Spring 2021: Aliyah Bonnette
Name: Aliyah Bonnette
School: East Carolina University
Major/Concentration: Painting and Textiles Concentrations
Anticipated Graduation Date: Fall 2021
Location: Greenville, North Carolina
My art is my activism. As a black woman working and creating in predominantly white institutions, I inescapably contribute to more diversity into said institutions. Using art as a platform to speak on black culture, history, and the way society treats African Americans as a whole is a way for me to process my generational trauma and to educate others. I paint people who look like me, Brown and Black people, because we have been erased and silenced in the art world.
Being a Black woman in America is a complex experience that I am beginning to explore within my work. The intersectionality of my personal experiences, (being black, femininity and sexuality) are inextricable from my work and is always a part of the conversation. The stereotypes and history of Black women in America is of particular interest. The figures within my work are women living in comfortable environments that allows them to be themselves and reveal their authentic self. One of being feminine and in touch which their sexuality in a real way. It is not the perfect form constructed by men that has been exoticized or rendered primitive or animalistic, but the reality of the black woman that we see every day when looking in the mirror. Often in my work, the Black women are partially or fully nude, however my portrayal of them is in direct opposition to the generalized view of the oversexualized Black body. It is a Black woman taking ownership of her body and refusing to let it be controlled by the white gaze. A lot of times these women are mirrors of myself and reflect my life and experiences. As I become more comfortable with myself, my pieces are becoming more personal and thus more relatable.
What does being a Black girl who paints mean to you?
To me, being a Black girl who paints means a woman who paints unapologetically as a black woman. She fights for representation in the art world through her art and continues to be an example to little black girls around the world that we are capable of making art too. I think that black girls who paint are strong, hardworking, and extremely creative.