While the only “weird” thing still happening in Austin is the mass gentrification further exacerbated by every music festival, it still is home to black excellence: queer visual artist Beth Consetta Rubel. Raised in a small Texas town, Beth is no stranger to the discrimination faced in the Deep South. Through her art, she examines the different manifestations of racism in American culture and asks “Is racism permanently embedded in our culture, or is it a learned behavior that is exploited in media and fed to the masses?”.
How do you identify as?
She / Her / They/ Them / Queer / Mixed-race / Biracial / African American / black
What does blackness mean to you?
For me, it goes back to the black women in my family who have shown nothing but resilience and grace in the face of adversity. I’ve always found my strength in knowing what they’ve overcome. I bring up historical references of blackness quite often in my art — not to define blackness but to question what it means to the viewer.
Why is it important to showcase black faces in your art?
I feel strongly about documenting the social climate; starting conversations about and within my community. I don’t see enough local art that I can relate to, so I have learned that I also need to participate in the solution. During an era fueled with police brutality against people of color, I think its especially crucial that my art not only serve as documentation, but as a device to combat the inequalities deeply engrained in our society and displayed in mass media. As an artist, I feel responsible to expose topics convenient to ignore and to spark questions within the viewer regarding preconceived stereotypes.
What does it mean to be a black artist in Austin, a city that according to a recent US Census, is the only major US city that has lost a black population?
It is a challenge to be a black artist in Austin due to a lack of Art Galleries devoted to exhibiting people of color. I’ve definitely had to be resourceful in finding my supportive community, both online and in other cities.
The Brown Paper Bag Series is a critical investigation of colorism in Black communities and some of your work also includes iconic figures in pop culture. Why did you specifically choose to address Bill Cosby?
The Bill Cosby piece is currently a work in progress and part of a new series of interactive paintings exploring the intersection of race and pop culture. This series will engage the viewer to explore conversations surrounding a specific topic. Although it’s a little too early to go into detail about the Cosby piece, I can tell you the title “Every Onlooker is a Coward or Traitor” so you can start drawing your own conclusions and continue watching my progress on social media. Title reference is a quote by Frantz Fanon
Beth’s latest piece is an interactive art work that was displayed at the “De la Tierra” exhibit based on the book “And the Earth Did Not Devour Him” by Tomás Rivera. For more of Beth’s work, visit her website bethconsettarubel.com
Note: Shout out to X’ene Sky and Wilfredo Santamaria as the Creative Consultants for this article.