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  • Writer's pictureSegolene Py

Power in Peace, Megan Gabrielle Harris

Megan Gabrielle Harris (b. 1990) is an afro figurative-surrealist, of Nigerian ancestry, painter whose practice explores the representation of Black women in peaceful and colourful landscape and environments, depicting them as independent and powerful.

Harris paints portraits of fashionable women comfortably posing in front of dreamy landscapes, having pleasurable and peaceful experiences. The women’s poses are confident, calm and regal complimented by peaceful, colourful environments that give a grounded yet carefree vibe. Her style is inspired by escapism, a form of art that diverts the mind from daily struggles, also employed by her father, artist Thomas Harris. Harris’ work is influenced by her experience working as a model in the fashion industry, her travels around the world, and nature. Through her practice, Harris hopes to change the representation of Black women by showing them leisurely enjoying life, powerful and not constrained by mediatic stereotypes of the Black woman in constant struggle. The artist shows carefree women, gaining power out of there peace.

“My subjects rest, daydream, they indulge, they travel and they are fulfilled in their own company. My intentions are to glorify and focus in on all of these aspects of Black women simply existing and having pleasurable experiences.”

Megan Gabrielle Harris was born and raised in Sacramento, California. She was a prolific creator as a child and knew from a young age that her future was in the creative industry, more specifically fashion and photography. She was encouraged on this path by her mother, who counselled her to pursue her passion over money, and her father who is an artist. Megan’s father taught her how to paint when she was 9 years old. She grew up in a home covered with paintings, which deeply ignited her inspiration and passion for the arts.

In 2017, shortly after graduating from the California State University, Sacramento, Megan moved to New York to explore new opportunities. She landed her first commission in 2019 to create a mural with champagne brand Veuve Clicquot, which marked the start of her art career.

Harris paints figures posing before surreal and dreamy landscapes, reminiscent of Van Gogh swirling backgrounds or Paul Gauguin figurative colourful works. Her subjects are Black women, portrayed in fashionable apparel, regal poses, leisurely enjoying their lives, unhindered. She conveys a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, echoing a Californian lifestyle, but also reflective of her own experience and environments. A very strong inspiration from the fashion industry is visible with depictions of fashionable and luxurious clothing, but also the poses the characters adopt which could be an influence from her model career. Time is a fluid element in Harris’ work where subjects are sometimes depicted like Hollywood celebrities from the 1930-50s and sometimes more modern depictions seen in fashion publications today. Her latest series of work uses earth tones, mostly with muted colours. Through this representation, Harris wants to show black women in the best versions of themselves, living life leisurely, with no expectation or limit - a reflection of her own lifestyle and goals. The artist explains that she aims for a representation of ‘carefree’ Black women, to show another version of them, and inspire her audience to mirror this attitude in their own life.

When she first started, Harris create meticulous digital drafts which she edited and studied before making her full paintings. As she’s gained experience and confidence, her process has become more organic. She primarily works with acrylic paint on canvas, although she is starting to experiment with oil paint. Her latest series of work used a lot of earth tone, mostly with muted colours, picturing a relaxed atmosphere, where her characters seem to be at peace with themselves.

Megan Gabrielle Harris obtained her BA in Art History from California State University, Sacramento in 2015. She has worked with several brands to create murals and designed products such as Veuve Clicquot, Wander for Bergdorf Goodman, and Kate Hudson. She had her first solo show earlier this year with De Buck Gallery in New York. She had several group exhibitions, her most recent one being with Out of Africa Gallery in Notting Hill, London, UK. Earlier this year, she had a duo show with REWA at De Buck Gallery which sold out. She participated at EXPO Chicago and Untitled Miami with De Buck Gallery earlier this year. Harris participated to Art X Lagos (Nigeria) with Out of Africa Gallery last weekend.

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