A masterful stroke transforms blank canvases into masterpieces. This is the life of painters, some of our culture’s most creative folks. Painters are masters of viewing the world through a different lens; trees and skies are awakened on their canvases. The world dances. Excellent painters are like Whitney Houston’s voice in the ’90s: stirring, poignant, soulful.
Art is also lucrative. Paintings appreciate in value as they age, unlike cars, houses and necklaces. One of the first things Swizz Beatz teaches his artists and colleagues, including his wife Alicia Keys, is the value of art. Even media moguls realize the power of paintings. “Diddy will call me for a little advice on a painting,” Beatz told The New York Times. “He has a lot of amazing Peter Beards that I’m trying to get away from him.”
But art isn’t exclusive to the wealthiest among us. There is an elite legion of accessible black women with a knack for watercolors and acrylics. We don’t have to visit major auction houses to purchase their work, either. No cheese and wine at Art Basel Miami Beach or the Armory. A lot of their paintings are available through one-to-one selling markets, including Etsy and eBay.
When Americans envision painters, we see Vincent van Gogh and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but the black women featured in this list are reimagining our existence through paint. They are worth highlighting.
New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas is an exquisite painter. Instead of just using oils and acrylics, Thomas incorporates rhinestones and enamel in her work. The Yale alumna reimagines women by expanding idealistic notions of beauty and popular culture to capture our complexities. Her work has been featured in solo and collaborative exhibitions from Vermont to France.
Afro-Caribbean women are often excluded from accurate representations in all aspects of media, including art. But Brianna McCarthy, a mixed-media artist, is shifting that paradigm. She uses her talent to examine the intricacies of Afro-Caribbean women by subverting stereotypes and manipulating constructions of gender and race. McCarthy splits her time between Trinidad and Tobago, but her work is featured in collections throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
Clorama embodies the “black is beautiful” mantra. She showcases the beauty of women of color as a response to the lack of representation we experience. “The reason I decided to sell mainly women of color in my art is because even though African art, traditional black American art (especially related to civil rights and justice) is represented in the world of art, not very much art is represented for the modern young women of color that showcases their unique beauty – with clothes on,” she writes in her bio. Clorama uses vibrant color schemes to liven up spaces. I have two of her paintings hanging in my bathroom.
Keturah Ariel possesses an elusiveness that makes her art more purposeful. Her bio is four sentences: “We are all here for a purpose. Our mission is to discover exactly what our purpose entails. Mine is to create art. I was born with a paint brush in hand,” but her portraits of her vibrant black kids with braids and kinks brings her mission to life. She captures the innocence of childhood before the world strips black kids of the right to exist without complication. It is splendid.
Kenyan-born artist extraordinaire Wangechi Mutu indulges in forbidden fruit with her mixed-media masterpieces. Exploring the boundaries of black women’s sexuality with everything from magazines to paint, Mutu weaves the realities and the illusions of intimacy well. For her, it is storytelling, a way to intertwine culture and distortion. The 41-year-old artist resides in New York City and has exhibited her work throughout the world.