A Denver-born painter is one of 25 newly announced MacArthur Fellows. Jordan Casteel, whose large scale portraits capture her subjects’ gaze in a colorful style, is among the winners of the prestigious award.
The 32-year-old specializes in capturing the faces and people around her, depicting them with a steadfast gaze towards the audience.
Born to social justice advocate Lauren Young Casteel and attorney Charles Casteel in Denver, Jordan Casteel studied in Georgia and Italy before pursuing graduate studies in Yale. She later relocated to New York City. Her paintings have gained popularity over the past few years through a series of well-received shows. She made her homecoming debut at the Denver Art Museum in 2019 with a 30-work exhibition, “Returning the Gaze.”
A portrait of her mother broke an international sales record at a Christie’s art sale in 2020. Earlier this year, her painting “God Bless the Child” led the cover of Time Magazine’s first BIPOC-led issue, “Visions of Equity.”
Casteel told CPR’s Ryan Warner about her connection with the figures in her paintings.
“Portraiture and painting is just my way of slowing down and getting to know people at my own pace,” she told CPR. “What’s most important to me is to capture the essence of the people that I’m painting. So my experience of them, the gesture of their pinky sticking out or the clothes that they’re wearing, or the environment that they’re in.”
Other MacArthur honorees include music critic Hanif Abdurraqib, virologist Trevor Bedford, historian Ibram X. Kendi, civil rights activist Desmond Meade, archivist Jacqueline Stewart and choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.
Daniel Alarcón, writer and producer of the NPR-distributed podcast, Radio Ambulante, was also selected as one of this year’s MacArthur Fellows. Each fellow receives $625,000 to spend whatever way they see fit.