If you're looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, make time to show some love to the local arts scene, where Black artists have a long history of making significant contributions working in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Here's a list of nine Black creators who share their work on Instagram to help you learn more about their art and the issues they elevate through their work.
Mia B. Adams
Mia B. Adams creates installation art, sculpture, mixed-media pieces, and videos that address social justice issues. Her work exploring the intersection of art, politics, and contemporary culture is designed to create both conversations and action. Specific themes in Adams’ body of work include race, identity, social hierarchies, and discrimination. Adams’ artwork was recently featured in the 2020 Arizona Biennial in Tucson.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka is a Phoenix-based multimedia artist who holds a BFA in printmaking from ASU. Alaka uses material culture to consider cultural and racial perspectives. Her body of work includes lithography, jewelry, large-scale sculptures, and more. She’s influenced by her own Yoruba/American heritage. Her experience also includes serving as a curator and assistant gallery manager at Modified Arts in Roosevelt Row.
Phoenix native Antoinette Cauley specializes in portraits that reference rap music and hip-hop culture while exploring both social issues and her own “internal conflicts.” In 2020, a mural wrap of her portrait of writer and activist James Baldwin was installed on the Ten-O-One building in Roosevelt Row. Currently, she is doing an artist residency in Berlin, where she is focusing on Black femininity and womanhood
Artist Aaron Coleman, who serves as assistant professor with the School of Art at the University of Arizona in Tucson, was born in Washington, D.C. His work often explores stereotypes and policies that devalue people of color. Coleman’s paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works have been shown at numerous art spaces, including Modified Arts and Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.
Cydnei Mallory is a Phoenix-based interdisciplinary artist who earned her MFA from ASU. Mallory’s work reflects her own fascination with materiality; she’s used materials including wood, hairnets, hair, silicon, metal, rope, textiles, and more to address historical and contemporary stereotypes about gender, sexuality, and class.
Brianna Noble is an alumni for the Eye Lounge artist collective based in Roosevelt Row, and holds a BFA from ASU, where she specialized in painting. Noble describes herself as “an able-bodied Black Latinx surviving in a predominantly white community.” Her work explores Black bodies, reproductive choices, and the human gaze.
Artist Gedion Tafadzwa Nyanhongo hails from Zimbabwe, and credits his father with fueling his early artistic explorations. Nyanhongo creates stone artworks using the traditional style and techniques of Shona sculpture, seeking to imbue non-human subjects with human characteristics as he works with the materials he imports from Zimbabwe. His body of work includes sculptures of animals and humans, as well as abstract pieces.
Papay Solomon is a Phoenix-based artist and Liberian war refugee whose body of work addresses the intersection of Western culture with the African diaspora. When painting portraits, Solomon includes imagery reflecting the history and unique life experiences of his subjects. His work had been exhibited at numerous venues, including Phoenix Art Museum and the University of Arizona.
Artist Chip Thomas, who often creates work using the name Jetsonorama, is also an activist, physician, and photographer. He has lived and worked for more than three decades in the Navajo Nation, where he curates a mural project called the Painted Desert. His work, which often addresses social justice issues, has focused in recent months on minimizing COVID-19 impacts in Indigenous communities. Recently, he created work for the Heard Museum and Walter Productions, working with poet Esther Belin.
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