Johansson Projects

Sheena Rose | Earth Black Lipstick

Feb 25 — Apr 1, 2023

Johansson Projects presents Earth Black Lipstick, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Barbados-based artist Sheena Rose. The exhibition runs from February 25 – April 1, 2023 with an artist reception on Friday, March 3, 5- 8pm.

Natasha Becker, Curator of African Art from the deYoung Museum, San Francisco writes:

Combining representation, abstraction, and bracing color, Sheena Rose captures the lost art of leisure. Her paintings depict Black bodies in slow motion: playing tennis or pool, lounging around having drinks or perhaps grooving to music. Proper leisure time is what nourishes the human spirit.

In America, sites of leisure for Black people have more often than not been inaccessible and racially charged. While Rose’s treatment of color and flatness of paint capture one’s attention, it is the content of her work that invites further thought: What does it mean for Black bodies to experience leisure when to be Black in America is to live through a continuous cycle of grind culture, protest, survival, and exhaustion?

Art history abounds with representations of people in states of leisure across space, time, and place. For instance, in modern Western society, scenes of people enjoying free time were a favorite subject of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, George Suerat, Auguste Renoir, and so on. Leisure activities -swimming, reading, walks in the park- were divided along race, class, and gender lines. It was really only the upper and bourgeois classes who had access to free time and leisure activities. None of these iconic examples from the history of Western art depict Black people in repose.

Rose’s relaxed figures challenge centuries of demands for Black labor and instead, finds empowerment through leisure. Her vivid scenes, meticulously rendered in paint, invite joyful, playful, envious, and optimistic ways of seeing Black bodies. Conceptually, she shows that her subjects can do more in art and life than signify struggle. Instead, the artist represents Black bodies in vignettes and non-linear narratives. Her subjects are in conversation or engaged in leisure. Their active recreation celebrates the joy of mental and physical prowess. Beauty, indoors and outside, gives pleasure and relaxation. Her paintings exist in the world and are distinguished and exceptional for the tender intimacy and emotional depths they impart.

Sheena Rose often cites Monserrat-based author Yvonne Weeks’ book of poetry “Nomad” as a source of inspiration for her work. Week’s poetry is described as speaking to the “worlds we conjure and the inner world of the eternal wanderer.” I think, however, that Sheena Rose lives within her own rich interior and vibrant exterior world which enables and empowers her to reflect on her past and imagine her future.

Earth Black Lipstick runs from February 25 – April 1, 2023 with an artist reception on Friday, March 3, 5- 8pm.

For all inquiries, contact Johansson Projects at 510-444-9140  or


Check gallery website for hours and additional info