The deeper meanings within Michelle Richardson’s artwork prove to be as thought-provoking and mesmerizing as the external presentation of her art itself. Expressing her excellence often through brush strokes and bold colors, the local artist and graphic designer’s work would not be complete without what each installment communicates.
“I create with specific intentions,” she says. “I like to create pieces that give rise to emotions — lead into some type of action.” Richardson describes her relationship with her art as “off and on” over the years but says she started “embracing it as [her] gift” in the ’90s.
Richardson began working in graphic design around 2014. As she puts it, “The artist created the graphic designer” in terms of her career progression and development. Hoping to increase her outreach, she began this self-taught endeavor by taking the promotion of her work into her own hands and creating her own fliers. Her graphic design journey continued from there.
“I do know that I was an artist from childhood,” Richardson says. “I wasn’t consistent with it, but I know that I’ve always had that passion.” She recalls how, when she was little, she pored over the expansive books on art belonging to her mother, also an artist. “To me, to be as young as I was — that’s a sign of an artist within a child.”
Richardson recalls, regarding her past perspective, “I notice now that a lot of my work when I first started painting, I did to fit in with the artwork I was seeing around me, specifically in galleries I would visit. But now, I paint more from my heart. I just address life and life events. I’m very intentional. I paint with meaning, and so that has changed dramatically over the years.”
Richardson’s goals for her art include prompting conversation and consideration, emphasizing voices that aren’t always listened to and encouraging discussion on issues that deserve to be discussed. She frequently uses metaphors and other similar methods to get her ideas across. “Once people see, they can’t unsee,” she says.
While many of Richardson’s most notable works are paintings, she works in multiple mediums. “It does vary,” she says. “Whatever comes up through my creative process. I use mixed media, random objects and collage work in my paintings — whatever feels right.”
Richardson’s art, regardless of the medium, expresses life and its many experiences and is as true-to-life as her creative commentary often appears. On numerous occasions, she’s revitalized classic works of art through her own vision with the messages she feels must be sent.
“I Wear Pearls Too,” one of her works, was inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous piece, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” Richardson’s work centers on a radiant Black woman with “beautiful dark skin.” She explains that her piece speaks to “assumptions made on appearances and demographics.”
“We Have Come Too Far,” another of her paintings, highlights female faith leaders enduring the COVID-19 pandemic. “What Forgiveness Looks Like” features a couple hugging on a couch. “Ms. Lisa” reimagines Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa” as a woman who “knows her worth.”
In the community, Richardson’s art has appeared in multiple different avenues where the public can truly appreciate it, from festivals to indoor installments, including the Downing-Gross Art Center and the Port Warwick Art and Sculpture Festival. “I believe there is a need for the type of art I am now painting,” Richardson says.
Outside of her creative careers, Richardson stays busy with her two young children. She enjoys the occasional chance to visit an art museum, though she’s already surrounded by so many masterpieces.
TO THE POINT:
Michelle Richardson, Artist