Audrée Grand’Pierre is a contemporary painter finishing her last semester at Bowdoin College where she will be receiving two bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Visual arts and a minor in Anthropology. Her vibrant color choice and bold compositions pays homage to the lineage of Hatian painters before her but her distinctive style of combining Renaissance portraiture with vivid stylistic backgrounds works to express her multicultural upbringing. Classically trained in the U.S and Italy, Audrée has spent the last several years deepening her understanding of art history and traditional techniques in order to improve her skills as an artist. Her narrative pieces serve to depict raw human experiences by highlighting the experiences and perspectives of Black individuals in order to create a space for these experiences to be shared. Her passion for both art and the human psyche is why she loves focusing on the human figure and concepts of identity, positionality, and family lineage in her works. Audrée’s artwork had been shown in exhibitions in the US, including the Scholastic Art Show, Bowdoin Delta Sigma/ Delta Upsilon Student Art Show and has been featured in the Oakland Arts Review.
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As a Black woman navigating White spaces all my life, I have learned over the years to blend in and conform in an attempt to succeed in these environments. These types of repression have influenced all aspects of my life, especially my art, as I have never incorporated pieces of my identity into my paintings, that is, until more recently. I began to seriously grapple with my identity as a Black female artist when I studied abroad in Italy last year. As the only Black painter in the program, I became hyper aware of being different on account of the color of my skin and cultural heritage, both in the classroom and in the history of art reflected in the museums I visited across Europe. This only became amplified with the events of 2020, as it fostered more self-reflection about who I am as a Black individual in Western society. This series of works speaks to this transformation, as it examines the Black experience through portraying black bodies outside of the trauma commonly endured by non-White bodies in our society. In doing so, I strive to humanize and normalize Black figures and place them in a light that has been taken up by White bodies for generations.
As a classical artist, I have always admired the smoothness and paint stroke of both Titan’s and John Singer Sargent’s figurative paintings. However, growing up in a Haitian household, I also enjoy Basquiat’s bold style , as my family always felt showcased the boldness of the Haitian spirit. Marrying the two art styles, my compositions include realistic portraits of the black figures with more abstract backgrounds to help amplify their presence. Leaving no room for complacency, I want my paintings to make viewers uncomfortable—left to grapple with the allusive juxtaposition between the narrative of my pieces and the reality of what it means to be Black in America.
Positioning smooth, realistically rendered Black figures at the center of abstractly composed backgrounds in each large-scale oil painting, Audrée Grand Pierre has turned to her life experiences and identity as a Black woman in Western society to speak to the Black experience and challenge the portrayal of and restraint on the presence of Black bodies throughout history. Grand Pierre’s figures are clothed in both detailed, painstakingly depicted textured fabrics and flat, graphic swaths of bright color. A careful mixing of color illuminates the figures, beautifully capturing the range and variation of tone in each subject’s skin with each stroke. The graphic line feels significant – making its way around the canvas in a pulsating rhythm and both delineating and pushing the figures into the foreground – and the eye is drawn to capitalized text situated on each bold, abstract background. Drawing upon both her classical training and compelling contemporary movements, Grand Pierre’s influences range from the smooth paint stroke work of Titian and John Singer Sargent to the bold style and Haitian spirit of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Ultimately, her series seems to embody an inclination towards contrasts and presence. Grand Pierre’s work confronts, reimagines, and amplifies: “I strive to humanize and normalize Black figures and place them in a light that has been taken up by White bodies for generations […] Leaving no room for complacency, I want my paintings to make viewers uncomfortable—left to grapple with the allusive juxtaposition between the narrative of my pieces and the reality of what it means to be Black in America.”