Student Spotlight: Derick Decario Whitson

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The Student Spotlight series aims to highlight the work of current MFA students, asking them to share thoughts on their practice by answering curated and peer-submitted questions. Derick Decario Whitson is a second-year student in the Visual Arts Program.

What themes or subjects are you currently addressing in your work?
The status of the gendered form answers associations created as a fetishized object in performance through cultural affiliations. Standards of social media implications and social contemporary photographic platforms are celebrated, critiqued, and questioned as I am continuing to produce staged imagery that’s in communication with historical platforms of portrait image making.

What materials do you work with?
In use is color vividness, and my application of flamboyance, overt decoration and clothing choices provides the opportunity to expand and add to a viewer’s interpretation of imagery.

What is challenging your practice right now?
I'm thinking about ways the black body has not only been objectified within my daily individual practices, but also historically through photographic imagery. My current photographic work is political subversive affirmative imagery that forms a drag gender non conforming empathetic utopia.

What artist or work of art do you find yourself returning to and why?
Some of my current questions are in response to image makers like Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Richard Avedon and this potential to photograph people that is negating the term portraiture.

Your peers ask: What are you currently reading that is fueling your process or studio practice?
Reading Vilem Flusser: Towards A Philosophy of Photography

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.