“Naturally Speaking: Doll Tests Redux”

Bryan Wilson

29×35, oil on canvas

This particular piece adds a little context to the larger intended narrative of the “Naturally Speaking” series in that it depicts a specific instance in which there is a crossroads in a Black female’s life wherein they are confronted with the contrast between the widely accepted “straight hair” standard of beauty which is further perpetuated by the toys our children often play with. These notions of “good” hair vs “nappy” hair are formed very early on in a Black woman’s life. The idea for the piece is how I re-imagined the Doll Tests of the Civil Rights era which were conducted during the landmark case “Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.” In those tests Black children were asked to point out “smart” or “dumb” dolls, “ugly” or pretty” dolls and, overwhelmingly they chose the White dolls as both pretty and smart. These tests have even been repeated in the 2000s to reveal this mindset is still residual in today’s Black children.