Naudline Pierre’s ethereal paintings pull from both religious narratives and the artist’s personal history, creating a space that the gospel might refer to as in the world, but not of the world. “I grew up in a Christian Protestant religion that heavily emphasized prophecy and the end of the world. I absorbed lots of visuals of beasts and fire, but also many references to otherworldly beings and a future new world,” says Pierre. The artist worked with this lexicon of imagery—a stew of heavy beasts that mark the end times and divine figures that signal lightness—and brought it all down to an intimate, personal level that makes the sublime imagery feel at home among us. “All of this filters into creating an alter-ego who lives in an alternate universe filled with fantastical beings and quite a lot of fire.”
Pierre’s paintings—which are primarily figurative and in a style all her own—less illustrate singular moments so much as they create sweepings atmospheres that feel both accessible and transcendent. Her compositions recall Renaissance tableaus in which figures from earthly realms comingled with the preternatural. The work also engages problems of authorship within art history, probing questions as to what it means to be a young Black woman painting into subjects long dominated by white European men.
“Lately, my religious texts include anything by Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler,” she says. “At this moment, I find myself going back to Sula and Song of Solomon by Morrison, and Butler’s Parable series. Both of these authors’ works quench my soul in indescribable ways.” She’s currently wrapping up a residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem and preparing for a three-person exhibition at MoMA PS1. “I’m interested in expanding the alternate realities I’ve created in my work,” she adds, “and I’m most excited about fantasy, escape and world-building.”