Class 1975, born in Australia and raised in Nigeria, Nnenna Okore is an artist we love!
Nnenna Okore creates suggestive abstract sculptures and paintings reminding of natural primordial shapes. Graduated in Art at the University of Nigeria, she then received the Master of Art and the MFA title at the University of Iowa. Currently, Okore teaches Art at Chicago’s North Park University.
The artist uses a combination of biodegradable materials for her artworks. Paper, ceramic, fabric, hessian are the tools to represent her figurative imaginary.
The natural world seems to be the true heart of her inspiration. Even though her representations remind of the planet’s flora, her artworks are vibrant, and appear to encapsulate time and space.
Nnenna Okore’s Education and Career
The artist moved from Australia to Nigeria at the age of four. Her parents worked as academics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She spent there most of her childhood.
After secondary school, she moved to Swaziland for her high school studies. Actually, already during primary school, Okore showed a significant interest in visual art, achieving even in her young age awards and recognitions.
At the beginning of her university course she tended to use oil and acrylic paint as her artistic medium. By the third year, she implemented atypical materials in her creations. Her path toward sculpture began. She started using leather, jute, photographs and leaves, among others, to mark an expressive urgency.
Her interest flew into a vivid passion that pushed her to experimentations. Still today, her inspiration underlines a different artistic purpose, that goes in the field of the world’s origins.
In spite of being still a university student, she soon chose to focus on inventive recycling. The environmental issue started to pierce her works. Her art soon became a medium of protest and denounce. This intent, related to the Nigerian experience, never left her.
In 2001 Nnenna Okore moved to the United States for a master of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. She started her academic career in 2005 at North Park University, teaching three-dimensional design, sculpture and drawing.
Okore’s artworks have been exhibited in over 80 solo and group shows in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. Her artistic influence caught international press attention. She received enthusiastic reviews in publications such as The New York Times, Art South Africa, Sculpture Magazine and Financial Times.
As a result of her innovative sculpture and environmental commitment, she won many art recognitions. Among others, she received the Artist Full Fellowship nominee at Global Art Village in Delhi, India, the Artist Residency, Jean Paul Blachere Foundation in France and the Teaching Fellowship at the Skidmore College in New York.
Nnenna Okore’s paintings, to the origins of the Earth
“My inspirations derive from varying organic forms in nature, especially captivated by the ephemeral passage of time”
The artist celebrates nature at its primordial stage. Her artistic imaginary tells about birth and decay, life and death. In her artworks is possible to find a note a melancholy but the ode to Mother Earth is loud and clear.
The organic forms of nature are crystallized in their apex. It almost seems like they are going to perish in the exact following moment captured by the artist.
Okore underlines how much we still depend on nature, how much we rely on Earth’s resources for living, for surviving. This is why the artist focuses on the important task to preserve the planet. She represents nature’s fragility as a way to inspire human awareness.
“I strive to celebrate the beauty of life while it lasts. Even after it fades away, another bloom will come in the form of a new birth”
The ability of Earth to regenerate is what impresses Okore the most. While exploring diverse artistic possibilities, she keeps dedicating her art to nature.
Art we love
Nnenna Okore’s art ranges from sculpture to painting. Her stylistic approach puts nature in the first place, from the choice of using recycled materials, to the subjects of her creations.
She takes inspiration directly from Nigeria for some of the techniques she uses. The daily activities of weaving, sewing and dyeing observed in childhood, find application in the artistic field.
In her artworks, there is the eco of the African world she knew as a child. The warm colors and typical materials tell about her background, nevertheless, the delicate beauty pervading her works involves the entire humanity!
Visit the artist’s gallery on RDN Arts: Nnenna Okore’s gallery