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The Inner Life of Danielle McKinney

When I first saw the painter Danielle McKinney’s work, at an exhibition last year at the Night Gallery in Los Angeles, I got as close as I could without triggering the alarm. Her portraits of lonely black women at home, beautiful and mysterious, have a cinematic quality; McKinney uses a keen female gaze—red lipstick, curling cigarette smoke, pink nail polish—while thinking, smoking, reading or They were captured in the moment lying naked on the carpet. “I wanted to portray the feeling of: Who am I when I get home and there’s no one around? Who am I without this exterior? The interior space is perfect for that,” McKinney said. In the Western art tradition, black women tend to be at work, in the background, or at the edge of the frame—almost never centered and resting. “You don’t see them lying on the couch,” she added.

Headquartered in McKinney, Jersey City, is , only started painting full-time during the COVID lockdown, but she has a prominent space at the Night Gallery, where co-representing her at Marianne Boesky Gallery , she will have a major solo exhibition in New York this October. Her paintings have been acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art, the Miami Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Beyonce also owns one. Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, wrote: “Each solo figure exudes a strong sense of self, and the intimate spaces they not only inhabit but conduct make the most of it. They are stronger.” I via email. “Her focus sheds light on assumptions about what black women get when they take a break, like it maintains a level of protective distance from the audience. Ultimately, Danielle’s bringing these scenes to life is an act of transformation.”

Fujin Fiction
“Each individual character exudes a strong sense of self,” says Thelma Golden of McKinney Works. Above:
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