Binary Detachment: Florine Demosthene at Mariane Ibrahim

The detachment between one’s true self and the socially programmed persona we take on is exemplified through Florine Demosthene’s “Between Possibility and Actuality” at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Chicago, IL.


Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim.

Each canvas takes the viewer into an altered layer of our inner truth that lacks the expected etiquette of the world around us. The contemporary body becomes an illusion of the day to day expectations that we live in through paintings and collage for Demosthene. The body can be seen as a spirit through dystopian characteristics thus criticizing beauty canons and creating a self-made feminine hero, while at the same moment we must question, how, if ever do we connect with our inner self?


Florine Demosthene Installation. Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim.

While the inner self comes into question in this show, the stereotypical male gaze comes into question. 

The disconnect of the duality of the self is evident through the figures connected yet disconnected and stretching in a sense of agony yet dysphoria. The heterosexual perspective of the male gaze simply views women as sexual objects, yet how does this translate in Demosthene’s depictions when her body is disfigured and manipulated to her own likeness?

Demosthene explores the concepts of the two roles and societal pressures that the black female body takes on that leads to physical and emotional disparities. The idea of African heroines with mythical powers has been documented in folklore across the continent specifically in present-day Benin.

She questions the ability to exist within yourself by doing the exact opposite. How do black women exist in this society without comparing and contrasting themselves with white culture? The foundation is to understand that the narrative that these figures are leaving are ones that they didn’t create for themselves in the first place.

Who do we become when we strip all the stories that we have been collaged with as our truth? Messiness, confusion, blurred lines begin to appear similar to the figure that  the artist creates for us, a blobby, exaggerated grotesque being who is in the process of realizing their own ability, there is no end goal or path set yet but the simplicity lies in being, the being in front of the canvas and realizing this as a black woman is what this show is about. Just like how this figure has new stories to tell about herself so do I. 

We similar to the figure internalize and accept what is thrown at us.This show tetters between thoughts and fears, between possibility and the present moment, reality and scarcity. The use of flesh and form as a backdrop create a comprehensive preformed interactive experience.

The twins provoke curiosity not only into the canvas but internally creating a dialogue with the self that only begins once leaving the gallery.

“Florine Démosthène: Between Possibility and Actuality” is on view at Mariane Ibrahim, 437 North Paulina, through December 21.

About Caira Moreira-Brown

Caira Moreira-Brown is a Chicago-New York based art and culture writer and arts professional with experience in museums and galleries. She holds a B.A. in Art History with a concentration in African-American Art from The Ohio State University. She has held positions at Fredrich Petzel Gallery, Kim Heirston Art Advisory, 67 Gallery, Castor Gallery, Joseph Editions, The Wexner Center for Art, The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and EXPO Chicago.In addition to her writing, Caira was photographed by Andres Serrano for his America Series that comprises about 100 portraits of people from many different walks of life.