Jordan Casteel paints her community


By art21. Where does a painter find her subject matter? With a process that takes her from the streets of Harlem to her studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, artist Jordan Casteel paints vibrant large scale portraits, making visible the often unrepresented humanity of Black men. At first struggling to find subject matter that could speak to the political realities of police violence and implicit bias, Casteel drew inspiration from her twin brother. “People follow me like I’m a threat,” the artist remembers her brother saying, “but they don’t know anything about me.” Together Casteel’s paintings illustrate the multiplicity of Black male experience; she began with nudes in domestic interiors before expanding to men on the sidewalk, the color and compositions celebrating the visual texture of her Harlem neighborhood. Casteel’s work is probing in its tender depiction of Black men who, although often strangers to the artist, gaze directly and intimately out at the viewer.

Cite this page as: Art21, "Jordan Casteel paints her community," in Smarthistory, January 14, 2021, accessed June 15, 2024,