Alumna’s Art Provides Powerful Perspective

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jordan CasteelA future 2015-2016 artist in residence at NYC's Studio Museum in Harlem, Jordan Casteel ’11 is enjoying creative success as she engages in her lifelong passion of uniting art and social justice. Casteel uses figurative painting to explore black masculinity, interpreting what it means to be a black man today. It’s a topic with a profound impact on current culture as issues of race continue to be a major part of national dialogue. She also explores the relationship between color and the black body through oil on canvas, prints and mixed media.

“In the wake of such public continued violence against black men, it is more important than ever to contribute to a vision of blackness that shows the complexities of black men instead of reducing them,” she said. “The paintings address the broader scope of the human experience. Each subject is asking to be seen through an empathetic lens.”

Galen 1

Casteel’s interest in sociology and artistic expression led her to pursue a liberal arts education where she could develop multiple skills. She arrived at Agnes Scott focused on sociology, but also took introductory art classes to explore her creative interest. Agnes Scott’s art department provided an opportunity to study abroad at the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art in Cortona, Italy, which proved to be a life-changing experience.

“I realized I was happiest when I was painting with oils, and I wanted to find a way to make it a bigger part of my life,” Casteel said. “When I returned to Agnes, I put my energy into an independent study where the faculty supported giving me space to practice painting with oils.”

Many of Casteel’s first paintings were of Agnes Scott’s students and staff, including the portrait of Betty Hart (below). The art department also bought a painting of her mother before her 2011 graduation to be a part of their permanent collection. At the time, Casteel thought it would be the only painting she would ever sell. Now, after earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale School of Art in painting and printmaking and participating in numerous group exhibitions, she will have her second New York City solo exhibition later this year.

Early WorkBetty Hart

As an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum, Casteel is one of three artists who will receive a $20,000 grant and $1,000 stipend for materials, as well as free access to the museum’s studio space. At the end of the residency, she will participate in a group exhibition.

“This Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem has a long history of supporting emerging artists of African and Latino decent,” Casteel said. “To be invited to be a part of that history is a profound honor. My hope is to continue to share images that create dialogue.”

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location—offering myriad social, cultural and experiential learning opportunities. This highly selective liberal arts college is known for its diverse and dynamic intellectual community. Through SUMMIT, it provides every student, regardless of major, with an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global dynamics.