Thursday, December 30, 2010

Starting on a new project

My best work seems to come from my gut. Sometimes I worry to much about creating what I think other people expect of me, and to me, the work ends up feeling "phoned in."

I am at the beginning stages of creating a completely new series of work. It will be based on feelings and images that have been pounding me over the head for the past few months. At this stage, I am researching and sketching out my ideas. I know that I want to make paintings and I want them to be large with rich colors. I want this series to be extravagant. Along with the creative side of things I am asking myself a few questions:

What material will I paint on?

What kind of paint will be appropriate?

How much time will it take to create these large works?

Why am I doing this?

I don't know where these completed new works will go. I just want to get the ideas out of my head and into reality and I'll go from there. I plan to update my blog with my progress.

The Selfsploitation project is still in full swing. I will be showing some of the drawings in New York in March. I am also working on a way to make the whole project really come to life. I want to create an experience that you can actually walk into and be surrounded by. Now I just need to find an institution thats willing to roll with me on this!

For more info about me and my work, visit

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Search engine keywords...a pulse on society?

This summer I wrote an essay about sexting and also shared a series of related drawings. Since then, I’ve noticed some interesting keywords that are directing people to this blog. Perhaps search engine keywords are a pulse on society?

Here is a list of some of the keywords that have directed people here:

can I share nude shots of another person

sexual sexting pose idea

dame lebeau photographs self

why do people pose as site models?

:site nude female artists

photo female bathroom mirror shorts

great artwork about life

list of celebrities who have had their cell phone nudes posted on the web

free Sexual photos and videos taken through cell phone cameras

drawing booty

women in artist pose

" and people off the street"

good sexting lines for girls

How to quit life and become an artist

female poses for the life artist

sexting examples for women

examples of sexting

dangerous sex photo between only boys

public vs private attitudes on sexting

how to pose when sexting

woman artists sexuality is empowering

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Now Showing

Several drawings from my "Selfsploitation" project will be exhibited in NYC this March. The work will be for sale with the proceeds benefiting a good cause. See info below:

NOW SHOWING features NYC’s most promising emerging artists along with literary performances by Lili Taylor and Jesse Eisenberg; a strolling fashion show; live music by Max Vernon; an exhibition of purchasable artwork; and a special performance by chamber-rock trio Rasputina.

Participating artists and musicians are past winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which has an 88-year legacy and a roster of famous winners including Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Redford and Richard Avedon.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, from 7 – 11pm

WHERE: Astor Center, 399 Lafayette St. at East 4th St., NY, NY 10003

7:00 – 8:30pm: VIP Preview, $125 (open bar and hors d’oeuvres)
8:30 – 11:00pm: General Admission, $30 (open bar)
Tickets go on sale in January at Proceeds benefit the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit organization that presents the Scholastic Awards.

Adriane Connerton
Valerie Crosswhite
Jonathan Cuba
Allison Edge
Abdi Farah
Amy Karle
Christopher Moss
Justin Nissley
Dawn Okoro
Anna Ortiz
Sarah Schrift
Lauren Simkin Berke
Alix Smith
Mara Sprafkin
Michael Tarbi
Max Vernon

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wrapping Up the Art Giveaway

My art giveaway for bloggers is coming to an end, and I am very pleased with the outcome. The purpose of my recent works is to be a starting point for critical conversation and blogs are a great medium for this discourse.

If you have blogged about my artwork anytime between July 29- Aug 31, 2010 and would like to receive an art photo, please email me at The limited edition photo is called "Frame Study" and is 4x6 inches.

For more details about the art giveaway click here.

Also, be sure to check out my relaunched website

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dawn Okoro Art Prints

I just wanted to remind you that limited edition prints of my paintings are available. These are a great alternative if your favorite original painting is sold or if you're on a budget.

Each of these giclee prints is printed on watercolor paper with archival inks. There are no more than 15 of these prints available for each painting. To view the available prints visit

Friday, August 13, 2010

Value of a Conversation: Derrick Adams

"The Root of it All," 2010 digital photograph 30 x 24 inches

I first met Derrick Adams on a sweltering summer day in New York. As an artist, he uses a variety of mediums to create an animated world populated by pseudo-educational characters. He was recently mentioned in the New York Times for his work in the "Lush Life" exhibit in the Lower East Side. Aside from being an artist and curator, Derrick is a connector.

I had just moved to New York City from Texas and was making an effort to meet all of the art professionals who had been reccomended to me by friends. Eager to meet him, I showed up at the gallery early-- laptop in hand, ready to take notes. It was his last day as director of Rush Arts Gallery. Derrick was stuck in traffic that day coming back to New York from Connecticut after the wedding of his friend, artist Mickalene Thomas.

I was so relieved when he finally arrived that evening. I was nervous and didn't know what to expect, but Derrick's demeanor was very kind and approachable. We went towards the back of the gallery and sat down. I plugged in my laptop.

I spilled the last 2 years of my life story-- told him I had recently graduated from law school, but was set on pursuing a career as an artist, etc. He asked me what kind of career I wanted to have as an artist. I told him I look up to artists like Wangechi Mutu, and Kara Walker. Then he took the time to look at some of the art slides I had brought on my laptop. For some reason not all of the slides were showing up (I would later realize that I had made an error in how I saved the remaining slides). Only a handful of slides came up; the only paintings I was able to show him were of women with afros.

Being the eager beaver, I asked him if he knew of any curators at that time who would be interested in my work. He politely said "No."

He said that he could see my talent in my technical skills but suggested that I push my work further. He observed the fact that my work is very tight and suggested that I loosen up. He also noticed that my paintings were very sparse-- a human figure surrounded by negative space. He suggested that I either help tell the story by adding more to the background or amplify the negative space.

He also said that while it is great to have talent in painting, I needed to find a way to distinguish myself from the many great artists out there. He looked at my paintings of the women with afros again, and said that he didn't see how I was distinguishing myself from someone like Mickalene Thomas. He suggested that I experiment and rework the way I think about creating art. He suggested that after I have created new works, invite some artists that I trust over to my studio to discuss the work and bounce thoughts and ideas. He said I needed to see what kind of conversation the new work inspired and if I felt it necessary, rework from that point.

There was so much more helpful advice given during that conversation, I will have to cover some of it in a future blog post. He was generous enough to speak with me for quite some time and answered all of my questions (I literally brought a list of questions). One thing that really struck me about our conversation was that it was such a wake up call. His constructive criticism reminded that I needed to step up my game and really distinguish myself as an artist. That is something that I will always work on.

To see more of Derrick's work, visit

Related Posts:
Value of a Conversation: Lauren Kelley

People I've Met in Houston Who've Influenced Me - William Cordova

Thursday, August 05, 2010

New Drawing "Tiffany"

This is a drawing of a subject who gave me permission to use one of her camera phone photos for my project. To see more works from the "Selfsploitation" project click here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dawn Okoro Art Giveaway for Bloggers

"Frame Study," photograph, 4x6 inches

In order to celebrate the relaunch of my website, I will give away a limited edition photograph to anyone who makes a blog post about my artwork anytime between July 29- Aug 31, 2010.

The Artwork
To prepare for my "Frame" painting, I photographed a model in various poses. The work I am giving away is a photo called "Study for Frame." The photos are 4x6 inches and part of a limited edition of 100. Each photo is signed and numbered.

To receive one of the photographs, all you have to do is create a blog posting about my art anytime between July 29-Aug 31, 2010. The blog post must include at least one image of my work and a link to my website.

After you have made the blog post, send an email to with the blog link, your name, and mailing address.

I will keep giving away the photos until August 31st unless I run out the 100 photos. My art website is

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Selfsploitation: Women, Technology, and the Fading Dichotomy Between Public and Private

By Dawn Okoro

Standing before the bathroom mirror, the green and beige floral shower curtain is the backdrop; with camera phone in hand, she lifts her Superman logo t-shirt baring all that is underneath. She smirks, sticking her tongue out to the side of her mouth just before snapping a photo of her reflection. The flash casts a star-shaped glare across the mirror. The result is one of the many photos found on one particular young woman's social networking webpage. She has chosen to share this part of herself with the world.

With the advent of social networking websites people have a medium to express themselves to a wider audience. All it takes is a digital camera, a computer, or a cell phone that has both. Although this behavior was seemingly common place by the early 2000's it was gaining more attention in the media. Celebrity nude cell phone photos were leaked to the public, and some would-be celebrities were able to capitalize off the exposure of what they claimed to be private sex photos and videos. After coming across so many of these sexualized images on social networking sites and hearing about related controversies in the news, I became intrigued and had many questions about this behavior-- especially as it pertained to women. To facilitate my understanding, I created the "Selfsploitation" project which is composed of research, an informal survey, drawings, and this essay.

Sexting and the Law
Publicizing one's sexuality is nothing new. However, taking nude or sexually suggestive photos of one's self and transmitting them via cell phone or computer can lead to undesirable consequences. Sexting is the act of sending sexually suggestive photos or messages via cell phone or social networking sites. According to a survey conducted by, 20% of teens have sexted. In some cases, the law sees it as a serious crime.

In 2007 an 18 year old Orlando teen sent nude photos of his 16 year old girlfriend to her friends and family after an argument. He was eventually charged and plead guilty to distributing child pornography and was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to register as a sex offender. Being placed on the sex offender registry gives someone the stigma of being a dangerous sex offender which can be unfair if it isn't true. The case of the 18 year old Orlando teen inspired Florida to join 15 other states in considering lessening the penalty for sexting and separating it from child pornography. Minors who are first time offenders would get 8 hours of community service along with a $25 fine. The second offense would result in a misdemeanor and possbile jail time. The new law says that sexting among teens is not child pornography, but not something that should be taken lightly. It provides a punishment without giving teens the lifelong sentence of being a labled sex offender.

What Do People Really Think About Sexting?
Once I realized why sexting could be such a serious issue, I decided to conduct an informal survey on my blog. I asked for people's thoughts on sexting among adults and teens. I was fortunate to have obtained responses from people who have participated in sexting as well as people who haven't. One sexter said that they did it because they were feeling amorous and it was a way to see if another person was willing to send these kinds of photos if asked. To them, it's a turn on. Another sexter said that they had emailed sexually explicit photos because they were in long distance serious relationship. The participant said that "texting dirty things and emailing nude photos can keep things interesting and hold off sexual frustration." None of the participants had ever posted sexualized photos on social websites.

Several celebrities have had private nude videos and photos "leaked" to the public. On internet message boards, some of the celebrities were called "slut," "whore," and "dirty" after their sexualized photos were released to the public. From what I observed, female celebrities were judged more harshly than males in these scenarios. I asked my survey participants what they thought about the hype surrounding nude celebrity cell phone pictures and how they felt about the public's judgement. One participant called the concept of leaked celebrity photos "sad and paradoxical." On one hand, these celebrities took the risk of snapping the photos knowing they live in the public eye. On the other hand, the participant said, these are their own personal pictures and their privacy should be respected. One point that all the participants agreed on was a disdain for the hypocrisy of people who chose to tear celebrities down because of their choice to take nude home photos. One of the participants said that public sexuality should be more widely accepted, especially since sexuality "is a large part of who we are and how we were made."

Gender Roles and Sexting
Most articles that I read about sexting among teens painted a portrait of a girl who was pressured by a boy to photograph herself in racy poses. The survey says that 18% of boys say they pressure their girlfriends to sext. However, a survey conducted by psychologist Susan Lipkins, said that only 2% of girls said they sexted because of pressure. Some argue that boys should not pressure girls and that many girls will do "anything to keep a boyfriend." Others reject that argument, and believe the concern over girls may be a societal double standard about female sexuality.

Although surveys show that young boys sext just as much as girls, the majority of the articles that I read on the subject focused on protecting girls and their reputations. When busted for sexting, teen girls seem to take the brunt of the moral burden, however, boys seem to end up more harshly punished by schools and the law. There exists a two way double standard in that regard. Perhaps society's notions of female sexuality skews our views on sexting as it relates to teen girls.

Sexting as a Vehicle for Female Empowerment?
A woman who chooses to broadcast sexualized photos of herself is not always pressured or a victim. Some women broadcast their sexuality for more complex reasons. By all means people, especially teens, need to be aware of the potential consequences. But what if a woman simply wants to share nude photos of herself as a statement?

During my research I came across the social networking page for a young woman who calls herself Dame Lebeau. She maintains a project called "My Nude Self" in which she posts daily photos of herself. She snaps each photo herself, sometimes in lingerie, sometimes with fruit, but usually in nothing at all. She took the initiative to learn the technical side of photography, lighting and composition helping bring each photo from her project to the level of a unique expression of art. In this way, public nudes could be a way to exercise agency over one's sexuality and therefore empowering.

My Search for Image Sources
After I'd read more about sexting and the plights and victories attached, I wanted to figuratively memorialize women who had expressed themselves in this way. For the visual side of my "Selfsploitation" project, I wanted to photograph women simulating sexting in a studio setting, then I would create drawings and paintings from these new photos. In order to do this, I needed to pull specific visual examples of sexting. I used a search engine to assist in finding photos. One of the first sites I came across was the now defunct "Freaks on Myspace." It was a site dedicated to gathering nude or otherwise sexually suggestive photos that women had posted on social networking sites and placing them in one location. Under each photo was a place for viewers to leave comments. Most of the comments were harsh critiques of the women's bodies and there was lots of name calling. Clickable ads lined the sides of the website. The owners of the site had found a way to cash in on hundreds of women's sexting photos, apparently without their knowledge.

Another site that I checked for image sources was American Apparel's website. Many of the photos of young women channeled sexting. Instead of using professional models, American Apparel enlists their employees and people off the street to pose for their often sexually provacative ad campaigns. Although the company is very strict about what their employees and street models look like, many of these young people look like someone you might see walking down the street in Soho, South Austin, or Downtown LA. I am not saying that anyone is coerced to model for the company, but something in many of the girls' eyes strikes me as despondent, almost as if they didn't really want to be there. For this reason, images from American Apparel ad campaigns were useful sources for my "Selfsploitation" project.

Aside from "Freaks on Myspace," and American Apparel, I was able to see examples of sexting on social networking pages that I'd naturally come across and through friends. Some people actually sent me images to work with in order to help with the project.

Simulated Sexting
One of the vital steps in creating images for my project was to have models pose in the spirit of sexting. I found models on a social site called "Model Mayhem." Before meeting in person, I explained what I was working on and showed the models examples of the kinds of poses I expected. The possibility of posing nude was discussed. Once the models agreed, I scheduled a photo session with each one. I asked each model to bring a t-shirt, shorts and under garments to pose in.

Each session started with the model fully clothed. I would show her an image that I had pulled from the web and asked her to imitate the pose. After I began shooting the first model, I realized that in order to get the outcome I wanted, the models needed to not only imitate the poses, but they also needed to channel the gritty attitude found in some of the sexting photos. Some of the models were able to turn on this attitude, while others weren't.

Aside from the fully clothed shots, I needed the models to imitate some of the nude images that I'd gathered. I am a shy person, and was very uncomfortable when it came time to ask the models to pose nude or even topless. Ultimately none of the models were willing to pose nude for the project. A couple of the models were willing to pose topless as long as their breasts were covered.

After creating the new images sources of simulated sexting, I was ready to create drawings on paper and eventually paintings. I would also create work using ads and sexting photos found on the internet as image sources. I was nervous going into the project. What many had liked about my previous work was that I depicted women in proud powerful poses and now it appeared that I was doing a 180. In order to open a dialogue about the way women might objectify themselves was I in turn objectifying these women? My answer is no. I am extracting the images from their original settings and recontextualizing them. I think of the newly created works as incomplete sentences, and it is from there that I hope they provoke conversation.

Sexters Should Not be Condemned
I do not believe that women who choose to take sexualized photos and share them electronically should be condemned. I do believe that many women, especially teen girls are pressured into such activity, and will later regret their decisions to partake in sexting. Far too many women sext without awareness of the potential consequences. On the other hand, not all women who sext are coerced and some women post nude photos online as a self empowering art form. However, people need to be educated in technology and the potential long lasting effects of such behavior. Media education is the key to helping women make informed decisions before clicking "send."

To view drawings from the "Selfsploitation" project visit

American Apparel, (last visited July 22, 2010).

My Nude Self, (last visited July 22, 2010).

Nina Funnell, Sexting Gives Teens More Control, Nine News (August 18, 2009),

Peggy O'Crowley, Sexting Generation, Real Psychology (August 13, 2009),

Peter Cummings, Children’s Rights, Children’s Voices, Children’s Technology, Children’s Sexuality, Live Leak (Complete Speech, May 26, 2009),

Rachel O, Sexting, Sextapes, and Popular Culture, Feminist Fatale (April 26, 2010),

States Mull Softening "Sexting" Laws, CBS News (March 24, 2010),

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Drawing "Cassie"

This drawing is inspired by a set of nude cell phone photos leaked of the singer Cassie last year. It's part of my "Selfsploitation" project.

To see more drawings from the project, please visit my website and click "projects."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Drawing "Robyn"

This drawing is based on a set of private cell phone photos that were leaked of singer Rihanna. This drawing is part of my "Selfsploitation" project.

To view more drawings from "Selfsploitation" click here.
For more information about me or my artwork, please visit

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oxford American Magazine Scan

I am more than a little late on this, but I finally got a couple of pages from this issue of Oxford American scanned. My painting "Turned Away" was featured in their "Race" issue to accompany a story written by John Holman.

Additional artists whose work is featured in the issue include, Jacob Lawrence, Jeff Sonhouse, Robert Pruitt, Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, Laylah Ali and many many more. The beautiful cover was done by Hank Willis Thomas.

This issue features some wonderful art and articles. It is no longer in stores, but back issues are available at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Working in Other Mediums: Photography

Dawn Okoro shooting Shante for the "Power" series. (photo credit

I started off drawing as a child and became comfortable with that. Then I learned to paint and became really comfortable with that. Since photography plays such a large role in my painting process, I felt that it was important to improve my photography skills.

Initially, I was afraid to pick up the camera-- I knew very little about operating a camera or lighting. I didn't want to mess things up. Hence, I would create artwork based on existing photos or I would have a professional photographer capture my concepts for me. A little over a year ago, I decided to step behind the camera and I'm glad I did.

Learning how to shoot is making me a better painter. Photography is teaching me how to better manipulate lighting and composition. Its helping me take what is in my head and manifest that visually and really get what I want out of the photo shoot.

At an art talk I did earlier this year, someone asked me if I now consider myself a photographer. If I were to label myself then a long list of nouns would surround my name. I am comfortable being called a painter, photographer, or multimedia artist depending on the context. I definitely plan to allow some of my photos to stand on their own and let them be the art.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


These are a couple of small paintings that I finished earlier this year and showed at Notre Dame. They are the result of a photo session I did with a model in Brooklyn. They are acrylic on canvas; the backgrounds are done in a silver metallic paint.

"Shine" acrylic on canvas, 16x20 inches

"Shine 2" acrylic on canvas, 16x20 inches

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Drawing

"Untitled" color pencil and watercolor on paper, 8x8 inches

This drawing is part of the current project that I am working on.

To learn more about me and my art visit my website

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

7 Myths About Becoming an Artist

There are many misconceptions that hold some of us back from becoming the artists we want to be. Over the past few years, I have been able to gain experience through trial and error and I have also gleaned helpful advice from artists I admire. I decided to condense some of that advice and experience into a list of myths.

Myth #1: You have to have an MFA to show in the "good" galleries.
Art school is one of the many tools that artists use. Depending on how you use this tool, it can open doors. However, art school is not a requirement to become successful as an artist. Do you think mainstream museums and galleries turn down Jean Michel-Basquiat's work because he didn't earn an MFA? Of course not.

Art school can be a great opportunity to learn, grow and find ourselves as artists. However, for various reasons, not every artist is able to work towards an MFA (Master's Degree in Fine Arts). In these cases, if an artist wants to get art education in a classroom setting, there are alternatives. Consider workshops and courses at your local museum or other art institution. Some art institutions (museums, non-profit galleries, etc) have great independent study programs that may be more flexible and affordable.

There are several living contemporary artists who are doing very well despite not going the traditional BFA/MFA route. If you have talent, vision and a good strategy, you will find your way into the door.

Myth #2: You have to draw and paint well to be an artist.
There is so much more to art than being able to push a paint brush or pencil well. You can take classes to learn specific techniques, but art is about creation and expression. Art is about executing new ideas. If you feel drawn to create, start making things, no matter how silly it may seem. Some of the best creations come from this kind of experimentation.

On the other hand, if you are already comfortable with a few ways of expression (drawing, painting, sculpting), don't be afraid to venture out into new territory. Experimentation is vital to growth as an artist.

Myth #3: You have to quit your day job to become a "real" artist.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about living as an artist. Some think that as soon as you decide to become an artist (especially later in life) you need to quit your day job and be able to live off of your art right away. This expectation puts a lot of unnecessary strain on a person.

It is almost every artist's goal to someday be able to make a living from their artwork. However, it often takes years of patience and perseverance to build an art practice that has strong earning power.

It would be wonderful to be able to focus our full day on our artwork without the stress of a 9 to 5. Full-time jobs tend to suck out creative energy. When you get home from a long day on the job, you're often too tired to make art. You want to crash and relax after a long day's work.

However, those of us who do not have access to a trust fund or family support need a day job to pay the bills until our art earns enough. I suggest finding a job that you can tolerate. Find a job that is not too stressful and has decent hours.

In order to make fine art your full-time job, you must be well disciplined and organized. I cannot stress this enough. Art is an occupation in itself, so you will have to think of it as your other job. You will need to be willing to commit your nights and weekends to research, creating work, networking, and applying to programs. Maintaining a full-time or part-time job allows emerging artists the freedom to grow and create what comes out naturally without the pressure of scrambling to make work that will sell in order to pay last month's rent.

Myth #4: Expensive materials are necessary to make art.
Art is all around us. You don't need expensive art materials to create a strong work of art. One of my colleagues has created art for a museum using basic office supplies. You just need an idea and a creative way to express that idea using the resources that you have.

Myth #5: You have to brainstorm to come up with good ideas.
Some of the best ideas are ones that flow in naturally. If you rely on brainstorming to try and find that next great idea, you are likely to work yourself into frustration. I suggest keeping a small notepad nearby so that you can write down ideas as the come to you throughout the day. Then make an effort to pursue those ideas.

Myth #6: You have to live in a major city to become a successful artist.
Another misconception is that artists need to live in a major city like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, etc in order to make it as an artist. Living in a major city does have its advantages, however it is not a requirement. If you are not able to move or don't desire to live in a big city, you will need to make an effort to take advantage of the resources major cities offer.

If you don't live in or near a large city, I suggest making trips throughout the year to attend art events if you can afford to. If you are going to visit a major city to attend art events, make sure to go at a time when things are popping in that city. For example, if you are planning to visit New York, Fashion Week would be a good time to go because lots of major art exhibits open around that time. You will have to research and figure out the best time to visit any particular city for business purposes.

Also, when you decide to visit a major city to attend art events (shows, lectures, symposiums, etc) make a list of people you would like to meet. Ideally, you are going to want to meet artists, curators and eventually dealers and gallery owners. When you get home, follow up with the art professionals you have met, just as you would for any other occupation.

Myth #7: You don't have the credentials yet to apply for a program at a major institution.
So many opportunities have been missed because an artist felt he or she did not have the credentials to even try. If you know of an art institution that is taking submissions or proposals go for it! Like they say, half of the job is showing up. I know several artists who have had the opportunity to show in major galleries early in their careers.

Regardless of whether you went to art school or not, or have little experience, you should at least make the effort to submit your work. You never know where you might end up showing your art!

To learn more about me and my artwork, visit my website

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Drawing

"Untitled" color pencil and watercolor on paper, 8x8 inches

This drawing is part of the current project that I am working on.

To learn more about me and my art visit my website

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summertime Recollection

Photos by Kelly Wamhoff, 2000

"Summertime Recollection" is a set of 4 paintings I created for the 2009 Texas Biennial. Even though I created these self portraits fairly recently, the various image source materials are more than 10 years old.

In the summer of 2000 I posed in photos for Kelly Wamhoff who was then a photography student. I posed in several outfits and hairstyles throughout Central Austin. One of those places was in front of the "Welcome to Austin" postcard mural painted on the side of Roadhouse Relics (1720 South 1st Street).

The mural was painted by Austin artists Billy Brakhage and Rory Skagen in 1997. It is 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It can be seen as a backdrop for countless Christmas cards, band photos, and local magazines.

For the photo of me in front of the mural, Kelly styled me in a purple wig, vintage sleeveless blouse with metallic gold threads, jewelry and jeans. Many years later, I came across the contact sheets from that photo session and felt nostalgic about that summer. I adapted 4 of the photos into paintings, each one oil on canvas with goldleaf to highlight the clothing and jewelry. I painted off-centered borders on each canvas, to give the look of a frame from a filmstrip.

"Summertime Recollection (1,2,3,4)" oil and goldleaf on canvas, each 18x20 inches

For more information about me and my art, please visit my website

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Art Show: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Exhibit Coming up in New York

Photo taken by Richard Avedon for a Versace advertising campaign

I will have work on exhibit in June at the World Financial Center as part of the Scholastic art and Writing Awards Exhibition. I won a Scholastic award when I was in high school, and this year work by several past winners will be on exhibit, in addition to the exhibition of select teen winners. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is administered by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and recognizes student achievement in the visual arts and creative writing in the United States.

"From June 9-25, the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Teen Exhibition will celebrate young talent with a three-part exhibition that features a broad selection of works by this year's Award winners, six site-specific works created by distinguished artists who won the Award when they were in high school, and a timeline and display of artifacts honoring the Awards' 87-year legacy."

Visual Arts
Richard Avedon
Philip Pearlstein
Tom Otterness
Kay WalkingStick
Rodney Alan Greenblatt
Mara Sprafkin
Dawn Okoro
Joyce Lee
Nicole Tschampel
Arnold Hurley
Carol Padberg
Wheeler Kincaid
Steve Diamond
Gary Panter

Carolyn Forché
Ned Vizzini
Wendy Richmond
Peter Beagle
Bernard Malamud
Sylvia Plath
Truman Capote
Sue Miller
Joyce Maynard
Joyce Carol Oates
Robert McCloskey

For more information view: this article about the show and this press release

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dawn Okoro Interview With BGLH Online

In the interview I discuss what lead me to paint so many black women with natural hair. Check it out here:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dawn Okoro Interview With Afro Glitz Mag

Thanks to Miss Gee for featuring me in Afro Glitz Mag. Check out the interview here:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New Drawing

This Untitled drawing is part of this project.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Women of Notre Dame Part 2

This is one of the students who kindly posed for me when I visited this past winter.


Also check out Women of Notre Dame Part 1.

Friday, April 30, 2010

And the Winner Is. . .

Congrats to @IvetteMeans! She won the print in my retweet contest! Stay tuned for more giveaways.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm Giving a Print Away on Twitter!


I am giving away a limited edition print of the "Frame" painting.

To enter:
1) Follow @dawnokoro on Twitter.
2) Tweet "RT @dawnokoro: Just entered #dawnokoro art giveaway"

-Must enter by 5/1/10 12:01am est.
-You can enter as many times as you want, as long as your tweet includes the link and hashtag.
-Winner will be chosen randomly through
-Winner will be announced on Twitter and this blog on 5/1/10.

More information about me and my art: (prints)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Women of Notre Dame Part 1

Earlier this year, I was invited to speak and exhibit work at The University of Notre Dame. While I was there, some of the students volunteered to pose for future artwork. I needed to use the sun as a light source and these young women were gracious enough to pose for me outside despite the cold and snow. Here are a couple of the drawings that I made; both are colored pencil on paper. I will post more this week.

Erdina (graduating this semester)! 6x6 inches

Amber (recent grad)! 6x8 inches

For more information about me and my artwork, visit my website

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kenya Robinson Open Studio at LMCC

Kenya Robinson, who I previously blogged about here, is holding an open studio this weekend.

Join The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as they open their Workspace studios to the public for one weekend only, with an opening reception, open hours, and a reading. Meet the 20 visual artists and 9 writers in their studio spaces and see what they’ve been working on since September 2009.

An RSVP is required. Click here for additional information.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Drawing "Booty Shake and Share"

This drawing is called "Booty Shake and Share." It is colored pencil and watecolor on paper 9x8 inches.

A lot of young women record videos of themselves dancing in their living rooms, then upload them to video sharing sites like YouTube. This drawing is based on a still frame from one of those videos.

For more about this project, click here.
For more information about me and my art go to my website

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Drawing

For this drawing, I had a model pose for a photo. I used color pencil and watercolor on paper. The drawing is 8x8 inches.

Click here to see yesterday's blog post about why I am doing these kinds of drawings.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Value of a Conversation: Carrie Mae Weems


"Carrie Mae Weems uses colloquial forms—jokes, songs, rebukes—in photographic series that scrutinize subjectivity and expose pernicious stereotypes. Weems's vibrant explorations of photography, video, and verse breathe new life into traditional narrative forms—social documentary, tableaux, self-portrait, and oral history. Eliciting epic contexts from individually framed moments, Weems debunks racist and sexist labels, examines the relationship between power and aesthetics, and uses personal biography to articulate broader truths" (source Art 21).

When I met Carrie at my last art show, it was just amazing to be in the presence of an artist who I have been reading about for so long. She was carrying a small camera and taking pictures of everything around her. We talked about my art process, etc.

One of the things that stood out to me in our conversation was that she sternly expressed that in her experience, it is very difficult to get one's due respect as a female artist. She very tongue-in-cheek added that its even rare to get so much as a compliment or acknowledgment from men in the art community. Being female, of course that concerns me. I will have to remain aware, put my blinders on, and press forward.

Carrie Mae Weems has work on exhibit at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York through May 22nd.
More info

Progress on My New Project

Lately, I have been scaling back from the paintings and instead opting to make drawings. Drawing with pencil feels very natural to me as this is where most of us started as children.

You will notice that the way I am presenting my subjects is different from my previous work. Why? I am studying the way women put themselves on view through technology. I am studying this by:

-viewing social networking sites and advertising
-having women pose in my workspace to recreate some of these images
-conducting an online survey
-writing an essay about my experience and findings
-memorializing these women through paintings and drawings

Although some of the images that I have come across sadden me, I am also intrigued.

Update: Drawings for the "Selfsploitation" project are here. My essay about the project is here.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Value of a Conversation: Lauren Kelley

I recently visited Lauren Kelley's studio; she is an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The Studio Museum's artist in residence program provides artists with a stipend and a space to create their work. I went to see Lauren to chat and ask for some advice.

Lauren's work explores the female disposition in a demanding and oversexed world. Some of her work includes stop-motion animated videos reminiscent of children’s programs that were launched in the 1970s and ´80s. My eyes lit up when I saw the miniature set that she was working on. In addition to the colorful set, there were dozens of Barbie doll bodies, heads and trinkets everywhere-- it all really tapped into the child in me. We went to visit a doll maker who may assist with her current project. I can't wait to see the final product.

She asked me what I was working on. I told her that I had this grand idea, but was unable to make much progress because I didn't feel that I had all the resources that I needed to make it happen. Upon hearing this, Lauren encouraged me to not get stuck on one idea and to experiment using the resources that I do have.

I am now working to move forward, even if that means working in a different medium or using a different method than expected. I don't want what I perceive as a lack of resources put a halt to my creative output.

The Studio Museum is hosting an Artist in Residence Open Studio on April 11th from 1-6pm. This is a great opportunity to meet the artists and preview their new work as they prepare for their upcoming summer exhibition.

Related Post:
People I've Met in Houston Who've Influenced Me - William Cordova

Monday, March 22, 2010

In case you missed it. . .

In case you missed the art show last month, my website is updated with most of my paintings from that show. Some of those pieces have been posted on this blog. Visit my website and click on the "dawn art" section. The newest work is in the first couple of rows.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Point and Shoot"

"Point and Shoot" oil and acrylic on canvas, 24x36 inches.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Girl Talk: Narratives by Eight Women" in Harlem

I plan to attend this art opening tonight:

RFA Gallery will host Girl Talk: Narratives by Eight Women co-curated by Deborah Willis, photographer, author of the "Posing Beauty in African American Culture from 1890 to the Present," and M. Liz Andrews, performance artist and arts administrator.

Girl Talk is a presentation of photographs, paintings, film, jewelry and quilted pieces exploring the themes of imposed identity, beauty, tradition and self-definition. The title of the show is inspired by the song "Girl Talk" by Dakota Staton. "Her rendition of "Girl Talk" reminds us of the importance of women sharing stories and telling histories. The history of women in this nation is comprised of a multitude of stories, struggles and successes." Willis declares.

The artists include: Ifetayo Abdus-Salam, a photographer whose work prompts contemplation of the notion of power, sexuality and identity; Micaela Anaya, a painter influenced by Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali who will feature portrait pieces with a deliberate political message; Delphine Fawundu-Buford, a photographer, will show portraits emblematic of the song Four Women by the iconic Nina Simone; Anna Maria Horsford, better known as a television and film actor, will present jewelry and adornment designs; Letitia Huckaby, a photographer and journalist, uses quilts to create intimate narratives that reflect the cultural history of African Americans; Melvina Lathan, the first female licensed Boxing Judge in New York and artist who uses fiber to create works whose subjects range from history to contemporary culture; Carla Williams, a writer and photographer who will present portraits capturing images of femininity and Kathe Sandler, an award winning independent documentary filmmaker who explores race, gender, culture, identity, and history.

Opening reception March ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­12, 2010, 6 - 9PM at the RFA Gallery, 2075 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd, Harlem, New York. Exhibition Dates: March 12-April 10, 2010.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Exhibition

When I was in high school, my art teachers helped me submit my artwork to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition. That year, I won several Gold Key Awards and my work was sent to New York for the national competition. The achievement in the Scholastic Art Awards is one of the morsels that encouraged me to eventually pursue a career as an artist.

This year, in addition to the student winners exhibition, "a special ancillary gallery will showcase works by prominent past winners." I have been invited to show a new work in this exhibition which pays tribute to the impressive history of the Awards, from 1923 until now. The work will be installed in a storefront gallery space on the ground floor of 1 World Financial Center. The storefront space will exhibit works by illustrious past winners and include actual artifacts such as books, artworks, portraits and catalogues.

"Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Philip Pearlstein, David Salle, Robert Indiana, Tom Otterness and Zac Posen, all won Scholastic Art Awards when they were in high school.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is presented by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to both identifying teenagers with exceptional artistic and literary talent and bringing their remarkable work to a national audience."

The work will be on exhibit June 9-25, 2010 at the World Financial Center, New York, NY.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

AfriPOP! interview: Dawn Okoro

I was recently interviewed by Nosarieme Garrick for AfriPOP! Magazine. Check it out here:

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Click Clack"

"Click Clack," oil and acrylic on canvas, 24x24 inches (@ RFA Gallery, 2075 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd New York, NY 10027)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Presentation at Notre Dame

I'm really excited about my upcoming visit to Notre Dame. I will be visiting as a guest speaker, and I will also exhibit my artwork. The University and the surrounding community is invited to an exhibit of my work on February 9th.

The University also has a wonderful Black History event planned on February 10th, in which I will give a presentation along with Patrice Yursik on the importance of positive self perception in African American women. The presentations will be followed by a workshop aimed at encouraging positive self-image.

Write Up in Jungle Gym Magazine

Check out the review of our Urban Pulse art show in Jungle Gym Magazine.

"[W]e’re all familiar with the iPhone bathroom mirror picture, but what does it mean?" Read more at Jungle Gym Magazine.

Friday, February 05, 2010

To Be Forever Immortalized

As you can see, I love to paint people. I am beginning to work on new projects, and I need more people to pose for me in New York. I am working on a couple of different projects in which I need people that are modelesque or very interesting looking. I am looking for males and females of all races. Posing nude is not a requirement, but you should be comfortable with your body.

Posing for me would entail me taking photos of you. If you are interested, email me at You can see more of my artwork at

The above painting is "Shine 2" acrylic on canvas, 16x20 inches.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

It Was A Great Art Show

First of all, I want to thank everyone that came out to the show! I really appreciate your support. I had a blast, and it was wonderful to meet so many people.

I create for myself, but I'm not satisfied leaving my work stashed under the bed. Putting the work out there in the world helps complete my process.

It was interesting to hear viewers' thoughts on my work. One question that came up alot, to my surprise, was whether my work was photographs. I explained that all my work at the show was oil and acrylic painted on canvas. I also noted that I use photographs for reference in order to make the figures in my paintings proportional.

It was great to see several notable artists at the show as well. Lauren Kelley, came out to support as well as Leroy Henderson and Carrie Mae Weems.

I was overwhelmed by the turnout at the art opening. The show included nine of my paintings as well as metal sculptural works by Jordan!™ and paintings by Justin West. In case you didn't make it to the opening, the show runs until March 6th.

RFA Gallery

2075 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY (7th Ave @ 124th around the corner from the Studio Museum)
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11:00am - 7:00pm

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday is the Night!

New Yorkers, I hope to see you at my art show tomorrow! Feel free to pass this info along.

"Urban Pulse" Opening Reception - Friday, January 29, 2010 6:00pm - 9:00pm

RFA Gallery
2075 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY (7th Ave @ 124th around the corner from the Studio Museum)

Show runs through March 6, 2010

More info:

The above painting is "Flatiron" oil and acrylic on canvas 24x24 inches.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Liberator Magazine "On Beauty: Dawn Okoro"

"LM: I noticed that many of the women in your paintings tend to be dark-skinned and have amazing, perfectly coiffed afros. Is this a conscious decision to address our notions of "traditional" beauty and take on the perennial debates about complexion and hair texture? Also, I was wondering how you felt about Andrea Pippins' recently launched I Love My Hair project. It seems like you two are on the same wavelength visually and conceptually. (

DO: One of the reasons that I have painted the afros is simply because I find them aesthetically pleasing. In some of my paintings, I have taken an image that I saw in a mainstream fashion magazine reformed it. As I continue to create work like this, I do hope to incite conversation about this unconventional beauty that is missing from most of these magazines. My practice does overlap with Andrea's because we’re both putting a spotlight on beauty that hasn't gotten much shine in mainstream culture."
See Full Excerpt Here:
(Interview by Danielle Scruggs)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A New Outlook

One of the most common comments I get about my artwork is that is that it represents a positive image of the black woman. For the most part, I paint whatever I am compelled to paint at that particular point. Looking back, I think that I may have been compelled to fight against certain negative stereotypes.

However, it is very important to me that my work spark a dialogue. I feel that this might be achieved more so in some of my recent work. At face value, these paintings may not necessarily represent a positive image of black women, but I hope that they inspire a conversation about why people adopt certain attributes.

The above painting is related to this blog post I did a few months ago. It is called "Instamatic," it will be exhibited along with other new work at RFA Gallery from January 29 thru March 6, 2010.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Urban Pulse" Art Show

"Urban Pulse" is an exploration into identity, class and culture set against the ever evolving back drop of New York City, featuring the paintings and sculptural works of Dawn Okoro, Jordan!™ and Justin West.

Opening Reception - Friday, January 29, 2010 6:00pm - 9:00pm

RFA Gallery
2075 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY (7th Ave @ 124th around the corner from the Studio Museum)

Show runs through March 6, 2010

Final Stretch

I am finishing up some of the work that I will be showing this month at RFA gallery. It feels good to be in the final stretch.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I enjoy listening to art lectures on my ipod while I paint. The other day, I was listening to a Lorna Simpson lecture. Lorna is best known for her photography and text work, view her website here.

In the lecture she explained her art piece titled "Wigs." She explains that in the neighborhood where her studio was at the time, there was a wig shop on almost every block. One day, she decided to go to different shops to purchase several wigs. She then mounted the wigs up and photographed them individually. She created "a series of lithographs on felt, composed rather like portraiture. . . her work is a commentary on race, with hair serving as a racial marker of differance, subject to celebration and derision" [per NYU litmed database].

I am very taken aback by the series, simple, elegant and impactful. It also hadn't occurred to me that photos could be printed on felt.

Lorna also has an AMAZING studio here in Brooklyn. It was the first American project by the London-based architect David Adjaye: