Mequitta Ahuja


Mequitta Ahuja turns the artist's self-portrait, especially the woman-of-color's self-portrait, long defined by identity, into a discourse on picture-making. The artist does this by visually cataloging painting conventions while using those conventions to make new meanings. She simplifies form, and include common motifs of the tradition such as hand gestures, swags of fabric, meeting the viewer's gaze, creased paper presented as trompe l'oeil, architecture that frames a narrative, one-point perspective and the allegorical figure.  She emphasizes both the conceptual and physical work of painting by showing the subject reading, writing and handling canvases in the studio. With pictures within pictures, Mequitta depicts paintings' many modes -abstraction, text, naturalism, schematic description, graphic flatness and illusion. She repurposes painting ideas and approaches across time and geography including Egyptian form, Giotto frescoes, Hindu figuration and early American painting. The artist positions this variety of artistic types within the context of figurative painting, and replaces the common self-portrait motif, the artist standing before the easel, with a broad portrait of the work of painting. By working strategically within paintings' many forms and varied pasts, Mequitta knits her contemporary concerns, personal and painterly into the centuries old conversation of representation. 


Mequitta Ahuja holds an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois where she was mentored by Kerry James Marshall. Mequitta has focused her career efforts on museum exhibitions, most notably: All Due Respect, Baltimore Museum of Art Baltimore (2021), Shifting at David C. Driskell Centre, College Park, MD (2017); Champagne Life at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2016); Marks of Genius at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN (2014); State of the Art at Crystal Bridges, AK (2014); Portraiture Now at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, DC (2013); The Bearden Project at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY (2012) and Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum, NY (2007). Mequitta's top priority is time in the studio which has led her to participate in artist in residence programs at the Core Program, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Siena Art Institute (Siena, Italy) and at the Dora Maar House (Menerbes, France). Mequitta's work has appeared in Modern Painters, and in 2010, she was featured in ArtNews as "An Artist to Watch." Mequitta is a recipient of several awards including a 2009 Joan Mitchell Award and a 2011 Tiffany award.