Sophia Dawson, 31, is a Brooklyn based visual artist who has dedicated her life’s work to exposing the stories and experiences of individuals who are striving to overcome the injustices they face both individually and collectively. By raising awareness of these individuals she aims to humanize social justice issues and to prevent such experiences from being repeated in the future. She holds a bachelors degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts and a masters degree in visual arts administration from New York University. Her work has recently been exhibited in Rush Arts Gallery and the Bronx Museum for the Arts. She is a recent participant of the Whitney Museum's Independent Studio program and a current resident of the Bronx Museum of Art’s first residency program. She leads art workshops at Rikers Island through Artistic Noise a nonprofit based in Harlem that serves the growth of court involved youth. Some of the subjects of her practice include mothers who have lost their children to police brutality both past and present, the Central Park 5, and political prisoners from the Black Liberation movement that are still incarcerated within the United States.
From the Artist... I endeavor to create a narrative art that addresses human and political struggle. In doing so, my aim is to convey the true stories and experiences of oppressed people from political movements in ways that more broadly form, shade and convey the individual and collective injustices they face. Their personal evolution, political activism and experiences as political prisoners are my inspiration. Political prisoners are activists who so challenge the prevailing status quo that they have been biasly charged or falsely convicted and sentenced to serve time as an example to the general populous and as a way to stigmatize and criminalize a movement.
I begin my work on a specific figure by first researching and educating myself, which includes reading autobiographies, watching documentaries, participating in efforts and events that support the subject’s political efforts and writing letters to them as well. I start each painting on a background of black gesso. Starting from black is a conscious artistic exercise and statement on my part which represents opposition to my art education at institutions that molded an earlier belief that art had to begin on a surface that was ‘pure and white’.
My art is a tool to bring people from different ethnicities, social statuses, beliefs and backgrounds together to educate them and develop a dialogue on who the individuals in my portraits are, their significance and why their struggle is relevant today. They have been intentionally excluded from mainstream American History. Their stories must not be forgotten.