Mequitta Ahuja

Artist Statement

My new self-portraits are not about myself. These works are about figurative painting and the artist as picture-maker. I repurpose ideas and approaches to painting across time and geography, including Egyptian form, Giotto frescoes, Hindu figuration, and early American painting. In many of my works, I depict paintings within paintings, representing paintings as objects that come from specific cultural traditions. They shed and gain meaning as they move through time, place and the hands of their owners. By working strategically within painting’s pasts, I knit my contemporary concerns, personal and painterly, into the centuries-old conversation of representation and recast self-portraiture as a treatise on picture-making. My work is a form of tribute, analysis, and intervention: tribute, out of sincere admiration for the figurative tradition; analysis, by making something vast comprehensible to both myself and to my viewers; and intervention, by positioning a woman of color as primary picture-maker, in whose hands the figurative tradition is refashioned.

While at Headlands

My aim is to make paintings that do multiple things at once: point to history while maintaining contemporary relevance; present naturalistic form while emphasizing underlying, abstract, structure; and explore what is to be a person of color in America while at the same time moving the genre of self-portraiture away from identity and toward a discourse on past and present picture-making. Working toward these conceptual goals, I will spend some of my time writing, reading and exploring. Working toward my material aims in my month-long stay at Headlands, I will make paintings for my upcoming solo exhibition in Milan opening in the fall.