The next Artist You Need To Know is Elizabeth Colomba.

Colomba was born in France and raised in Épinay-sur-Seine : her parents are of Martinican descent. She earned a degree in applied art from the Estienne School of Art (Paris) and also studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris). Colomba lived in Los Angeles for a time before relocating to New York City where she currently lives and works.

“Drawing on her classical training, Colomba creates meticulous, multilayered paintings that place Black individuals—primarily women—in spaces from which they have been erased or in which they have often been assigned subservient roles. In addition to making allegorical portraits of historical icons—such as Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American female poet—Colomba foregrounds an array of fictional protagonists, often richly dressed and in opulent settings. Frequently referencing older works by European artists, Colomba employs motifs from religious narratives and classical mythology to empower her subjects, thereby reclaiming for them, in her words, “an egalitarian existence in a story from which the Black body is almost always absent.” Her empowered heroines emerge as central and universal figures, displacing the canonical whiteness encompassing the biblical Eve and the fairy-tale Cinderella.” (from here)




“I seek to shed light on Black historical figures that might never receive the sort of attention they deserve.”

In speaking about her work, Colomba is focused upon taking assumptions about historical paintings and the implicit narratives and inverting them to raise questions about assumptions in both historical and social contexts. One writer commented that her characters look as though they may have stepped out of historical dramas but occupy social and class positions that cast in contrast how people of colour were often invisible in these paintings (and in larger society) or simply cast as ‘servants’ or solely ‘background players.’



Colomba’s paintings have been exhibited at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles; the Balthus Grand Chalet, Switzerland; the International Biennial of Contemporary Art (BIAC), Martinique; Volta, New York; the Fondazione Biagiotti Progetto Arte, Florence and the inaugural triennial at Columbia University. Her artworks can be found in the permanent collections of The Studio Museum in Harlem and Princeton University.



The curator Monique Long has asserted that “Colomba’s portraits of women, featuring oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings from 1997 to the present, draw upon American history, mythology, religious symbols, and the sacred feminine mystic to create an aesthetic vocabulary that distinguishes her work within the canon of black mastery and history painting.”



More of Elizabeth Colomba’s work can be seen here at her site. There’s also a number of links from that site that highlight important exhibitions and milestones in her career, as well, and more about her artwork can be seen here.