Embracing Cultures through Collages
In this age of easier and more accessible travel, dual nationality is becoming more and more commonplace and experiencing two different cultures while honing her skills has had an affect on this artists work. Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a visual artist born in Nigeria and now living and working in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 16, she moved to the USA where she studied biology and studio art at Swarthmore College and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Yale.
After she got her MFA, she was selected as artist-in-residence at the highly Studio Museum in Harlem where she spent the year dabbling in drawing, figure painting, studying contemporary art, postcolonial history, and diasporic studies. Akunyili Crosby’s work has been exhibited in many places around the world such as Victoria Miro, Venice, Italy, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and The Baltimore Museum of Art, USA to name a few.
Her style can be described as photo-collage paintings. Her use of photos and magazine clippings coupled with her skilled painting creates eye-catching and unique work that compels us to take a closer look at the image. Her paintings often feature herself, her family, and friends as the subjects relaxing or embracing in their homes and other private spaces, explore cultural hybridity through a mixture of references. Her works include a lot of pop culture imagery that is instantly recognisable to African people and a bit of western style. The collage aspect of her paintings mostly come from magazine ads, fashion and lifestyle pictures, and photos she buys from her family photographer.
She combines her strong connection to the country of her birth - Nigeria and her attachment to her adopted home in America in her work. Her work can’t be categorised as either American nor Nigerian, but rather an autobiography based on her and her experiences. Akunyili Crosby typically spends around three months on her works, assembling it painstakingly image by image. Her work is appealing to both Westerners and Africans alike, especially to those in the diaspora. Akunyili Crosby manages to combine influences from her heritage and chosen home so seamlessly. Her portrayal of everyday Nigerians in everyday scenarios is very different from the stereotypical portrayals of struggle in Nigeria we are constantly shown by the media.