In her work, Okeke depicts care, defense, and solidarity as restorative feminist practices. To emphasize a sense of unity between the three femme figures, Okeke created them overlapping and conjoined, so not one is fully in front or behind another. Additionally, their sturdy shape withstands the striking complementary colors bleeding into them, which showcases how together we can withstand antagonism. Okeke chose to abstract the faces of her figures to showcase the universality of sisterhood; we do not need to know another’s name or who they are in order to uplift them.
Union is also a physical metaphor of solidarity. The subjects of the piece have a powerful presence though they are partially masked in thick layers of color. They share one heart and are partially morphed into each other. Again, Okeke depicts the power that we can attain when we show up for each other. The figures express a specific majesty that is only palpable because they are rooted in each other.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
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 by 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.
© Marcela Adeze Okeke