Josie Love Roebuck (b. 1995) is an interdisciplinary artist from Chattanooga, TN. She received her B.F.A from the University of Georgia (2019) and is currently pursuing her M.F.A at the University of Cincinnati. Roebuck draws inspiration from Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, and Kathe Kollwitz and their depiction of the female nude, appropriated to create her own narrative. Roebuck’s process addresses the witnessing of re-awakening a traumatic memory, through the repetition of sewing, showing the pain of overcoming trauma. The act of Roebuck poking a hole with either a nail or awl, is significant to a sexual assault victim reliving and telling their story over again. Roebuck has combined both her embroideries and paintings together to create the narrative revealing emotion, a victim feels while representing the terrifying path of healing from such an event. She has exhibited her work at Portrait Society Gallery, Frigid Gallery, Dutiot Gallery, Untitled Art Fair with Denny Dimin Gallery (NY), Yeiser Art Center Gallery (KY), Site: Brooklyn Gallery (NY), BSB Gallery (NJ), Tabula Rosa (OH), Lupin Gallery (GA), Strohl Art Center (NY), and Fowler-Kellogg Gallery (NY).
Rape has been the subject that has captivated me and empowered my voice as an artist. Throughout history, paintings of rape are traditionally done by men. Oftentimes they are painted as a fantasy from a man’s perspective and not as an exploration of the emotional destruction that rape does to a woman. In my depictions of the female nude, I explore the haunted and violated life that occurs after a traumatic act, such as unwanted vulnerability, shame, guilt, unwanted touch, disgust, pain, loss of hope and the fear of another attack.
I symbolize the stages that a victim must struggle through, by using layers and shapes, until my figures turn to camouflage. I am intrigued by this concept and what it means to disappear one’s self, masking your true identity. In specific circumstances, women are not able to move on in life due to the fact that at any given time or place something could trigger them. In my embroideries, I depict portraits of survivors that are very intimate and encourage the viewer to wonder what the survivors went through. Survivors often remember their attackers face, but who remembers the survivors? I create these intimate portraits as a remembrance for the survivors, who are ready to be seen again.
The subject of rape is a central theme in my work, but yet for one to limit an identity to that of a victim is to diminish one’s individual self. While celebrating the faces of victims I have had the experience of being judged by my face alone. I am a biracial woman who was adopted and raised by a Caucasian family. My racial identity is fluid and impossible to specify. My recent work depicts the alienation I have felt of not belonging to one specific group, along with the joy and beauty of my biracial identity. Pain and triumph, exclusion and acceptance, are all woven throughout my self portraits.