ON THE ART
Our modern, hegemonic society celebrates cerebral pursuits to a high degree, but there comes a time, even if it’s fleeting, in which we may consider what our academic and ambitious pursuits are truly for. Evaluating and reclaiming bimboism as a means for the marginalized to reinstate our power bestows on us the opportunity to explore other forms of pursuits and self-governance. In Tough Hair on Tough Heads, Okeke explores her identity in the form of a self portrait. Nature is a recurring motif in her work that she uses to remind viewers how, like nature, black queer-genderhood is beautiful, vivacious, and has been around since the beginning. Similarly to a thorned rose, the piece holds a level of concealed tenacity. The writing on the portrait,“tough hair on tough heads,” expresses exactly that.
ON THE PRACTICE
I am drawn to 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 a multimedia artist based in Chicago, their home city. Okeke has recently shown at the Museum of Science and Industry, Woman Made Gallery, Holy Art Gallery in London, and other local galleries. Additionally, their work will be included in an upcoming edition of the highly-acclaimed New American Paintings magazine. The throughline that connects all of her creative fields is her desire to utilize art as a tool to initiate an understanding of oneself, others, and nature
© Marcela Adeze Okeke