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Work Samples


Birthright, Oil on Canvas, 84"X80" 2017

Close Quote

Close Quote, Oil on Canvas, 84"X80" 2017

Seated Scribe (Pomegranate Molasses)

Seated Scribe (Pomegranate Molasses) Oil on Canvas, 84"X80" 2018

Seated Scribe (Sesame Paste)

Seated Scribe (Sesame Paste), Oil on Canvas, 84"X80" 2018


About Mequitta

Baltimore City

Mequitta Ahuja's picture
The only thing I’ve ever wanted to be is an artist. My work has brought me the things I most desire from friends to rigorous intellectual engagement. Studying the history of art, I constantly discover painting in its diverse conceptions across time and geography. I get obsessed with little things like Goya’s calling card clutched in a magpie’s beak and Zurburan’s cartellino on a painting of the crucifixion. I am motivated by big ideas like painting as a record of our changing notions of beauty or how... more

2018 Paintings

My overall mission as an artist is to change the terms of the self-portrait especially the self-portrait of a woman or a person of color. We so often look to women and to people of color as experts on our social condition and for our personal biographies, but we can become experts on anything we pursue, and I aim to hold and to embody in my work, a position of authority within the field of painting including its history. My aim is to move the woman of color’s self-portrait away from personal biography and identity or social condition and toward a discourse on representation. And by representation, I mean, everything involved with the making of pictures and the how pictorial representation works, visually, historically, socially.

2016, 2017 Paintings

My subject is the model, the maker, the owner, agent and seller of the work. The space of the painting is a space of her (my) control. My use of the motif, a painting within a painting, is akin to the concept in theater of breaking the fourth wall. With that gesture, I acknowledging the contrivance of paintings. Showing myself with and within my paintings is my substitute for the conventional self portrait of the artist standing before the easel. In paintings within paintings, I highlight my intimate relationship to both the act and the object, the verb and the noun, painting.

Biographical Artist's Statement

Baltimore-based painter Mequitta Ahuja turns the artist’s self-portrait, especially the woman-of-color’s self-portrait, which has long been defined by identity, into a discourse on picture-making. Of South Asian and African American descent, the artist positions herself boldly within her compositions, but makes the turn away from subjectivity by focusing on painting as a received form. She visually catalogs painting conventions, established over centuries while using those conventions to make new meanings.

In large scale paintings, Ahuja simplifies form, and includes common motifs of the figurative tradition such as hand gestures, swags of fabric, meeting the viewer’s gaze, creased paper presented as trompe l’oeil, architecture that frames a narrative, one-point perspective and the allegorical figure. Ahuja emphasizes both the conceptual and physical work of painting by showing her subject reading, writing and handling canvases in the studio. With pictures within pictures, she depicts paintings’ many genres —abstraction, text, naturalism, schematic description, graphic flatness and illusion. Ahuja repurposes painting ideas and approaches across time and geography including Egyptian form, Giotto frescoes, Hindu figuration and early American painting. She positions this variety of artistic types within the context of figurative painting and replaces the common self-portrait motif, the artist standing before the easel, with a broad portrait of the work of painting. By working strategically within paintings’ many forms and varied pasts, Ahuja knits her contemporary concerns, personal and painterly into the centuries old conversation of representation.

Ahuja is the recipient of the 2018 Guggenheim fellowship award. She studied at Hampshire College (BA,1998) and the University of Illinois (MFA,2003). Ahuja's works have been widely exhibited in institutions and galleries including Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, Saatchi Gallery, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Crystal Bridges, Baltimore Museum of Art and Grand Rapids Art Museum.

2016, 2017 Painings and 2014 Drawings

My paintings do multiple things at once. They visually catalog painting conventions such as swaths of fabric, folded pieces of paper, the female figure and considerations of the gaze. The paintingss point to history while maintaining contemporary relevance, present naturalistic form while also emphasizing underlying abstract structure, and in them, I explore what is to be a person of color in America while at the same time moving the genre of self-portraiture away from identity and toward a discourse on picture-making.

2014, Rhyme Sequence Series

The Rhyme Sequence Series is comprised of five works on canvas, presented here in narrative order. The title "Rhyme Sequence" refers to my use and reuse of patterned elements which I adjust from work to work. The repeated but adjusted elements can be understood as visual rhyme. Follow, for example, the purple pattern as it begins in "Spring Sprung" as a simple rectangle, becomes in WIggle Waggle," the necklace of the figure and in "Crick Crack," takes on central form. In the progression of the series, changing pattern is an echo or reverberation of the transformation undergone by the figure.

2011- 2012, Collage Drawings

I began these works by marking and stamping plain white paper. I used a variety of tools including letterpress type and Indian textile printing blocks. I then ripped those papers apart and collaged them together. This patchwork, which I think of as a cultural-ground, became my drawing surface.

  • Autocartography I

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Oil and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 82"X93" 2012
  • Departing SIena

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 86"X53" 2014
  • Autocartography III

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Oil and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 82"X93" 2012
  • Boogie Woogie

    Colored Pencil, Acrylic and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 30"X22" 2013
  • Epilogue

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 30"X22" 2012
  • Cleave I

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 18"X13" 2011
  • Royal Ease

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Enamel and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 83"X71" 2012
  • Meecoo Mocoo

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Enamel and Waxy Chalk on Paper, 73"X86" 2011
  • Detail of Mocoonama

    Detail of Mocoonama
  • Mocoonama

    Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Enamel and Waxy Chalk on Paper. 87"X73" 2012

2009-2011, Dark Landscapes

Dark landscapes, landscapes at night, discerning elements through textured marks, and woven, knit-together surfaces - these are interests that run throughout many of my works. Here I present the paintings in which I isolate those elements in paintings of dark landscapes.

2008, Hair-Themed Works - Oil-based Charcoal on Paper

I made these drawings using simple means: pressure against my drawing tool combined with the texture of the paper to slowly build the form. I inverted the head to signal a shift from the biographical to the "automythic."

Various Dates, Paintings

I view painting and drawing as a cumulative process of time and marks. Whether using crayon, brush, palette knife, collage or printing block, I build form and surface through the accumulation of lines and strokes. The physicality of my technique is mirrored by my female protagonist’s assertive presence in the work. She is both subject and maker of her world.

  • Forge

    Oil on Canvas, 84"X72" 2009
  • In Deep

    Oil on Canvas, 96"X80" 2008
  • Generator

    Oil on Canvas, 84"X80", 2010
  • Perch

    Oil on Canvas, 84"X72" 2009
  • Seesaw

    Oil on Canvas, 84"X72" 2014
  • Stick Stack Detail

    Stick Stack Detail
  • Stick Stack

    In "Stick Stack" I continued to explore my interest in building a large painting with small, painted units. In the brickwork represented here, I find a simultaneity of pattern and image. Oil on Canvas, 84"X80"

Various Dates, Hair-Themed Works - Color

These works are my response to the history of black hair as a barometer of social and political consciousness. I represented black hair in its psychic proportions. Expanding from the literal to the imaginative, the flow from the head becomes the flow from the mind.

  • Parade

    Enamel on Canvas, 96"X161" 2008
  • Afrogalaxy

    Enamel on Paper, 96"X104" 2007
  • Anthem

    Enamel on Paper, 84"X52" 2007
  • Ambush

    Enamel on Paper,84"X52" 2007
  • Dream Region

    Enamel on Paper, 84"X104" 2009
  • Yellow I

    Oil and Paper on Canvas, 68"X36" 2014 This is a more recent work, made for a particular opportunity, which necessitated a return to the earlier subject matter.
  • Flowback

    Oil on Canvas, 68"X51" 2008
  • Insemination

    Enamel on Paper, 84"X52" 2008

Connect with Mequitta

Mequitta's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.