In a world where Black bodies are associated with brutality, I present a counter that comes from highlighting Black individuality. Who am I? What creates inner identity? What makes one feel worth something? These are the questions I ask as I create. I explore the layers of myself by creating figures that in turn use each other and the viewer to identify and accept themselves. I mix the abstract and realistic even in a single figure because I strive to push the boundary of what we view as completed work. I conceal parts of my figures behind thick layers of color in abstract landscapes to reflect the known and the unknown parts of the self and the constant development of self-discovery.
I am interested in the intimacy of understanding oneself, others, and nature, which is why I paint my subjects nude to emphasize authenticity and vulnerability. I often paint several figures together that are in some way connected, either intertwined or physical reflections of the other. I do the same when I explore the understanding between people and the environment, creating subjects that appear to be at the intersection of human beings and flowers, or trees. As my work is a reclamation of the Black body and, more specifically, the Black queer body, my work is fundamentally about acceptance. I strive to dissolve the association of Black bodies and brutality in my work through creating paintings that center on Black femme, queer and differently-abled figures connected with nature, abstraction, and vibrancy. I create Black bodies in this way because this is how I know us: not defined by harm and death, but by light, color, beauty, and passion.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Marcela Adeze Okeke is an emerging artist based in Chicago, their home city. Okeke’s work is currently being shown in the Black Creativity exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry and in Visionary Art Collective’s permanent online collection. Their work has been exhibited in Hairpins Art Center in Logan Square and the Pilsen Art House.
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