Alyssa Pickens was born in Newport News, VA and resides in the Bay Area of San Francisco, CA. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Christopher Newport University in 2014. Pickens has exhibited nationally and internationally. She has had shows and private collectors in California, New York, and Italy. Her primary medium is oil painting but she has also worked with acrylics, clay sculpture, and mixed media. Kehinde Wiley became a great influence to Pickens’ artwork. She drew inspiration from his Grand Manner style that is shown in his subject’s graceful posing.
The journey to portrait painting began in 2014 when a young black man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer. Mainstream media had painted this man as aggressive and animalistic, which would become a reoccurring pattern for black people who died at the hands of police officers and vigilantes. As a way to counteract the media, Pickens began painting portraits of people of color adorned with floral crowns and a gentle expression. Despite living in a society where black features are considered undesirable and hyper-masculine, these portraits became a way to expose the beauty and delicacy within. Pickens often paints subjects adorned with crowns made from flowers or other natural elements to further mirror the natural beauty in flowers to that of the subject. The highly saturated tones draw the viewer in and uplift the subject in a positive manner. In her paintings, these “feminine” qualities (softness, gentle, delicate) should be seen as a source of strength in black culture.
Photo by Reychelle Villar