Critchlow's portraits of Black women transform Western portraiture and conflate kitsch with tradition
Somaya Critchlow's canvases and sketchbooks log an ongoing process of world building. The artist fashions these realms by drawing upon her expansive knowledge of picture-making traditions ranging from the Renaissance to the Rococo. In charting the ever-expanding dimensions of this female-dominated universe, Critchlow casually disarms the distinctions that inform concepts of high and low culture by uncovering the ways in which class and racial difference are routinely conflated. The voluptuous, self-possessed women who explore Critchlow's fantasy landscapes and pensively occupy domestic interiors or otherwise blank pages owe as much to the aesthetics of Love and Hip Hop as they do to Peter Paul Rubens, and thus prompt the viewer to consider the disparate ways in which we esteem these forms of culture--and the women they feature.