Black Excellence deserves a spotlight throughout the year, not just in February! However, Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to shine a light on some of the most marginalized people among us: Black women. Folks get caught up in their stereotypical notions: thinking Black women are only feisty, emotional, and angry; one-dimensional. Many people fail to see the depth, the nuance, and the true beauty that belongs to Black women all over the world.
All people are more than just what you see on the surface, and that couldn’t be truer for Black women – multi-dimensional, all around us – who are often lumped into a one-size-fits-all mold. Among the larger landscape of excellent Black women living among us, a subset of those often forgotten are Black women in the arts. This Black History Month, let’s explore together some of the amazing accomplishments and creations of three Black women who are living in our time!
Monica J. Beasley
First up, Monica J. Beasley! Beasley’s artwork is absolutely breathtaking. A quick scan through her website shows you glorious works of collage art; pairing floral elements with lace and beads and vibrant, feminine colors! Each piece transcends what you see on the surface, and invites a meditation to deeper thought as you look at her multi-layered works. Beasley is an M.F.A. graduate of Northwestern University and has worked for the last twenty years to explore the many layers of femininity in her art.
Additionally, her work reflects on the memories she’s collected throughout her life, elements of her Southern Roots, and other touchstones of her past. Her collages feature such vivacious colors; there’s an almost tangible warmth one can feel when looking at one of her beautiful pieces. From 2018-19, Beasley’s work was featured at the Mobile Museum of Art in a collection titled Feminism and Magic Thinking. Her website also features a collection called Cut Flowers – do yourself a favor: check it out! Each piece holds wondrous skill, beauty, and technique that redefines the relevance of collage art in the 2020s.
Art takes many forms, and not all of them are visual in the same way that a collage or painting might be. Upile Chisala, a self-described storyteller from Malawi, is a gifted and powerful writer. Chisala is known internationally for her works in poetry, boasting three poetry books, soft magic (2019), nectar (2019), and a fire like you (2020). She was also named among Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 list. Her published works explore many themes, including Blackness, gender, spirituality, growth, loss, love, renewal, and desire.
The depth, power, and humanity displayed in her writing is simply incomparable. The way Chisala writes through each of these themes (and more!) leaves readers feeling less alone while navigating such complexity – a powerful gift to give, and an equally meaningful gift to receive. You’ll definitely want to pick up her work on your next trip to the bookstore. You can also order directly from Chisala’s website.
Jardan Paige Doneghy
Moving back over to visual arts, it’s time to tell you about a wildly unmatched creator: Jardan Paige Doneghy. Hailing from Kentucky, currently calling Atlanta home, Doneghy is an artist, designer, and brand strategist. She’s the creator behind Wild Sassaby – a creative initiative she dove into during the COVID-19 quarantine. Quarantine gave lots of us time to rediscover things we loved, or even learn new passions, and it was this time that seems to have been quite meaningful for the direction Doneghy took with her art.
Her paintings are stunningly evocative. With the use of geometry, excellent color theory and contrast, her energetic designs, and often neon color palettes, beckon spectators to stay a little longer. Her debut art collection, Quarantine Dreams, features 15 incandescent designs – all imagined and cultivated during the 2020 quarantine. Spending quarantine in her childhood home, each piece “represents a moment on the journey from the past to the infinite future.” You can order prints of Jardan Paige Doneghy’s creations here.
Black Women Creators
It hardly seems like enough, only highlighting three Black women creators – and that’s because it isn’t enough! This Black History Month, and in all the months that follow, take some time to explore Black creatives in your own areas. Art is nothing without Black influence. So much of what we enjoy each day, lyrically, visually, spiritually, meditatively, comes from the creative minds and stories of the Black women living all around us. It’s time to put some respect on that reality and invest in Black art, Black artists, and the stories they choose to share with us through their creative pursuits.
1 All biographical information about Monica J. Beasley was gathered from monicajbeasleyart.com | 2 All biographical information on Upile Chisala was sourced from upilechisala.org | 3 All biographical information on Jardan Paige Deneghy was gleaned from wildsassaby.com