaned, but rarely receives swimmers. Many rooms have gone unchanged in the decade and a half since my husband’s grandmother died. Particularly intriguing to me is a suite of four now-unused rooms at the front of the house—an entryway, a parlor, a formal dining room, and a half-bath—all done up in shades of pink, still and well-dusted as period rooms in a museum. Filled with opulent furniture, silk flowers, and delicate figurines of porcelain and glass, they seem to me deliberately feminine rooms, designed for entertaining, not living. I made more photographs in that part of the house than any other.

I work best with privacy and a lot of time, and I often photograph myself. The year and a half I spent shooting in that house in the Valley was an incredible opportunity to dig into the themes that are central to my work—domesticity, isolation, black identity, and the performance of femininity—in an unfamiliar way. In much of my older work, I explored my own experiences and internal life through photographs; in The Spotless Mirror, I am playing a character, and her life has little to do with my own. It is a fantasy, born of a fascination with representations of wealth.