Sheena Rose (b. 1985) is a Barbados-based visual artist determined to brighten the contemporary art world. She received her MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2016 and is a Fulbright Scholar. Her varied practice encompasses painting, drawing, performance art, new media, and mixed media.
Rose’s latest series tackles concerns related to identity and affirmation vis-a-vis larger-than-life winning athletes. She describes her works as light and humorous, mimicking classic patterns and colors from the seventies, that purposefully take up space. Rose, who has a vibrant multidisciplinary practice, took on the challenge of creating a series of paintings within the limitations of Covid’s travel restrictions. Using only paints that were locally accessible to her in Barbados, Rose unlocked a sense of imagination and freedom working within a color palette dominated by primary colors.
About her painting, Rose states, “I see myself and the world with lots of layers and overlaps. Politics, stereotypes, historical and contemporary context.” Ultimately for Rose, the process of making these works also became a process of reaffirming the beauty of her own skin and creating positive representations of Black figures. Each title references terminology from the world of sports that relates to techniques of winning so that Rose could imagine herself making history through hard work and sheer determination.
Her process is intuitive, beginning from her “gut,” where her lines seamlessly take form into unapologetically triumphant athletes in bright, purposely flattened colors. She uses locally sourced, affordable materials to create her works. Creating artwork on an island during a pandemic is no easy feat, but Sheena Rose remains undeterred. She is no less ardent when she explains her use of “school paint” to express the brightness and humor in her pieces, stressing that limitations offer the opportunity to become more creative.
“I see myself and the world with lots of layers and overlaps. Politics, stereotypes, historical and contemporary contexts.”
Sheena Rose was the recipient of the 2020–2021 UNC Greensboro Distinguished Alumni Award in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. In 2019, she designed a two-story mural at the Inter-American Development Bank Headquarters in D.C. This past summer, the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro debuted a vibrant mural commission by Rose in its atrium. Her works have also made appearances on high-profile shows, such as season 6 of Empire. Most recently, Rose’s work was featured in “A Force for Change,” a group exhibition in New York this past July presented by UN Women showcasing the work of 26 black women artists with an online auction hosted by Artsy.