One, One Thousand | Southern Photography


Ownership Society: A Conundrum
by Richard Lou

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Project statement:

"The availability of land, policies affecting the acquiring and retaining of homes, and segregation, whether imposed by law or through other institutions, are central to perpetuating white economic advantage, maintaining ideologies that devalue people of color, and constructing images of white people and how they live in the U.S." Excerpt from "Constructing Whiteness" by Judy Helfand.

President Bush's 2003 speech on Ownership Society struck me as another example of the disconnectedness of our domestic policies and the history of exclusion in our country. While looking at Thomas Gainsborough's painting, titled "Mr. and Mrs. Andrews" c. 1750, I was interested in the visual history of the unspoken and the implicit in regards to our internalized beliefs on race.

I wanted to explore and subvert the centrality of whiteness and how it speaks to who can own things. The Gainsborough painting becomes somewhat complicated in regards to my subversion of this convention of portraiture as Mr. Andrews holds a firearm. A white man holding a rifle in front of a large parcel of land conjures a feeling of "rightness" that I had to get beyond. To understand this image and its unspoken power I needed to subvert the figures by placing friends of mine within the frame in a somewhat similar fashion in regards to a simple reading of the subject matter. I invited friends of mine that own property to be photographed on their respective land holding a "weapon" of their own or one that I provided. I was interested to see what happens when people of color are holding weapons on their property and how it would read. Would these new images invoke a similar bucolic image within the convention of portraiture or would another reading be elicited and what are these other readings referencing?


Bio and contact:

Chicano artist Richard A. Lou explores the subjugation of his community by the Dominant Culture and White Privilege. Lou has exhibited in venues that would include: Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City DF, Mexico; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin, TX; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA; Cornerhouse Art Gallery, Manchester, England; Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum, Istanbul, Turkey; Dong-A University, Busan, South Korea; Miami Museum, Miami, FL; Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Mexican Fine Arts Museum, Chicago, IL; Otis School of Art and Design, Otis Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston, MA; Aperto 90` Section, La Biennale Di Venezia, Venice, Italy; Grey Art Gallery, New York University, NY, NY; Dia Foundation, NY, NY; Artist Space, NY, NY. Lou continues to produce art while chairing the Department of Art at the University of Memphis.


Richard Lou is a Memphis, TN, based photographer.
You can contact Richard Lou by e-mail: