Profile: Nathaniel Mary Quinn (1977)

Nathaniel Mary Quinn is an American painter. Quinn is known for his collage-style composite portraits that feature disfigured faces.

Early life

Quinn was born in Chicago, where he grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side. In his ninth grade of high school, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Culver Military Academy in Indiana.

While he was at Culver, Quinn’s mother, Mary, died. He later legally adopted the middle name Mary in memory so her name would appear on his degree.

When he returned home for thanksgiving a month after Mary’s death, Quinn found the family home empty and his father and brother had gone. They left without a trace.

He was determined not to become impoverished and homeless, so he focused on completing his education.


After graduating from NYU in 2002, Quinn continued to live in Brooklyn, where he continued to paint while teaching disadvantaged kids through Exalt youth program. 

In 2004, Quinn and author, Quanica A. McClendon, published a children’s book called “Suit Shoes.” Quinn used oil and canvas for the illustrations.

In 2013 he made his first major hit painting Charles. It was the first he made with his distinct collage-inspired style. He made a painting based on five photographs which produced an amalgamation resembling the smirk of his long-lost brother, Charles.

The artwork was shown in a home-based art salon run by the mother of one of his students. It caught the attention of the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn, who showed it in the museum’s window.

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