For Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, pastel backdrops and numerous shades of orange, blue, and pink directly connect to the Black subjects depicted in his oil paintings. The artist, who was born in Ghana and now resides in Portland, uses a range of bold hues to engage with emotions. “Through time, I have formed a unique language through color, one that serves to communicate directly to my audience,” he tells Colossal.
With skin rendered in shades of gray, each subject helps to establish the contours of the textured piece. Through the style and color of their clothing, distinct poses, and facial expressions, Quaicoe reveals their personalities, of which he writes:
When I first see my subjects, whether in real life or in photos, I see in them their resilience, their power, their inner strength. These are the character traits that arrest me, that jump out at me and grab my attention… My subject’s attitude is very important to me. I try to put myself in their place. See what they see, experience what they experience, be who they are.
When painting men, Quaicoe inserts softer elements, like in his recent works “Fur in Black” and “Kwame Asare in Stripes.” “When I paint male figures, I typically incorporate floral elements into the painting as a means to subvert the overall masculine energy of the work,” he says. “These questions—what’s makes someone read as a man, or manly—and how this comes down to societal expectations is something I try to engage within my work.”
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