WTFIT: Nicoletta Darita de la Brown

By Terri Stone

When we encountered Nicoletta Daríta de la Brown on Behance, we were intrigued by the range of her artistry: sculpture, film, live performance, and trash bags have all been vehicles for her vision. It prompted us to revive our WTFIT column, an exercise in which we give an individual or an agency 15 random objects and a word, and ask the recipient to transform the objects into something that represents that word. De la Brown’s word was hubris.

When the package reached de la Brown, she eagerly unwrapped it. “I am very familiar with using unconventional materials,” she says. Then she saw the word. Because the concept of hubris is counter to de la Brown’s approach to life, she was flummoxed. “I live in a space of being humble and grateful for so many things, so trying to express the opposite of that in a conceptual art piece didn’t feel organic to me.”

And so she took a step back. She researched how the concept was portrayed in Greek mythology and Greek. “There was a push and pull between Greek gods and humanity. It was a warrior space,” de la Brown notes.

More research led her to reinterpretations of the Greek myth and the word itself, interpretations that flipped the lesson of Icarus on its head. She considered how she felt about herself and how others have defined her. “As a woman and the first generation of my family in this country, I often feel like I’ve been placed in a spot,” de la Brown says. “I’m not supposed to move beyond my box, not supposed to move down and especially not up. Especially in the climate we’re in right now, we have to push against boxes, even our own boxes.” For her, the danger is not in flying too high, but in flying too low. “When I had that epiphany, I could start working. I would create a warrior: a goddess-like character with HUBRIS armor.”

While she knew she would fashion armor out of the objects, she didn’t know what form it would take. “I started to unravel the objects, literally in the case of the mop head. There were plastics and metals and things that don’t seem to go together, but I had to figure out how to join them in a new way and create a new narrative around them.”

The object that resembled a large perfume bottle became what de la Brown dubbed a Hubris Atomizer. “The power in it comes from the person using it; it fortifies this shield we create on a daily basis. It’s your essence, magnified. In a way, it’s a weapon—a weapon against self-doubt.”

After she finished the fabrication process but before the photo shoot of her wearing the armor, she paused to take stock. “I started to think about what I was saying to myself. I wish I knew it when I was a teenager, in those moments when I as as a young woman didn’t feel good about myself and didn’t know my value. So I started free-writing, and it became a love letter to my younger self.”

August 22, 2016