Lorraine O’Grady’s first public performance, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, remains a pivotal work of race, gender, and class critique. Dressed in an elaborate costume made of 180 pairs of white gloves and carrying a cat-o’-nine-tails whip made from sail rope studded with white chrysanthemums, O’Grady made uninvited appearances at openings at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and Just Above Midtown Gallery as the farcical and indicting persona Miss Black Middle-Class 1955, demanding attention for black women artists.
Lorraine O'Grady (American, born 1934) Untitled (Mlle Bourgeoise Noire), 1980-83/2009. Gelatin silver prints, 2 of 14 works total. Courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates, New York ⇨ Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Costume, 1980. Costume made from white gloves. The Eileen Harris Norton Collection, Santa Monica, California.