Nina Chanel Abney

, b. 1982

Nina Chanel Abney is one of the most important artists of the 21st century. Born in 1982 in Harvey, Illinois, Abney lives and works in New York. Abney’s mother played a formative role in her artistic development, encouraging her daughter as she recreated characters from her favourite animated series with whatever art supplies were to hand. At high school, as a means to connect with her peers, Abney would draw portraits of celebrated Black cultural figures. It was at this point that she decided to formally pursue a career in art, and she went on to attend Augustana College, obtaining a joint degree in studio art and computer science. Often the only Black girl in her classes growing up, Abney became acutely aware of pressures to conform to narrow White tropes. In being a Black artist, this meant a burden to always centre your work on questions of race. Abney did not want her work to be defined by a single political or social motivation, and from early on was determined to overcome the cultural pigeonholing other Black artists have faced. Abney’s work has no defined purpose, it serves as an ode to the ambiguous chaos of the internet age. Much like a social media feed, it offers an endless number of rabbit holes to lose yourself in. Her characters possess androgynous bodies and a mix of skin tones that come in all shapes and sizes. At any one time they can be involved in topics ranging from art, race, religion, politics, sex and violence. No one person will interpret an Abney the same as another - there is something for everyone. Somehow, as we grow increasingly divided, Abney creates a universal appeal for her work and despite the incoherence of it all, you would be hard pressed to find a more truthful representation of the times we live in. We could go on and on about Abney’s work. What a gift. Nina Chanel: “My agenda is to present your Instagram timeline back to you so you can take time and digest it.”