TikTok creator Clare Brown is flipping the art historical narrative. In her viral video “If Europeans were the cultural others: Art Edition,” she acts the part of a scholar explaining Paul Delaroche’s 1833 painting “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey.”
“It’s impossible for us to know who did this painting, but we can tell just by looking at it that it’s of a tribal sacrifice, which were common in Europe at the time,” Brown narrates. She uses words like “primitive” to describe the painting, alluding to the term’s pervasiveness in descriptions of non-European art.
On her popular TikTok channel, Brown makes satirical videos in which White people are treated as the “cultural other.” She calls them “European Americans” and puts them in situations where they are on the receiving end of microaggressions: Videos reference “flat hair,” talk about going to mission trips to Europe, and call European restaurants “exotic.”
After making dozens of these popular videos, Brown decided to explore the realm of art history.
“I actually watched another TikTok analyzing a painting and the language was so full of coded racism (it was unintentional on the creator’s part), and it made me realize how deeply white-centric art is. So I wanted to do a video flipping that,” Brown told Hyperallergic in an email.
In another similar satirical video, she addresses her followers: “I was surprised you all wanted to learn more about European art! Honestly, there isn’t much of it, and it’s a pretty niche topic, but I was able to find one painting.” A work by Currier & Ives depicting Patrick Henry delivering his famous speech at the Virginia convention of 1775 appears behind her.
“We know this painting depicts a gang of illegal immigrants and human traffickers,” Brown says.
Brown told Hyperallergic that in addition to helping her unpack and validate her own feelings, making these videos can help show other people how prevalent microaggressions are. “I find people don’t notice these common occurrences unless I flip the narrative,” Brown said.