Fine Art Focus: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

by Grace Bonney

As the temperatures start to drop, I find myself dreaming of a trip out west. Not just to soak up some sunshine and warm weather, but to visit some of my favorite museums and see the incredible exhibitions that are coming up at places like the Hammer Museum and LACMA. It was through the Hammer Museum that I discovered LA-based artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

Njideka was born in Nigeria, but moved to the United States for her undergraduate and graduate degrees in art. Her work combines painting with photo-copied layers of imagery and elements of collage and illustration that create a complex visual canvas for telling stories about her life in both Nigeria and America. I’m always interested in seeing people investigate the visual histories and landscapes of their childhood and juxtapose them with where they are now in their lives — and Njideka does that so beautifully with her work. She’s lectured at several museums recently, and I’m hoping to catch her the next time she comes to New York. If you’re near West Palm Beach, FL at all, there will be a solo exhibition of Njideka’s work at the Norton Museum of Art in January 2016. Until then, read on to learn more about Njideka and her work. xo, grace

Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby
About: Njideka was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2004, received her Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2006, and received her MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 2011. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Work: Njideka’s work combines painting, collage, photography and illustration to explore the connections and juxtaposition between her Nigerian and American cultures and identities.
More: You can read more about Njideka’s work here, here, here, here and here.

All artwork (c) Njideka Akunyili Crosby, images via NjidekaAkunyili.com. Portrait via The Huffington Post.


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  • I am absolutely loving everything you have been sharing on your site lately! Every day there is something new to be inspired by. Really looking forward to your second book!

  • Went to the Hammer exhibit of her work – brilliant and beautiful. She embraces the tradition of females painting intimate interiors … but also subverts that. That and the pure joy of the pattern….just great stuff.

    *Thanks for adding the art to your blog/site btw. Love your picks

  • I trekked over to the Hammer for this exhibit, too. I was bummed when I learned there were only a handful of pieces hung in a small, 4-wall gallery there. I wanted the chance to lose myself completely in her work. I wasn’t disappointed by what I *was* able to see, though. There was a portrait that was so striking, it almost made me dizzy. And I loved all the quilt-like layering of Nigerian images she uses in the background; as with pieces like the one above with the seated family, it reminded me of Varnette Honeywood’s work.