Seven Artists to Watch

The most beautiful works of art don’t necessarily come from the most beautiful subjects.

Inspired creations come from moments of vulnerability – when artists expose raw emotions, personal histories, and life experiences. At its finest, art makes you think and feel something beyond your horizons: something otherwise ineffable that can be shared universally. If you’re looking to be mused, check out these seven artists for inspiration.


James Jean

Currently in hiding in Asia, James Jean continues to astound the art world with his paintings that are at once gruesome and dreamlike (or perhaps even nightmarish). When asked to describe his process, he responded, “I’m thinking about the nature of things. The process is much more philosophical, frequently elusive, and ultimately futile. One day I hope to come to accept the futility, so that my tears will evaporate into a vapor of inspiration.”

After graduating from the School of Visual Arts, Jean went on to become a DC Comics cover artist. Following several prestigious awards and a few creative jobs, Jean retired from illustrations and drawings to focus on painting.


[Image via James Jean]


Maya Freelon Asante

Multimedia artist Maya Freelon Asante creates bold, brilliant, bleeding mixed-media sculptures recognized by the late Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.”

Freelon exhibits around the world and interrogates social inequities by juxtaposing traditional and contemporary media. For instance, her massive tissue paper sculpture Ubuntu encapsulates the African concept meaning, “I am because we are” and is housed in the U.S. Embassy to Madagascar’s permanent collection.


[Image via Maya Freelon Asante]


Monica Canilao

Utilizing art to generate a personal and living history, Monica Canilao creates works that conjure the universal human fabric – works that transcend distance, time, and place – through shared experience. In her words, “From boats to portraits, everything I make I use to reimagine the meaning of home, the power of collectivity and the imprint history has left on me.”

Canilao has shown across the globe in galleries, community spaces, and abandoned places. Recently, RARE SEA, a collaborative work with Swoon, debuted at Miami’s Art Basel. Made from upcycled materials, this installation used the water as its canvas and urged viewers to dive into the unknown.


[Image via WE CAME IN PEACE]


Ursa Eyer

Music informs Ursa Eyer’s work. Before beginning a new piece, Eyer listens to a song on repeat, allowing the music to flood her mind with vivid images. When describing her goals as an artist, she writes, “To me, creating art is about the desire to communicate in realms outside of verbal correspondence, a feeling without language.”

In response to a personal experience with cat calling, Eyer created an illustration to depict the ongoing frustration felt by many women. The comic was featured in Huffington Post to continue the conversation of how to combat street harassment.

Raised in New Orleans, Eyer continues to consecrate her works to the unspoken world of emotion ever present in the city.


[Image via]


Dustin Yellin

While working with natural materials embedded in resin, Dustin Yellin had a breakthrough: he began creating three-dimensional collages using found objects, eccentric clippings, computer-generated images, and multiple glass layers. His work has been described as a “surreal romance with the detailed genius of the natural world and humankind’s dubious efforts to improve it.”

Yellin’s latest work ‘The Triptych’ is his largest and most complex: a 12-ton, three-paneled epic depicting his view of the world and consciousness. Founder of Pioneer Works, Yellin also spends his time with a diverse group of artists engendering social change through innovative work.


[Image via Dustin Yellin]


Ebony G. Patterson

Using mixed media, Ebony G. Patterson deconstructs notions of masculinity and its parallels through the lens of the feminine. Patterson’s work raises questions about beauty, gender, stereotypes, race, and body politics. Patterson describes her work as decadent, decorative, iconic, and confrontational.

Currently an Assistant Professor of Painting at the University of Kentucky, Patterson has shown her artwork across the globe and received several prestigious awards and scholarships.


[Image via The Visualist]


Luis Cruz Azaceta

Born in Cuba, Luis Cruz Azaceta has called New Orleans home since 1992. Through pronounced lines and vibrant colors, he explores the challenges of violence, homelessness, abuse, isolation, and exile.

Azaceta uses his art to continue moving forward, while never losing sight of what’s behind. His most recent show, Dictators, Terrorism, War and Exiles, “reflects how he identifies with isolation and oppression and speaks to both the horror and determination that is a part of the journey towards survival and freedom.”

His work is shown in the permanent collections of more than 60 galleries and museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.


[Image via Luis Cruz Azaceta]