Urgent Museum Notice

Shades of Skin

Close up of Shades of Skin

Four photographs, read horizontally from left to right, portray close-ups details of the artist’s body: her face, obscured by hands in prayer; a scarred back; hands pressed into upper thighs, and toes suspended over soil. With each picture, her skin appears increasingly dark.

Mwangi Hutter, Shades of Skin, 2001; Chromogenic color print on aluminum, (a) 15 3/8 x 29 1/2 in.; (b) 36 1/4 x 29 1/2 in.; (c) 36 1/4 x 29 1/2 in.; (d) 39 x 29 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Mwangi Hutter

Shades of Skin
Ingrid Mwangi (Mwangi Hutter)

These four stills from Ingrid Mwangi’s video Shades of Skin explore what it means to be a global citizen.

Mwangi’s art centers on what she calls her “hyphenated” identity—she was born in Kenya but has lived in Germany since she was a teenager. By altering her body or images of it, Mwangi challenges narrow ideas about race and also evokes the histories of slavery, the colonization of Africa, and the African Diaspora.

Each still in this series offers a close-up of one piece of Mwangi’s body: her head, back, thighs, and dangling feet. As the series progresses, the skin tone darkens against the unchanging, clinical background.

The artist achieves a collective tension across the separate images through their individual details: the hands in prayer, scars on the back, one hand grabbing a thigh, and feet hovering over what seems to be a rough coastline (actually a cloth). The scars in particular reference not only the strained relationship between European countries and their former colonies but also African scarification rituals.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Ingrid Mwangi (Mwangi Hutter)
  • Title

    Shades of Skin
  • Date

  • Medium

    Chromogenic color print on aluminum
  • Dimensions

    126 7/8 x 29 1/5 in. total
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.
  • Photo Credit

    © Mwangi Hutter
  • On Display