John E. Dowell, Jr Sam Gilliam Felrath Hines Gordon Parks Lorna Simpson Richard Hunt Romare Bearden John Woodrow Wilson Robert Colescott Adrian Piper Renée Stout Eldzier Cortor Richard Mayhew Carl Pope
African American Art Text Graphic

Renée Stout

Red Room at Five, 1999

This image is part of a beautiful red silk-clad portfolio containing six color photographs (see Other works). The cover is stamped with a gold symbol for Erzulie, the Haitian voodoo goddess of love. By referencing her African-diaspora spiritual heritage, Stout explores themes of self-discovery, empowerment, and healing. Erzulie is a symbol of women’s strength. Known not only for her passion and beauty, she is also a fierce protectorate of women and children, who was often evoked in cases of domestic violence or betrayal by a lover. 

Although these photographs were initially taken as studies for paintings, Stout later sequenced them for the portfolio. What results is a narrative suggesting romantic longing and loss—a prospective lovers’ rendezvous at five in a passionate, fiery red room. A clothed woman looks out of a window in anticipation (a), a luxurious table of perfume bottles is set (a popular offering to Erzulie) (b), a spirit (angel/cupid) rests on satin and velvet pillows (c), a nude woman waits (d), she rises to leave (e), and then only an empty room with a darkened bed remains (f). Stout frequently appears in her works as her alter ego Fatima Mayfield, a fictitious herbalist and fortune teller. By taking on another character, Stout frees herself to confront difficult issues, such as romantic relationships, social ills, and financial woes. In a bit of life imitating art, Stout’s ex-lover who helped to take these photographs sued her for additional credit, which appears in the colophon. 

Born in Junction City, Kansas, and reared in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stout received a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University. She settled in Washington, D.C., and became known for her paintings, sculptures, installations, and prints. She has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and she was the recipient of an Anonymous Was a Woman Award and the David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Romare Bearden, The Family

Renée Stout
American, b. 1958
Red Room at Five, 1999
Chromogenic print
Purchased with funds from the Clarence W. and Mildred Long Art Purchase Fund, IU Art Museum 2011.266A
Art © Renée Stout

Other Works:

Romare Bearden
Robert Colescott
John E. Dowell, Jr
Sam Gilliam
Felrath Hines
Richard Hunt
Gordon Parks
Adrian Piper
Lorna Simpson
John Woodrow Wilson
Renée Stout
Eldzier Cortor
Richard Mayhew
Carl Pope