‘My Mind Was Totally Deceived and Deluded’: How Photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier Uses Images to Fight Deeply Ingrained Stereotypes

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

LaToya Ruby Frazier. Courtesy of Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan

The Pennsylvania-born artist LaToya Ruby Frazier has long been interested in representations of illness.

The reason is personal: the photographer has dealt with the autoimmune disease lupus for most of her life, and her mother and grandmother both have faced illnesses that have arisen because they lived in the shadow of a steel mill that exposed them to various toxins.

“My work really addresses how a geographic location impacts the body,” she told Art21 as part of the series “New York Close Up” back in 2012.

Often, people with illnesses are depicted as second-class citizens—a stereotype the artist says she used to internalize, and now wants to fight.

“The mind is the battleground for photography,” she says. “My mind was totally deceived and deluded… but now my images can change that.”

Opening this month at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, Frazier’s new show tells the story of another family who faced similar marginalization after a local GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, shuttered, leaving them and others residents without jobs.

Speaking to Art21 she said: “My family just happens to be a springboard to talking about bigger issues of class, health care, and environmental racism.. we’re just reflecting society around us outside of the door.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s “New York Close Up” series, below. “LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Last Cruze” is on view at the Renaissance Society in Chicago from September 14–December 1, 2019.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television series is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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