When Taraji P. Henson, in the character of Cookie on the TV show Empire, stalks into a room, juts out one voluptuous hip, puts her hand on it, looks a rival directly in the eye and says “What’s up, boo boo kitty?” a jolt of electricity runs through me. Cookie is completely alluring because she is a mix of savvy manipulator, cutthroat warrior, seductress, and carnivore. In addition to her considerable acting ability, Henson’s overall appearance – her shoes, dress, makeup, hair, and nails – helps convey this multifaceted persona. These appurtenances are essential devices in the toolkit used to wield and perform femininity.

As the sociologist Irving Goffman has pointed out, performance is enmeshed in everyday social interactions; we perform a version of ourselves for various audiences. Along these lines, South African artist Frances Goodman is interested in the relations between femininity, costuming, and role-playing. In her show Rapaciously Yours, at Richard Taittinger Gallery, by reworking the materials that typically signify her gender, she evokes models of femininity that are visually enticing but also strange, mythic, and untamable.


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