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.