Artist Feature: Nina Chanel Abney
Nina Chanel Abney’s bold, colorful, and graphic paintings are a sort of contemporary fusion between Cubism and Pop Art. Her flat expanses of super-pigmented color, eye-popping patterns, and super-stylized figures combine to create a highly unique style, where Abney explores issues of race, gender, and homophobia. Abney’s work is often spontaneous and action-driven, as she does not plan her paintings or sketch them before she starts. The spontaneity allows Abney to experiment and infuse her paintings with raw emotions and ideas she is working through in real-time.
Abney often works with acrylic and spray paint, to get the saturated colors and flat, vivid quality that’s characteristic of her paintings. Her more recent paintings focus on the concept of a queer Black utopia, away from conventions of heteronormative relationships. She imagines moving to the country and buying a piece of land where she and her friends and family can begin a new life.
Nina Chanel Abney was raised in Chicago by her mom, her aunt, and her grandparents. Abney’s mother was an artist and allowed her to play with her paints as a child. She first met her biological father when he was on duty as a cop and pulled over her mother for a traffic stop while traveling through Indiana.
Abney spent most of her young childhood in schools where she and her sister were the only black children. When she began to move around more often, Abney used little pictures she had drawn of celebrities and cultural icons to make friends with other black students and get to know them.
Nina Chanel Abney | Art by Kat Sampson
Nina Chanel Abney
“My agenda is to present your Instagram timeline back to you so you can take time and digest it.”
Abney got her BFA at Augustana College in Illinois and then worked for Ford Motors after graduation. After seeing a co-worker’s leg getting crushed on the job, she quit and went to get her MFA. She moved to Jersey City to attend Parsons School of Art and Design and began exhibiting.
Although Abney’s work is manual, she has said that it has a lot to do with the digital reality of living in the present day. The fast-paced barrage of images that people are faced with on social media leaves little room for thought and critical examination. Abney’s paintings call for that moment of reflection and allow viewers to slow down.
In collaboration with Kat Sampson, we present The Not Just Dead White Guys coloring book with 24 vibrant portraits, showcasing diverse artists, both deceased and living. Half are contemporary artists, including Nina Chanel Abney who are shaping the art scene today, while the others are important historical figures. Join us to celebrate their diverse contributions and create a more inclusive art world!
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