"I love the idea of the photograph as an unreliable narrator, like a memory that you recall over time, never consistent, moving and changing in interpretation, like how we interpret our lives to our inner selves."
- Erica Deeman in conversation with Essence Harden, independent curator, arts writer, and Ph.D. Candidate, UC Berkeley
Erica Deeman was born in 1977 in Nottingham, UK and lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Deeman received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Public Relations, degree in 2000 from Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Photography, degree in 2014 from Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA.
Deeman addresses social constructs of identity, gender and race through the lens of portraiture. Deeman's Silhouette series was made with the participation of women of the African diaspora, most of whom were unknown to the artist. Her portraits employ the silhouette in conscious reference to the 18th-century pseudoscience of physiognomy - the silhouette was used to demonstrate how an individual's specific character traits were reflected in their facial forms. Her goal is to create a complicated expression of identity analogous to her own journey of self-discovery as a woman of dual English and Jamaican background.
Deeman's Brown series is comprised of a series of 26 x 26-inch archival pigment photographs of men from the African diaspora. Deeman placed her models in front of a backdrop matching her own skin color as a way to personally connect to the individual and collective identity of men from the African diaspora. Together with traditions of classical portraiture, the mugshot, and physiognomy, Deeman engages the viewer to reexamine the basis of their inherent reading of a face, and ultimately, the being.
In her most recent series, Familiar Stranger, Deeman turns the camera on herself for the first time, forging a pathway between photography and sculpture, sharing 15 intimate self-portraits rendered in Cassius Obsidian clay. In this new series, Deeman continues her reflections on diasporic and transnational movements, Black permanence and the nuance of cultural identity.
Erica Deeman is the recipient of the 2019 Headlands Center for the Arts Residency, Sausalito, CA; a 2016 TOSA Award Finalist; the ProArts 2 x 2 Solos 2015: Emerging Artists; and the 2015 Working Artists Grant.
Deeman has had solo exhibitions at Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Archive, Berkeley, CA; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA, and Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY; Domestic and international group exhibitions include Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK; The Hive, Worcester, Worcestershire, UK; Municipal Gallery, Library and Cultural Centre, Dublin, Ireland; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Old Truman Brewery, London, UK; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ; Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, CA; and SF Cameraworks, San Francisco, CA; and University of Derby, Derbyshire, UK.
Permanent collections include Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL; Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, CA and Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ.