Nona Faustine

by Johanna Fateman

Nona Faustine, Mitochondria

The New Yorker


Candid moments mingle with theatrical gestures in “Mitochondria,” this Brooklyn photographer’s exhibition at Higher Pictures Generation, in Dumbo. The show’s title refers to the DNA that traces the maternal line, and Faustine’s subjects are her family—three generations of Black women, herself included—seen in their shared home. These portraits are displayed alongside staged scenes featuring Faustine alone. “African American Princess,” from 2012, shows the artist seated on a throne, nude except for an African mask and a pair of white pumps. (The shoes also feature in a subsequent series, in which Faustine pictures herself defiantly haunting sites related to New York’s hidden history of slavery.) References to royalty—to status reclaimed—recur in these photographs. In “The Two Queens,” from 2011, the photographer’s daughter and her late mother pose together, resplendent in red silk. “Blue Queen,” from 2015, captures Faustine’s child reclining on a burgundy sofa in what looks to be a Disney Cinderella dress, an image of the tenderest irony.