YoYo Lander’s Celebration of Black Beauty, Strength, and Vulnerability

This year, the Los Angeles artist is gaining recognition worldwide, from her international exhibition at Christie’s to her current feature in the ‘VOICES’ exhibition at Studio 525. The artist will have also her first major solo show in Los Angeles with Band of Vices in September 2021.

Layers upon layers of cut and dyed watercolor paper over rough sketches lends itself to artistry with the touch of Los Angeles based artist, YoYo Lander, who began the year exploring what it means to be a person of color, particularly a Black woman. The artist’s new series “Time Off” marks a shift in her artistic process as her visceral expression examines the physicality of the human body, celebrating the natural beauty of her subjects and focusing on a new, positive perspective of the Black experience through strength and vulnerability.

Already this year, Lander has had two of her works showcased at an international exhibition, Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud), at Christie’s curated by Destinee Ross-Sutton, which included The Deeper Longing is Greater than Discomfort from her “Time Off” series, and Have Tears Sometimes from her “Bruised Bananas are Sweeter” series.

Yoyo Lander, The Deeper Longing is Greater than Discomfort from her “Time Off” series.

“Time Off” is a collection of 8 large pieces made with watercolor and wood panel, exploring Black people who are perceived to be strong in vulnerable positions. The artist captures a definitive image of her subjects and then combines several images to express the chosen image through watercolors and cut watercolor paper. Lander describes the inspiration behind her work as “thoughtfulness, vulnerability and looking within.”

While many Black artists’ works currently celebrated showcases struggle and pain, Lander wants to dismantle the one-dimensional narrative. In a recent interview, she says: “There are horrible things in the world, but there are equally so many beautiful things, too. The Black experience is not monolithic… joy always overcomes pain.”

YoYo Lander, Faith is an Attitude (2019), Tired of Being Buried Down by Hope (2019).

“Vulnerability is the essence of fear, shame and our struggle for worthiness. Yet it is also the birthplace of creativity, joy, love and belonging. To be vulnerable means to open yourself up completely, to stand in your nakedness and to lean into every imperfection. It is not easy, but necessary to elevate, grow, love, and evolve.”

Yoyo Lander, Have Tears Sometimes, from her “Bruised Bananas are Sweeter” series.

Have Tears Sometimes is a series of works that emerged following a significant car accident where Lander’s father was left with a severe traumatic brain injury. Her work focuses on human nakedness and emphasizes the body as a way to represent her father’s loss of his physical and mental capabilities. Through the portrayal of the human form, she effectively demonstrates an authentic perspective and a powerful personal story. “When do we get to be vulnerable?” the artist asks. “When do we get to ponder how we want to live our lives? When do we get to think about what matters most to us? When do we get to explore the heart of it all? Is it at night before bed when we are fully unmasked? Is it in our alone time?”

Yoyo Lander, Nothing to Hide (2020)
Yoyo Lander, The Belly of Her Mind is Never Full (2020)

“Being strong for Black women is championed, and being feminine is an afterthought sometimes.”

Currently, Lander’s work The Belly of Her Mind is Never Full (2020) is being featured at Studio 525 in New York, part of a group exhibition called ‘VOICES,’ curated by Anwarii Musa. The show’s aim is to elevate the voices of Black artists as well as have a discussion around Black Lives Matter. The piece is currently on loan from a collector and can be found on Artsy. Lander says: “I would give any artist this advice: Tell your story, and stand by it.”

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