Now that the Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University has finally reopened after its water-main-break-induced closure, visitors will be greeted by someone new.
She goes by “Sophie.”
Sophie-Ntombikayise is a larger-than-life sculpture by 29-year-old Johannesburg, South Africa, artist Mary Sibande. The sculpture, now on display in the museum’s central court, was initially scheduled to go on display last weekend in the museum’s center court, but the Aug. 1 water main break kept the museum closed until Tuesday.
The figure’s skin (formed in cast resin) is onyx-black, with down-turned face and slightly contorted, outstretched arms. She’s nearly 7 feet tall, and her vivid purple and blue dress has piles of billowing tulle that roll onto the floor in a circumference wider than her height.
Sophie culminates Sibande’s series of sculptural installations featuring four generations of women in her family, all of whom worked as domestic servants, according to the Spencer. It’s the first work in a U.S. museum collection. The “wonderfully overblown” gown is meant to be an artificial hybrid costume of a maid’s uniform and regal Victorian dress, the Spencer’s exhibit announcement explains. Through Sophie, the announcement says, the artist addresses the traditional role of black women in South Africa and other countries where there’s a history of black servitude.
The sculpture is scheduled to be on display until Jan. 13, 2013.