Recovering from a health crisis spurred Tamara Natalie Madden into pursuing a career as a visual artist. Ever since then Madden has kept her eye on the canvas as she culls images of royalty from Egypt and West Africa to transform the representation of everyday people into supreme nobility.
As a member of Creativity Explored, Alissa Bledsoe is one of numerous artists with developmental disabilities receiving support in their quest for artistic expression and recognition. As a colorist, Bledsoe’s work is defined by bright hues using fabric, needlepoint, assemblage, collage and paint.
Harlem-based artist Derek Fordjour explores themes of vulnerability, identity and power inherent within game-like scenarios. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University.
Witch Doctor Revisited
Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and xerox transfers on paper
Njideka Akunyili combines acrylic, pastel, charcoal and pencil to create collage paintings that are quickly becoming highly valued by collectors. More significantly for her though is the work’s attempt to negotiate between African and Western culture.
Stacy Nathaniel Jackson is an African-American and Filipino transgender man working with paint and mixed media art. As a community activist, his work includes a board seat at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center Project and mayoral appointment to San Francisco’s Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force.
Frank D. Robinson may have a BFA from the University of Memphis and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but it was while working at a charter school that he truly found his artistic calling. After noticing garbage in the school’s parking lot each morning he became a self-described “recyclist,” or green artist. Now he collects trash throughout his hometown and turns it into art with a social message.
Adolescence is the playground where Alexandria Smith’s drawings and paintings zero in on childhood moments of epiphany that blur the lines between sex, taboo and identity. She has been awarded a BRIC Media Arts Fellowship and the Hedy and Michael Fawcett Prize for Visual Arts.
For Tobacco Brown, home is where the art is. After an extensive career in commercial design, visual merchandising product design and set design that took her around the world from New York to Malaysia, she returned to her hometown of Memphis in 2005. Since then she’s created photography, murals, installations and commissioned work for Douglass High School, the Women’s Foundation and public gardens for the downtown area. She also works extensively with found objects as seen in the accompanying image. Currently, Brown serves on Arts Memphis’ Artist Advisory Council, where she is working on efforts to support the growth of the city’s visual arts community.
Anina Banks works solely with clay to express her passion for and fascination with aquatic ecosystems. The works are usually reminiscent of conchs and seashells.
Blaxidermy Nail Ball / Miss Africa, Hot Blooded
Miss Africa acrylic false fingernails, LA Colors nail polish
Pamela Council creates sculptures using numerous fake acrylic nails and other everyday materials that address the social, political and cultural associations of these objects. Her approach is meant to provoke dialogue and increase awareness about our habits of consumption.
Inspired by the likes of Herakut, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, this 18-year-old employs bright and vivid colors to create emotionally expressive portraits. Currently Aanisah Hinds is developing her craft at Pratt Institute. She also has a famous singer in her corner, her mother, Macy Gray.
Much of Allison Janae Hamilton’s work explores the concept of Afrofuturism, which refers to the creative and scholarly investigation of the connections between science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and pan-Africanism. Through her photography, costumes, videos and performances, black identity is seen through the lens of outer space tropes that connect to themes of alienation and non-normativity. Hamilton is currently a 2013-2014 Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program, sponsored by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
As a mixed media artist, Amber Robles-Gordon’s primary medium is collage and assemblage, which she describes as “…a visual representation of my hybridism: a fusion of my gender, ethnicity, cultural, and social experiences.” Her vibrant sense of color, whimsical use of fabrics and the palpable spiritual force behind her work has led to commissions by the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum and Al Jazeera for workshops and commentary. Robles-Gordon is also a respected social advocate for the Washington D.C. area arts community.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Morristown, NJ, Andre Woolery creates art with pushpins. The intricate portraits of subjects such as Jay-Z, Grace Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Benjamin Banneker aim to advance the representation of black iconic figures in pop art.
After being featured in Women’s Wear Daily, Beau McCall took a hiatus from being a fashion designer and has since reinvented himself as a visual artist. The result has produced art images combining various materials such as mother of pearl, wool and decorative buttons. With deliberate focus, his buttons are arranged to stimulate one’s curiosity and imagination, while simultaneously drawing attention to the unique history of buttons. (Photo Credit Greg Frederick)
The Federal Reserve Bank of New Yawk 2
Whether her work is pierced by hooks, hanging from the ceiling or preparing to be launched by a large-scale apparatus, Caitlin Cherry‘s painting installations engage in a discourse about the relationship between destruction, beauty and politics. Last year she made her first museum solo debut as part of the Brooklyn Museum’s Raw/Cooked series presenting under-the-radar Brooklyn artists. (Photo Credit Pierce Jackson)
Philadelphia-based artist, Celestine Wilson Hughes’ stained glass works are in private collections and frequently on display at various galleries and museums. This self-taught artist’s work ranges from the abstract and whimsical to the politics of identity.
Corey Pickett combines African and American Southwest influences to create what he calls, “cardboard paintings.” In none of his works does he use paint, as they are entirely composed of found cardboard. (Photo by Gerry Simpson)
Daniel Green is one of the youngest and most accomplished members of Creativity Explored having exhibited at the University Of California Berkeley Art Museum and the City College of San Francisco. Much of his work reveals a fascination with American pop culture, typically expressed on wood and surrounded by seemingly unrelated text.
What many consider waste is transformed by Dianne Smith into art that repurposes junk mail, bottles, cans, rags and newspapers. The intuitive process of giving these items a new identity guides Smith’s investigation of race, gender, religion and economic and environmental issues. Her private collectors include: poet Dr. Maya Angelou, Vivica A. Fox, Cicely Tyson, Terry McMillan and more. (Photo Credit Glenn Marzano 2012)
Gregory Saint Amand was born in New York, but raised in Haiti during his formative years. His various cultural influences and imagination produce deeply layered works full of symbols and iconography that reveal the human condition.
A collective of young artists was formed in the memory of Glenn “Spoof” Wright, who was killed in a tragic case of mistaken identity. To honor his commitment to community and the arts, The House of Spoof Collective has transformed an abandoned space in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx into an open source for artists and art lovers named Brick Gallery. They are a diverse group that works with various artistic media such as photography, painting, music, drawing, graphic design, silkscreen printing and other forms of printmaking.
Satterwhite employs dance, performance, drawing, video, 3D animation and photos to explore the development of new narratives. His recent body of work The Matriarch’s Rhapsody utilizes his mother’s drawings during her experience with schizophrenia to explore memory, ritual and contemporary surrealism.
JaSon E. Auguste
Acrylic on high-resolution digital print on vinyl, 52 x 52 in.
JaSon E. Auguste marries technology and art through the use of quick response codes (QR). The QR codes engage viewers as they scan each one, thereby opening a virtual portal through which his thematic work is enhanced by archival and newly created video and audio footage.
Remember Coogis? Well chances are you’ve never quite seen them like this, as Jayson Musson recycles these sweaters into sublime abstract art. Musson has also gained popularity due to his YouTube character Hennessy Youngman (seen here), through whom he delivers wit and keen critiques about the art world and contemporary culture.
Transforming found objects is a process of cultural and spiritual renewal for Newark-based artist, Jerry Gant. In addition he is also a fashion designer and performance poet.
Philadelphia-based artist, Jonathan L. Chase’s paintings and drawings have an aesthetically crude playfulness that taps into the black LGBT experience by exploring themes of dual identity, sexuality and body image. This 24-year-old recently received his BFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of the Arts and the 2013 Steve Jaffee Award in Drawing.
There is virtually no found object that Kimberly Mayhorn cannot utilize to create her large-scale installations, assemblages, sculptures and mixed media art. Themes of history, race and the effects of time drive this self-taught artist. She has shown in institutions such as The Bronx Museum of the Arts and The African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Lauren Kelley’s provocative work is focused on 1970s gender politics, notions of female power, challenging historical narratives and observations of daily life. Her animation series was created independently from the script to the final cut. (Photo Credit Jerry Taliaferro)
In 2007, Lenore Browne began her artistic career after having previously worked outside of the arts. Since then, she has created a photo series about Harlem that captures remnants of the neighborhood’s past, reflects its present state and records its on-going transition, which some deem a “second renaissance.”
Lester Merriweather’s work utilizes a variety of media including collage and black photographic tape to address the dynamics between history, racial identity and pop culture. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Hyde Gallery at the Memphis College of Art. As curatorial director at the Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art at the University of Memphis, Merriweather is an integral part of the city’s cultural wealth.
Margaret Rose Vendryes has generated ample buzz with The African Diva Project, a series of portraits inspired by album covers of popular black female performers such as Grace Jones, Donna Summer and Tina Turner. The figures wear African masks that typically are worn by men as a means to challenge power, agency and norms surrounding gender identity. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
An ethereal beauty is present in some of this Brooklyn-based artist’s installations and sculptural pieces. Musa Hixson defines his role as an artist as attempting to “…help the soul of the material reveal itself.” His public art has been widely exhibited in New York City and Japan and he’s also appeared on VH1 with his performance art. (Photo Credit Lisette Morel)
Installation Shot from the exhibition You Don’t Know Where Her Mouth Has Been
Image courtesy of The Kitchen
Black female subjectivity is the primary focus of Simone Leigh’s sculptures, videos and installations. The artist-in-residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Bronx Museum of the Arts Artist in the Marketplace program and the New York Foundation for the Arts have all recognized Leigh’s work. (Photo Credit Paul Sepuya)
The vivid and eclectic world of dreams and the dichotomies of life serve as inspiration for Shaunté Gates‘ mixed media work. One of his major commissions includes a piece for the Howard University School of Law marking its 140th anniversary.
Born in Anchorage, Alaska and now living in Atlanta, Georgia, Nikita Gale focuses on the intersection of history and capitalism. Through the use of text, found and original images, video and photography she generates new narratives about a range of topics including consumerism, day jobs and romance. (Photo credit Guillermo Gomez)
Wilmer Wilson often uses his nude body for performance pieces that involve ritual and everyday materials. In the performance piece, Henry “Brown” Box: FOREVER he covers his body in U.S. postage stamps and walks to various post offices requesting to be mailed. The piece is an homage to Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself, in a box, to Philadelphia.
The image of the black woman is a central element to S. Ross Browne’s portraiture, which he uses as a gateway to explore questions of identity, history and African/European cross-cultural influences. His work was recently acquired by the internationally recognized Virginia Museum of Fine Art. (Photo Credit Ife Robinson)
After inheriting a state-of-the-art camera in 2012, Sage Gallon began to create a body of work that captures the raw and gritty side of life from peep shows to documenting a day in the life of a man caught up in crack addiction. In the latter series viewers are confronted with the humanity of those who are often discarded, forgotten and marginalized.
Shani Peters’ sense of social responsibility guides the conceptualization and production of her video, collage, printmaking and public projects. Her work ranges from juxtaposing characters from The Cosby Show and Good Times with members of the Black Panther Party, to The People’s Laundromat Theater, through which she engaged Harlem residents in independent media and workshops at a local Laundromat.
40 emerging black artists you should know. (Various sources)
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No, not every deserving artist gets their first taste of attention through one of the art world’s largest platforms such as the legendary Art Basel show, or the Frieze Art Fair. In particular, African-American artists and other artists of color are still working towards greater visibility in the highest spheres of the rarified art community. Thus, there can never be too many lists bringing attention to the abundance of talented creators on the cusp of discovery who are ready to emerge.
Here are the fresh faces and more established visionaries still gaining ground that you need to know in 2014. The African diasporan artists compiled in the photo gallery above carry forth the traditions set in motion by visual artists from significant eras such as the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement, yet speak with new images and forms that lead us into the future.
With their various approaches to creativity, visual communication, and craft, these artists each examine critical issues of the past, present and future that reflect our shared experiences across the intersecting lines of race, class, gender, sexuality and politics. Through their works, the experiences of those of the African diaspora — and beyond — are critiqued, celebrated and preserved.
Visibility is essential to supporting the continued success of these artists, and ensuring that black artists — who are increasingly gaining recognition — continue to render our images in refined and thoughtful forms from the art world’s center stage. Regardless of whether these artists ever appear at Art Basel, or already have, please keep your eyes to the wall (and in some cases the floor, ceiling, and sidewalks), because you will want to follow these folks, who are the latest provocateurs, innovators and dreamers.
These selections are not ranked in any order to acknowledge equally the importance of each artist’s style — with the awareness that there are likely more great visual “voices” out there who deserve recognition. Let us know who else should be included in the comments section below.
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(Editor’s note: Living editor of theGrio.com, Alexis Garrett Stodghill, owns a painting by one of the artists featured, Tamara Natalie Madden. This list was independently curated by the article author.)