Meet the Artist Who Challenges the Western Ideals of Beauty

Nigerian-American artist Dawn Okoro makes bold Afropunk portraits that poke holes at Western ideals of feminine beauty. Living and working in Austin, Texas, Okoro received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, and her Law degree from Texas Southern University. But it was her strong desire to become an artist that sparked her interest in fashion illustration, photography, and design.

Using oil, acrylic, and pencils, Okoro’s work is informed by the composition techniques used in fashion photography. “Her artwork embodies space, movement, pattern, design, texture, and color; as well as lived experiences and self-reflexivity,” reads her website.

“The purpose of my art is to be visually stimulating while creating a topic for conversation,” explained the artist in an interview with Super.Selected. “My work captures, femininity as a social construct as well as biological attributes. My work captures a lot of the Western ideals of femininity when I include stilettos, clothing that accentuates the waistline, and certain body shapes. On the other hand, I want to challenge Western ideals of feminine beauty.  That is why I paint more women who look like me – women of color.”

“I try to create work that is aesthetically pleasing,” she went on to say. “It has turned out, what is visually striking to me is also aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people.” According to Okoro: “art can be a tool for political activism. First it’s a way to draw attention to an issue. Art can make people ask questions. Second, art can unite the public so that they can engage and contribute to change.”

Take a look at some of her striking creations that incorporate photography, collages, fashion, and paintings.