Mequitta Ahuja

Weston, CT, USA

I found a process, a material parallel to loss, by scraping away paint . . . based on an idea of creation and destruction.

Ahuja’s practice is self-portraiture. It is the vehicle by which she finds kinship with the history of painting and those things portrayed within it. In these three paintings “the self” interpenetrates both ancestors and descendants, a telescoping genealogy of portrayals that takes on personal history and art history, simultaneously. Collapsing innumerable associations into the picture-plane, Ahuja uses the self as that starting point to explore all other relations with vibrancy and precision. — AY

Making Kin Categories

Le Damn Revisited
2018, oil on canvas, 84"x72"

In both Le Damn Revisited and Xpect, I chronicle my journey to motherhood. The gray-scale painting within the painting is my rebuttal to Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Picasso’s painting is about the threat and allure of sex. Picasso presents woman—her body and her seduction—as an embodiment of that tension. I, too, address the threatening aspect of sex, but from a woman’s point of view. In my rebuttal to the Picasso, I depict my range of feelings from determination to despair throughout my process of trying to conceive. In Xpect and Les Damn Revisited I conclude that story with a declaration and celebration of my pregnancy.

2018, oil on canvas, 84"x72"
Portrait of Her Mother
2020, oil on canvas, 72"x84"

In Portrait of Her Mother, I tell the story of my recent body of work, and how that body of work was inspired by my mother’s illness and death. She died in 2020. I started making a new body of work when my mother was sick. It was drawing as a process of grieving, making something out of loss. I found a process, a material parallel to loss, by scraping away paint. In the painting titled Portrait of Her Mother, I show myself in my studio with two of my large monochrome figure paintings—one red, one blue—both of which are using this method of scraping away paint, both based on an idea of creation and destruction. And I show myself standing in front of those two paintings holding a drawn portrait of my mother. I give you the whole story in this one painting. 

Artist Reflection —

My work is a form of tribute, analysis, and intervention: tribute, out of sincere admiration for the figurative tradition; analysis, by making something vast comprehensible to both myself and to my viewers; and intervention, by positioning a woman-of-color as primary picture-maker and a challenge to the expectations of those who are or get to be “masters” of pictorial representation.

About Mequitta Ahuja

Ahuja is the recipient of the 2018 Guggenheim fellowship award. She studied at Hampshire College (BA, 1998) and the University of Illinois (MFA, 2003). Ahuja’s works have been widely exhibited in institutions and galleries, including Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, Saatchi Gallery, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Crystal Bridges, Baltimore Museum of Art, Grand Rapids Art Museum, and The Phillips Collection, DC (2020). Mequitta lives with her family in Weston, CT.

Kindred Artists