Wangari Mathenge's (b.1973, Nairobi, Kenya; based in Chicago, IL) work is dedicated to the investigation and incorporation of an integrated visual testimony of the oft-discounted black female experience within the context of existing simultaneously within two cultures; here, both traditional African society and the Diaspora.
Shifting the dialogue around painting and identity, Mathenge’s portraits highlight these silent exchanges and hierarchal dynamics. Often depicting people with whom she has significant relationships, her paintings are realized through structured compositions emboldened with gestural strokes, and mark-making. The use of detailed patterning and bright colors adds to the beauty of her portraits, creating images that are both therapeutic and generative. She often paints small groups of individuals in conversational sittings viewed from an interesting perspective, giving the feeling of insight into both the subjects and circumstances.
Mathenge has a background in International Business and Law and is a graduate of both Howard University and Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C. (LL.M. International Business and Economic Law). In 2021, she completed her MFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Her works are held in private collections in Africa, Europe, and North America. Mathenge’s 2019 exhibition with the gallery, Aura of Quiet, was the artist’s first US solo show.