Jordan Casteel was born in 1989 in Denver, Colorado. She now lives and works in New York. Since graduating with an MFA from Yale University in 2014, Casteel has received acclaim for her painted portraits depicting black men.
Long committed to social justice, Casteel was working as a teacher in Colorado and painting in the evenings when she realized that she needed to devote herself more seriously to her art practice. In 2015, she moved to New York for a residency at The Studio Museum of Harlem. Inspired to address ideas of black masculinity, Casteel began painting portraits of the people closest to her—family members, friends, and boyfriends—to transform the negative representations of black men often seen in the larger culture. Casteel’s vivacious renditions feature a vibrant palette that signals an undeniable joy. The artist begins her portraits by taking up to two hundred photographs of her subjects, whom now she tends to meet on the streets of her adopted neighborhood of Harlem.
Casteel’s practice explores humanity, sexuality, identity, and subjectivity. Casteel has almost exclusively painted black subjects, often in varying skin tones based on the light surrounding the sitter from the photographs she takes of her sitters. Subjects have been painted in varying shades of browns, greys, lime greens, navy blues, and light oranges.