Off campus art exhibit: Jordan Casteel

While home on spring break, I decided to make a trip to the Denver Art Museum to see an exhibit of works by Jordan Casteel, an up-and-coming artist in the world of portraiture. I was especially excited to see her work because she’s an alum of Agnes Scott, class of 2011, making her a green class Scottie like me!

Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze highlights the humanizing effect of Casteel’s work. Many of the subjects are captured in their daily lives: they’re commuting, at work, and in their homes. They’re “average” people, but they’re given the same respect and attention as the traditional (read: rich and white) subjects of portraits.

An interview with Jordan Casteel by the Root that was playing at the exhibit.

My favorite part of Casteel’s work is her use of color, especially the way she uses it to convey light. Yahya (2014) is an excellent example of this. The warm glow that she’s created in the painting makes it feel like there’s a fireplace behind me as I’m looking at the subject, and creates an intimate atmosphere. I can see her emphasis on changing the dehumanizing narrative around black men in this painting — Yahya is beautiful but he is not objectified and he looks directly into the eyes of the viewer.

I also love Fatima (2018) because of one small detail: the way the metal at the bottom of her food truck really looks like metal. When I was at the exhibit I had to return to this painting several times to get a closer look at it. In person it seems even more real, like I could drag my finger across the canvas and it would feel smooth and metallic (don’t worry, I didn’t actually try to touch the art).

Overall, I love the vibrant, personal aura of her work. I can’t wait to see how her career progresses and watch her shape the world of portraiture and painting.

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