Majesty by Janelle Lawrence, SLU '18


painting of a woman wearing kente cloth and blowing a bubble

Artist's statement

My artwork explores the idea of an ideal Black beauty and is driven partly by self-interest, so my subjects are primarily women. I find subject matter for my paintings by sifting through images on Instagram and through Google searches such as “high fashion Black woman in turban.” I started this series after observing the lesser presence of Black models in the fashion industry. Meanwhile, on Instagram just about everyone is a model, yet both Instagram and the fashion industry are not very good at depicting reality. My work addresses the fantastic beauty that is often exhibited in high fashion and on Instagram by manipulating it in a way that I see fit.

The way in which I paint and change the look of subjects in my paintings suggests strength and power. I often think about how strength is seen as a threatening attribute, but that is not always the case. In doing so, I have altered the mainstream ideal of beauty to suit my ideal. My work combines the beauty ideals of both high fashion and Instagram trends. To me, combining these aesthetics creates a conversation about how we define beauty, who defines it, and where Black women fit into this conversation. - JL

Janelle Lawrence
Majesty, 2018
Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in.
SLU 2018.7