Deana Lawson

AGE: 33.


CURRENTLY LIVE: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

GALLERY: Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.


WHEN YOU FIRST CONSIDERED YOURSELF A FULL-TIME ARTIST: During my sophomore year at Penn State. I reached an early crossroads—either I was going to continue with a business degree or I was going to jump off that moving train and become an artist. I jumped and never looked back.

THE MOST CHALLENGING OR SUCCESSFUL WORK YOU’VE MADE:  I made a piece titled The Garden. The image references Eden, a scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. I imagined my Eden to be located in the heart of Africa, the heart of the world—the mighty Congo. So I traveled to DR Congo in 2014 in search of the paradise I knew existed, despite years of the conditioning of Congo as a site of crisis. I found my paradise in a small village in a town called Gemena. It was there that I staged The Garden using local subjects I met on my journey. It was the most challenging image psychologically to create because I had to decolonize my imagination of the black body and the landscape of Africa. The Garden represents “oneness” in several complex layers: the subjects depict a sacred union within the black family, the body is at one within the plant world of Africa, and most of all, the subjects are at one with the Creator.

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST IN NEW YORK: The ability to traverse multiple worlds within minutes. I can buy shea butter and candles in the hood, visit a friend at their brownstone, and attend a MoMA preview all in one day.

THE WORST: The rent. Gentrification in NYC is becoming inhumane.

FAVORITE LIVING ARTIST: Wangechi Mutu. And Kahlil Joseph—his videos are magic.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU REACH AN IMPASSE WITH A WORK? Go outside and take a walk to Fulton Avenue and get inspired. Plan another trip. Look at an art book. The world will keep on giving.

FAVORITE SONG: “You’re All I Need” by Method Man, featuring Mary J. Blige.