Jordan Casteel wants to change the staleness of the high art world and how it views black men. The Denver artist has been painting portraits of people in her community before she was an art student at Yale and it evolved as she made a home in Harlem, N.Y.

“As I moved to Harlem,” Casteel said, “it was very natural and easy for me to begin to see those that I encountered on a day-to-day basis as the new subjects or I wanted to give a voice to or visibility to. The pulse, the history, that legacy was just vibrating through me and I fell in love.”

Image: Barbershop (Jordan Casteel)

She become more focused on creating large-scale portraits of black men, while keeping a keen awareness on how they would “take up space” and be perceived on display in galleries that rarely gave them a voice.

“I was thinking very explicitly about memorializing and the honoring of a person in the context of a painting,” Casteel told The Root. “I wanted to bring the people who occupied the streets outside the museum into a space that they often times had not visited.”

Image: “James” (Jordan Casteel)

In February 2019, Jordan’s work will be on display in her hometown at the Denver Art Museum. The exhibit is entitled “Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze,” and will feature close to 30 paintings.


Learn more about Jordan, her journey and process in the full video above.

The Root’s original video series, Color Creatives, is a biweekly digital show that will spotlight people of color who are pushing the bar in film, fashion and fine arts. For more episodes, you can subscribe on the Facebook Watch page as well as on YouTube.  

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

About the author