Jordan Casteel Paints Her Community


With a process that takes her from the streets of Harlem to her studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, artist Jordan Casteel paints vibrant large scale portraits, making visible the often unrepresented humanity of Black men. At first struggling to find subject matter that could speak to the political realities of police violence and implicit bias, Casteel drew inspiration from her twin brother. “People follow me like I’m a threat,” the artist remembers her brother saying, “but they don’t know anything about me.” The film follows Casteel as she travels from a brunch at her aunt’s Harlem home to a studio visit with university students, to an informal hangout with friends and finally back to the streets of Harlem, mirroring the artist’s own navigation of New York’s diverse racial and cultural spaces. Recognizing her complex position as a Black woman painting the bodies of Black men, Casteel nevertheless feels present in the work. “I get really conscious that his story is not mine to tell,” says the artist of her brother. “I’ve seen him as this really funny, sensitive, charismatic, loving young man…And as a result, this work really comes from my desire to share what I have known with the world.”


United States

Directed by:

Orian Barki