Empowering Figures
American Art Collector|August 2021
Ayana Ross, winner of the second Bennett Prize, explores the themes of race and identity in her paintings.
ROCHELLE BELSITO

Looking at Ayana Ross’ paintings it is clear she is a storyteller. Each work has a strong point of view felt through the subjects, composition, and her individual style. The works are personal for the Georgia-based artist who uses her experiences and background to compose important and timely narratives. “I like to read a lot and think a lot about context—why things are the way they are and how did we get to this point,” says Ross. “A lot of times I go back to my origins, my experiences, and my roots and I pull from there.”

The figure is the primary vessel in her paintings, and it came naturally for Ross who began her career as a fashion designer before transitioning to education and then fine art. “I’ve always drawn people, since childhood, and in particular I’ve drawn women,” Ross explains. “I gravitate to the human figure because when I wanted to say something that was the first thing that I knew I could use to say it…That was the language for when I wanted to convey a message.”

As Ross has developed her artistic voice and style over the past few years, her art career has blossomed and reached new heights. One of her major achievements has been participating in the esteemed Bennett Prize, a biennial art competition for women figurative realist painters conceived by collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt to elevate women artists’ careers. In late November 2020, Ross was selected as one of the 10 finalists in the second edition of The Bennett Prize, and then on May 27, she was named the winner during the Rising Visions 2 exhibition for the finalists at Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan. Ross will now have the chance to create a major museum exhibition that will unveil in two years at the third Bennett Prize exhibition.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM AMERICAN ART COLLECTORView All

Awe and Wonder

As a child living in central Illinois, Bruce Cascia was given a Brownie camera by his father. The simple cameras were barely more than a box with a lens and a shutter release. They held film—“Two and-quarter by two-and-a-quarter,” Cascia recalls—but there was little room for bells and whistles.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Enhanced Memories

Throughout her three-decade career artist, Carrie Pearce has become recognized for painting odd objects or out-of-the-ordinary scenarios that have a touch of whimsy and sentimentality.

4 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Blending Spaces

John Tarahteeff’s paintings take you somewhere new, yet familiar. You don’t entirely know where it is, but it feels like you’ve been there before.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Colorado Beauty

The Eagle Valley Land Trust, located in Eagle County, Colorado, is dedicated to preserving 2,000 acres of land every year.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Artistic EVOLUTION

Daniel Bilmes’ first New York solo exhibition opens September 18 at Arcadia Contemporary with new work that shows his growth and development.

4 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Human Potential

Beginning September 10, Erin Currier of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will be showcasing a large collection of new works at Blue Rain Gallery. This includes about 12 collage paintings on panel, as well as over 20 framed, mixed media pen, marker and china marker works on archival paper.

3 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

Inside Their Worlds

Lawes was the Grand Prize award winner in International Artist magazine’s Challenge No. 123, Wildlife.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

RESHAPING REALISM

Principle Gallery presents the exhibition Disrupted Realism, curated by John Seed, featuring work by artists who are challenging and changing traditional realism.

4 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

The Clearing

Three years ago, Kai Samuels-Davis began preparing for his upcoming solo exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery. It wasn’t until a year ago that the series of paintings began to take shape.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021

The Edge of a Story

One a master of jubilant color, the other of dramatic lights and darks, the works of artists Colin Page and Kim English build each other up, telling stories through brushstrokes.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
September 2021