Art on the edge
Paintings address issues in black women's lives
The artwork is bold. The colors pop. Icons from pop culture draw you in for a closer look.
The images highlight issues in the daily lives of black women. They make you do a doubletake – and, hopefully, start a conversation.
The artist is Kamara Townes ’18, of Clairton, Pa. Professionally, the 24-year-old goes by Wavy Wednesday, for the character Wednesday Addams on “The Addams Family,” who “says what she needs to say.”
Townes is making that name known in Pittsburgh and beyond.
“My art represents political and social justice issues – racism, cultural appropriation, gentrification. There is nothing I won’t tackle,” she says.
“Conversations are important just to bring awareness to the way black people are treated and to encourage female empowerment.”
Protect Black Women was her first solo show. Townes’ edgy, satirical, allegorical artwork was on display at Late Space, a gallery in the Garfield section of Pittsburgh. She’s been planning a show in New York City this spring.
In January 2019, Townes was a guest on “The Confluence” on 90.5 WESA-FM in Pittsburgh, and she’s popular on social media sites Afropunk and The Shade Room. She uses her Wavy Wednesday page on Instagram to share her work.
Townes cites pop art legend Andy Warhol as a major influence. He used consumer products such as Campbell’s soup cans in his paintings. She sometimes uses Barbie dolls to illustrate her message.
“Barbie is a pop feminist,” Townes says. “I have no problem saying things about race, but I felt Barbie would get more attention.
“I paint about things I or my friends have experienced. At first glance, my work is fun. I love what I do, and it’s fun to make. If you’re in a certain position, you might as well use it for good, to educate people.”
Cal U art professor Laura DeFazio says Townes uses allegory to take on relevant, timely topics.
“The Barbie figures … start conversations that could be uncomfortable,” she explains. “Using a figure to broach these topics creates a level of distance between your emotions and what’s on the canvas.
“It’s hard to be a black woman in society, especially at this time, and it’s exciting to see Kamara be so empowered. It takes a lot of courage and strength.”
Townes returned to campus during Black History Month. Students packed a room in Vulcan Hall, where she displayed paintings in the art gallery and talked about her work.
“I always had an artistic side, but I started taking my art seriously when I got to college,” she says. “It wasn’t until I was almost ready to graduate that I realized it’s OK to be an artist.”
— By Wendy Mackall, Communications director at Cal U