Art of Empowerment Artist 2023
UN Women UK is proud to present the sixth edition of The Art of Empowerment, with London-based artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Created by Maria Baibakova of Baibakov Art Projects, THE ART OF EMPOWERMENT is a fundraising and awareness programme which partners with leading women artists to create limited edition works on an annual basis in support of the mission of UN Women UK. This year, the programme presents a new edition by Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Proceeds from the sale of the edition will benefit UN Women’s Emergency Fund supporting their work in countries across the world including Afghanistan, Türkiye and Syria and Ukraine.
‘You May Blame Aphrodite But I Can Only Blame You’ (2023) is Yearwood-Dan’s first foray into textile works. The artist, who is known for her lush, brightly-hued paintings and ceramics, draws on a diverse range of influences throughout her practice, including Blackness, queerness, femininity, healing rituals, and carnival culture.
Moving freely between media, Yearwood-Dan embeds botanical motifs and diaristic meditations within brushy abstract forms and heavy drips of paint. At once personal and political, Yearwood-Dan’s practice frequently reflects an inviting domesticity. Resisting any singular definition of identity, she explores the possibilities of creating spaces—physical, pastoral, metaphorical—that allow for unlimited and unbounded ways of being.
I’m honoured to partner with UN Women UK, an organisation that closely aligns with my own values. My own work explores the possibilities of creating spaces that allow for unlimited ways of being. Women need these spaces, where they are free and safe to be themselves, without fear of harassment or discrimination. There is hope. That future is possible. But we need to take bold action to make it happen. This responsibility falls on all of us.”
Michaela Yearwood-Dan, 2023 Art of Empowerment Artist
View the Piece
100% of proceeds from this work will go to UN Women’s Emergency Fund for women and girls.
About the Artist
Throughout paintings, works on paper, ceramics, and site-specific mural and sound installations, Michaela Yearwood-Dan (b. 1994; London, UK) endeavours to build spaces of queer community, abundance, and joy. Yearwood-Dan’s singular visual language draws on a diverse range of influences, including Blackness, queerness, femininity, healing rituals, and carnival culture. Moving freely between media, Yearwood-Dan embeds botanical motifs and diaristic meditations within brushy abstract forms and heavy drips of paint. From the monumental scale of her paintings to the more intimate scale of her ceramics and works on paper, Yearwood-Dan’s practice frequently reflects an inviting domesticity. Resisting any singular definition of identity, the artist explores the possibilities of creating spaces—physical, pastoral, metaphorical—that allow for unlimited and unbounded ways of being.
Lush and brightly hued, Yearwood-Dan often engages colors and materials for their symbolic associations—from the hints of the oranges, pinks, purples, and blues of the lesbian and bisexual pride flags mingling through the compositions to the queer histories of the ceramic carnation and pansy petals collaged into her recent paintings. Language intertwines with botanical motifs throughout Yearwood-Dan’s work: abstract habitats teem with painted plant life while live houseplants grow out of wall-mounted ceramics. Within the paintings, she inscribes lines of text—pulled from song lyrics, poetry, or her own diaristic writings. These meditations, appearing at various scales and degrees of legibility, are at once insightful and funny, confident, and questioning. Her words beckon the viewer into a vivid, welcoming world of paradox, play, and contemplation formed within an atmosphere of swirling forms and brilliant chromaticity.
Yearwood-Dan’s work has been shown at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ; the Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX; Palazzo Monti, Brescia, Italy; and the Museum of Contemporary African Art, Marrakesh, Morocco, among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, FL; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; the Jorge M. Perez Collection, Miami, FL; and the Columbus Museum of Art and the Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH. In 2022, she produced her first public mural installation for Queercircle, London, UK. She has participated in a range of fellowships and residencies, including the Palazzo Monti Residency, Brescia, Italy, and Bloomberg New Contemporaries in Partnership with Sarabande: The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation, London, UK. The artist received her B.A. from the University of Brighton in 2016. Yearwood-Dan lives and works in London.
About UN Women UK
UN Women UK is the only global organisation working for gender equality in every sphere of society. From humanitarian aid and grassroots programmes focused on economic empowerment and ending gendered violence as well as ensuring women are part of crucial decision making, to campaigning for behavioural change and helping governments design more gender-equal policies. UN Women’s mission is to ensure every woman has the right to safety, choice and a voice, and it works globally to make the vision of the Sustainable Development goals a reality for women and girls.