Nigerian-American Artist Uses Art as a Conversation Starter

Nigerian-American artist Dawn Okoro uses a mix of everything to create stunning portraits of African women (and sometimes men). Whether its oil, acrylic, pencils, or photography, her artwork embodies pattern, design, texture, and color.

“The purpose of my art is to be visually stimulating while creating a topic for conversation,” she told Super.Selected. “My work captures, femininity as a social construct as well as biological attributes. My work captures a lot of the Western ideals of femininity when I include stilettos, clothing that accentuates the waistline, and certain body shapes. On the other hand, I want to challenge Western ideals of feminine beauty.  That is why I paint more women who look like me – women of color.”

Living and working in Austin, Texas, Okoro, it was Okoro’s strong desire to become an artist that sparked her interest in fashion illustration, photography, and design (and not the other way around). “I try to create work that is aesthetically pleasing,” she explained. “It has turned out, what is visually striking to me is also aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people.”

“Art can be a tool for political activism,” she stressed. “First it’s a way to draw attention to an issue. Art can make people ask questions. Second, art can unite the public so that they can engage and contribute to change.”

Take a look at some of our favorite portraits of hers.