Satterwhite likes to refer to himself as Charlie Brown, and in some sense the cartoon character’s devotional and charming sweetness mirrors Satterwhite’s own. His humor, however, is uncannily honest, and usually directed at his own attempts to navigate the absurdities that come with a career in the art world: pushy gallerists, dubious opportunities, late payments, and dogged writers. For Satterwhite, everything is quite hilarious — a sensibility that makes him both open and accessible.
Satterwhite never compare himself to Miley Cyrus, and he doesn’t seem to put much stock in her career, but when the show ends and a few friends begin to grumble about the quality of the performance, he is quick to defend her: “She’s just young and nervous and high. It was cute!” I tell him I think Cyrus’s use of a black woman as a performance prop is dubious and unsettling. He waves it off: “She’s just young.”
Jacket and pants by Craig Green; Boots vintage Jil Sander; Hat vintage Kris Van Assche
'Reifying Desire 2'
Satterwhite taught himself Maya, an extremely difficult 3-D rendering software that allowed him to digitally animate the prismatic spaces he used to paint. “It’s about spatial terrain, the freedom to sculpt and craft spaces dynamic enough to combine my mother’s work, my live performances, and as much else as possible,” he explains. “I can make any moving image I want.”
At Studio Museum of Harlem
Reifying Desire: Model It (performance still) | Photo by Scott Rudd
Satterwhite performs publicly — and in his videos — in darkly psychedelic bodysuits, usually with small screens sticking out of plastic appendages from his crotch and head that play versions of his films. For anyone walking by his studio and seeing him standing alert in the window in one of these outfits, he must have seemed crazy, but irresistibly so.
'En Plen Air Vassalage'
En Plein Air: Diamond Princess, which continues the artist’s inquiry into the nature of the body, will premiere in late April at the Pérez Art Museum
'Orifice' at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Photo: Max Fields
When asked if he thinks the art world has a race problem, Satterwhite responds: “Yes. It’s the problem I’ve never not known. It’s hard to even think about it.”