Paintings by Ariel Dannielle offer an alternative perspective on Black womanhood

KATY COWAN, Creative Boom!, October 29, 2021

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Dannielle graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2016 where she received a degree in Fine Arts. She "draws directly from her life", creating large-scale paintings that depict the everyday experiences of young black women today. She believes in the importance of her artwork "to provide new lenses through which black womanhood can be represented, understood, and related to," as she puts it. Influenced by artists such as Alice Neel and Kerry James Marshall, her portraiture works also challenge gender and racial stereotypes.


Her latest works, which are to go on show at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago next month, show images of Dannielle posing with her friends in various happy scenes, ones that look similar to archival photographs from the famous Freaknik, an annual spring break festival in Atlanta, founded in 1983 for students of historically black colleges, that has since grown to include live music, film, art, and a job fair.

Weekends on Edgewood, 2021 © Ariel Danielle

Weekends on Edgewood, 2021 © Ariel Danielle

Speaking of her new series, Dannielle says it's also inspired by the idea of 'Hot Girl Summer', a term coined by rapper Megan The Stallion in 2019. "To quote Megan on her definition, 'Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically you, having fun, being confident, living your truth, being the life of the party' etc.," she explains.

"This also aligns with my other interest in the history of Freaknik. These ideas and inspirations link to the term 'We Outside', which basically means being out and down for a good time with your friends. I'm telling a story of thriving and not just surviving as a person of colour through my paintings. I depict that through my life as a modern black girl from Atlanta who lives her life like it's a hot girl summer year-round."

Describing her work as within the contemporary art realm, Dannielle tells Creative Boom: "It's expressive with hints on realism. Consisting of bright and saturated colours featuring figures, everyday objects, and scenery."