Cheyenne Julien

born 1994

Cheyenne Julien grew up in the Bronx in New York, which significantly influenced her creative practice. To describe it, the artist uses the term ‘environmental racism’. Cramped flats in multi-storey, brutalist blocks of communal housing estates create experiences different to those available to the white community living in villas in the suburbs. ‘From a young age, I realized that [these] parks were meant for white children. I quickly learned to find the beauty I longed for in the place where I lived — in the flowers that sprouted through the cracks of the sidewalk’, she will say in an interview. The protagonists of her paintings are most often African-American women captured in portraits or genre scenes in their domestic surroundings. Their faces are painted in a characteristic style that references the aesthetics of comic books. Large exaggerated eyes and prominent lips are marked with strong emotions: surprise, resentment, anxiety, anger, or extreme melancholy. They combine pathos and kitsch, but also evoke associations with the racist way of representing black people. One critic has described Julien's characteristic style as ‘comic formalism’.

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