The Making Of

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  • Provenance

    The Artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1976, Grand Rapids, MI
    Lives and works in Baltimore, MD

    2003 MFA, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
    1998 BFA, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

    Selected honors: Houston Artadia Prize (2008), Joan Mitchell Award (2009), Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2011), and Guggenheim Fellowship (2018).
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; and Minneapolis Institute of Arts,.
    Selected public collections: Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Saatchi Gallery, London; and Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto.
    Selected honors: Houston Artadia Prize (2008), Joan Mitchell Award (2009), Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2011),

    Mequitta Ahuja embraces the genre of self-portraiture to explore issues of race, gender and identity. As Ahuja writes in her artist statement for her 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship: “My central intention is to turn the artist’s self-portrait, especially the woman-of-color’s self-portrait, long circumscribed by identity, into a discourse on picture-making, past and present.” Insistent on positioning “a woman of color as the central creative agent”, Ahuja has exclusively painted self-portraits since 2007.

    Described as “whip-smart and languorous” by The New Yorker in July 2017, Ahuja’s evocative self-portraits arise from a three-step process that involves performance, photography and drawing/painting. Developing a series of performances with different props, poses and costumes, Ahuja photographs herself with the aid of a remote shutter. This source material serves as a point of departure for her paintings that see her fuse “personal narrative with cultural and personal mythology”. Ahuja has described her practice as feminist, referring to her process as “Automythography”. As she explained, “I define Automythography as a constructive process of identity formation in which nature, culture and self-invention merge. Proposing art as a primary method of this process, my works demonstrate female self-invention and self-representation through the deployment of her own tools.”

    Since 2017, Ahuja has started to integrate paintings within her paintings a way to address painting both as an act and as an object. She strategically employs stylistic traditions and tropes from the past to update and alter pre-existing meanings of representation within her contemporary context. In addition to drawing on the Western art canon, Ahuja embraces narratives and imagery connected to her ethnic heritage of being African American and Indian American –weaving her complex cultural experience into the history of art and representation.

    The Making Of perfectly embodies how Ahuja has replaced the common self-portrait motif of the artist standing before the easel into a conceptual portrait of the work of painting: “I show my subject reading, writing, handling canvases in the studio…By positioning a woman-of-color as primary picture-maker in whose hands the figurative tradition is refashioned, I knit my contemporary concerns, personal and painterly, into the centuries old conversation of representation. This is where I live.”


The Making Of

signed "Mequitta Ahuja 2018" on the reverse
oil on canvas
84 1/8 x 72 in. (208.6 x 182.9 cm.)
Executed in 2018.

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New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019