Wonder Ball | Firelei Báez
Born 1981, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
Lives and works in New York
Acrylic on Yupo paper
26 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco
Retail value: $5,500
For Firelei Báez, beauty is a means to discuss the complex and problematic issue of identity construction. Her delicately articulated compositions belie the artist’s aggressive dismissal of ethnic stereotypes and inherited racist viewpoints. In her paintings on paper, Báez flirts with fantasy and with the comedy of errors that underlies the perception of identity and culture, especially fraught within diasporic communities.
For centuries, women in the African Diaspora have used fashion and styling as a form of resistance. Báez depicts this history in paintings such as Untitled (2016). Her labor-intensive artistic process embodies the notion of struggle. The beauty of her work is as purposeful as it is aesthetic: with piercing gazes and a bold physical presence, Báez’s powerful women emerge out of abstract fields to deliver painful messages about both the past and the present.
Firelei Báez received a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York (2004) and an MFA from Hunter College, New York (2010). Her numerous awards include The Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting (2014); Headlands Center for the Arts, Artist in Residence (2013); Artist in the Marketplace (AIM), Bronx Museum (2012); and the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2010). Báez has had solo exhibitions at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City (2015); and Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2015). Her work is in the permanent collections of the BNY Mellon Art Collection, Pittsburgh; Jean-Marc Salomon Foundation for Contemporary Art, Annecy, France; Phillip and Tracey Riese Foundation, New York; Perez Art Museum, Miami; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.
Báez’s painting To see beyond it and to access the places that we know outside its walls (2015) was acquired by SJMA earlier this year.