Brooklyn native with roots in the American South, artist Genesis Tramaine is Black, queer, and a vocal Christian who credits the divine source for her inspiration. She is known for her expressionistic portraits of the faces of Black people. While her early works were drawings of characters from popular cartoons, the portraits she paints now are mostly of saints, persons from the Bible, or family members. She also appropriates figures from 1980’s graffiti art in New York City. She describes her portraits as ‘portals’. “A fresh piece of canvas is like a watering hole. It’s a safe space.That’s what the portal is for me.” Christianity is integral to her practice so the act of painting is her way to connect to her higher self and to God who is within her.
Tramaine had a loving relationship with her grandmother who recited scriptures from the Bible. She received her B.S. from Utica College of Syracuse University and M.A. from New York’s Pace University.
Tramaine says that for her making a painting is a religious experience. “I call myself a devotional painter.” Inspired by visions she has while praying, she portrays American Black faces in complex portraits while the details in these faces reveal a separate story. Her use of exaggerated features captures the emotions of the soul of Black people through a combination of acrylic and oil paint.
Ih her 2018 exhibit “God Is Trans” Tramaine asks viewers to see God outside of traditional gender binaries. For her, God is transgender – a spirit that occupies both genders and everything in between.
Her 2020 “Joy Comes In The Morning” shows an oval-shaped, expressive face against an ominous blue background. “Amen” is etched along the bottom corner of the canvas. “Yeshua is the source!” She uses the Hebrew word which refers to Jesus, the source of all her works. In her 2022 “Feast of the Holy Spouses,” a stand-in for Mary wears a blue veil and has six sets of eyes. According to Christian theology, angels are sometimes portrayed with their bodies covered in eyes because it shows God seeing all things.
Tramaine has exhibited in galleries in New York, Paris, Brussels, London and Shanghai. In 2020, she was an artist in residence at the Rubell Museum in Miami. Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art and Tokyo’s Contemporary Art Foundation.