2019 Commencement Speakers 

Jordan Casteel ’11


Jordan Casteel ’11

One of the most acclaimed emerging artists working today, Jordan Casteel is an assistant professor of painting in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at Rutgers University-Newark. Using her own photographs as a source, Casteel paints life-size portraits of black men and women in domestic environments, street scenes and places of business. Her subjects are known to her, whether they be familial, from her local community in Harlem, or newly acquainted through the process of sitting for a photograph. Within each composition, line and gesture are treated with an immediacy indicative of her process. Drawing from personal experience and larger cultural truths, background and foreground conflate with the personal narratives of her sitters.

In February, Casteel presented a major museum exhibition, “Returning the Gaze,” at the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado. In September, “Returning the Gaze” will travel to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She has exhibited extensively at major institutions worldwide, from the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, California (2019) and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (2018), to the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, North Carolina (2017, solo), and the MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts (2017). Casteel’s work is in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, New York; and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts.
Casteel has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York (2015); the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Process Space on Governors Island, New York (2015); the Studio Museum in Harlem (2015); and the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in DUMBO, New York (2016). Her work has been featured in publications ranging from Artforum and The New York Times to Vogue and The New Yorker.


This year, Casteel was selected as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30. She received her Bachelor of Arts in studio art from Agnes Scott College in 2011 and her Master of Fine Art in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut, in 2014. Casteel lives and works in New York City, where she is represented by Casey Kaplan Gallery.



Mallika J. Balakrishnan ’19


Mallika J Balakrishnan ’19

Mallika Joshi Balakrishnan is a philosophy and political science major from Marietta, Georgia. At Agnes Scott, her research and work with organizations like CARE USA and Amnesty International USA have focused on human rights in Latin America. She has enjoyed working with her peers as a Center for Writing and Speaking tutor, Latin tutor and philosophy teaching assistant, as well as through leadership of Model United Nations and Eta Sigma Phi. She has played with the Agnes Scott Community Orchestra and local bands throughout her time in Decatur. After
graduating, Balakrishnan will study moral, legal and political philosophy at the University of St. Andrews and international political economy at the University of York as a Marshall Scholar.