Sheena Rose’s playful paintings of black athletes defy expectations


The paintings do all of this with acrylics you might find in an elementary school – the only painting Barbados-based Rose could find during the global COVID-19 pandemic. In previous pieces, she has used finely detailed line drawings mixed with washes of watercolor paint to explore race, gender, sexuality, and heritage. Introspective and loaded with meaning, the figures in his drawings are often anchored in the landscapes of Barbados. In Quidditative (2020) from Rose’s “Compendious” series (2019-present), for example, the mind of the central figure branches off in all directions, reaching the cosmos. Although her new work is not as complex in its composition, Rose disarms viewers with accessible yet inspiring pieces.

Match point (2021) demonstrates this new direction. Three women take a position of strength in front of a tennis court. Their afros are larger than life, reaching well above streetlights and trees behind them. They are not dressed for tennis; instead, their tennis racquets and balls appear almost like props in a photoshoot, and the athletes appear ready for a disco-themed party. These women can be anything they want to be, anywhere and in whatever clothes they choose.


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