Instagram can be a powerful platform in order to showcase the talent of emerging artists. It can serve art in a revolutionary way, capturing the contradictions of the new digital era: the dangerous pleasures of narcissism and the need for validation but also the power of free expression and self-affirmation.

The following artists, rather than showing illusions presented as the real thing in their work, showcase real subjects, as filtered through their own personal vision.


1) Mickalene Thomas

The New York-based African American artist is a force to be reckoned with. Thomas makes paintings and collages, but also photography and installations that portray diverse types of beauty. She is particularly focused on black women and how their identity and sexuality are shaped by the ways in which they are depicted within popular culture. Thomas’s complex paintings – made of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel – empower the female figure and break free from the conventions about the female representation, which, within the Western tradition, has always privileged a ‘perfected’ white female nude. One of the many striking examples of the ways in which Thomas reworks and reinterprets tradition is her painting Le Déjeuner Sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (see below), which reinterprets the classical – and yet, at the time scandalous – masterpiece by Manet.

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As the artist herself claims, “to see yourself and for others to see you is a form of validation”. With her references to tradition and with the iconic and glamorous female figures that she portrays, Thomas draws attention to the lack of black women within visual western culture, while also creating new spaces for them to re-assert their powerful presence. To check Thomas’s incredible work: or on her Instagram @mickalenethomas.


2) Kelly Beeman

This artist and fashion illustrator based in New York City and Los Angeles draws simple and elegant portraits of women surrounded by everyday objects and ornamental patterns. With clients such as Elie Saab and Tory Burch, she has worked with many fashion magazines, including Vogue and Marie Claire. Beeman’s watercolours are delicate and carefully juxtaposed, showcasing women that, though apparently similar, are of different colours and beauty. The long necks, the elongated bodies and the sensual, yet restrained poses, recall Modigliani’s masterpieces (see picture on the right). Check out Beeman’s work here and here @kellymariebeeman.

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3) Monica Kim Garza

Recalling artists such as Paul Gauguin, Garza paints beautiful, curvy female figures in sensual poses and everyday situations. The flamboyant colours that she employs are often non-representational – a technique that allows the artist to express her personal vision of reality rather than being faithful to it – and the decorations that frame the human subjects can be abstract patterns, harmonising the quotidian settings. Follow her on Instagram here @monicakimgarza.

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4) Adébayo Bolaji

This London-based painter, but also writer, director and actor, employs a bold – and self-taught – technique that includes powerful, vibrant colour textures and juxtapositions and distorted and expressive figures. Bolaji’s subjects encapsulate the human condition, as they seem to be struggling to understand and affirm their own contradictory sense of self. See more of this artist @adebayobolaji.

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5) Christiane Spangsberg

This young Danish artist has had four solo exhibitions, and all of them sold out. She draws imperfect, minimal shapes that stand out on the canvas for their intense and evocative nature. Inspired by the French modern painters from the early twentieth century like Henri Matisse and André Derain, Spangsberg draws in order to express and better understand her inner feelings and thoughts. To learn more about her work follow her on Instagram @christianespangsberg.

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