I’m going to give you the story behind this painting. The painting is titled “Portrait of the Artist at Home.”
In certain circles, the category of a Black female artist hasn’t had a foothold in the minds of folks in the way that I think it deserves. So, I painted what I wanted to see: a proud, beautiful female artist. I’m certainly not the first person to consider the art establishment or sexism and racism but after getting so many questions about this painting, I felt compelled to say something. Although I am happy to see perceptions and stereotypes being challenged daily in regards to this issue, sometimes, however, stereotypes persist, regardless of the incredible artwork being produced by world-class artists such as Wengechi Mutu, Kara Walker, Lorna Simpson, Shanequa Gay, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Mickalene Thomas, Faith Ringgold and Bisa Butler, to name just a few of the artists whose work I admire so much.
I showed this painting to several friends, some of whom had surprising comments; they wanted her to look happier. What I had intended was for her to present as strong, confident and decisive. As she leans against the wall, she casually conveys she is there to stay with her protective stance of crossed arms. I can’t help but wonder if I had painted a man instead of a woman, might people see it differently? Additionally, I know from experience that girls/women are often compelled to smile and pose, more so than men, in order to appear more attractive. I like that she is not smiling in this painting; I painted her with a serious expression. Sometimes life is serious.
What do you see in her eyes? I see a woman who knows who she is: she takes no BS and is at ease in her beautiful home. And, this is what I love about painting: everyone sees something unique and relates to the painting from where they are in the moment. When you live with a painting in your home or office each day, you get the opportunity to view it with full awareness. That’s why art can be so compelling, so mysteriously gratifying. I am always happy to hear my collectors write back about the painting they bought, what it’s like to live with it, how they get interesting feedback from friends who see it, and what it means to them. Often they tell me something that is so obvious about my own work, something I never noticed, and I value that insight. As my fellow artists know, making art invites your subconscious to express itself. It also invites critique which I welcome; we all benefit from challenging our viewpoints and having a discussion.
In this painting, I am also challenging the canon of portraiture as generally represented in American museums. You can read more about my opinion on this subject here.
I would be interested in your impressions of what you see when you look at this painting. Please check out the list of artists named here to see their incredible work.