PATTERNS OF INTIMACY

Mona Shomali is a U.S.-based artist. She was born in California in 1979. She began painting seriously at 15 years old after being introduced to nude life drawing classes sponsored by the Berkeley Artists Guild.

For the third collection (Patterns of Intimacy), Mona wanted to explore the reality of interracial relationships. Shomali believes that every time there is interracial intimacy between white, brown, and black people, there are also latent power dynamics. These power dynamics are often imposed on the relationship from outsiders who make meaning of the intimacy. These perceptions of interracial intimacy fall into patterns, the sexualization of oppression and subordination. Contemporary thought leaders have understood race to be a construct, and we are still grappling with the sexual mythology around it. We are still enduring white supremacy on black and brown bodies.

In painting this collection, she was influenced by the words of Dr. Cornell West who discusses the mythology of interracial sex in his book, Race Matters. West says that “Everyone knows it is virtually impossible to talk candidly about race without talking about sex.” (West, pg 83). In describing the history of interracial sexual mythology in American culture, West states that the “dominant myths draw black women and men either as threatening creatures who have the potential for sexual power over whites or as harmless, desexed underlings of a white culture.” (West, pg. 83). In the same discussion, West states that currently, “more and more white Americans are willing to interact sexually with black Americans on an equal basis— even if the myths persist.” (West, pg 85). Although West is describing black and white sexual dynamics, there are also latent power dynamics when brown bodies come together with white and black bodies.

Shomali did not find a representation of interracial intimacy in different figurative art movements and wanted to represent what she experienced in her community. This collection took place in Northern California.