How could I compare Jean-Honoré Fragonard's The Swing to Darkytown Rebellion by Kara Walker and Preying Mantra by Wangechi Mutu?

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At first glance there are not many factors to connect these three very different works of art, but you could say that all three artists use light and shadow in their creations to tell a story in their artwork.

Fragonard’s The Swing (1767) depicts a young woman in a swing, light shining upon her; she is the center of our focus, with her bright pink skirts standing out among the dark foliage that surrounds her. Secondary to our attention are the two men, her supposed husband and lover, concealed from one another in the shadow of the young lady.

Darkytown Rebellion by Kara Walker (2001) is an art piece radically different from the more traditional European painting and subject matter of The Swing. However, Walker also uses light to create a scene where the true subject matter is hidden from us at first glance. The silhouettes of Darkytown Rebellion seem benign until one notices some of the more macabre details, such as figures with severed limbs.

Lastly, Preying Mantra by Wangechi Mutu (2006) most actively plays with light. The womanly creature is spotted with sunlight, as through leaves, and is simultaneously a bright and dark figure in the piece. Her evocative pose at first seems welcoming, but at second glance, one notices the praying mantis stance of the woman—which calls to the mind the female praying mantis notoriously eating the male after mating.

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