Bold, impassioned and honest; these are just a few of the words you could use to describe Tiffany Alfonseca’s artwork. A recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Alfonseca’s explosion into the art world hasn’t gone unnoticed, with recent works being displayed in Alicia Key’s Dean Art Collection and the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Although Alfonseca draws inspiration from a number of sources, her Afro-Dominican heritage lies at the heart of her work, with colourism and class being central themes throughout. Growing up in New York undoubtedly impacted Alfonseca, as the vibrant diversity of the city is reflected in her exuberant mix of materials and diverse subject matter.
Alfonseca’s portraits, such as ‘Alyssa’, present graphic figures in front of daring backdrops, resulting in a joyful celebration of diasporic culture. Alfonseca brilliantly highlights the rich blue, pink and green tones of the subject’s skin by using lighter backgrounds that are reminiscent of her mother’s love for colour and print. The background’s eye-catching prints evoke Alfonseca’s Dominican roots. Bananas and leaves are reminiscent of the Caribbean (The Dominican Republic being the largest producer of bananas worldwide).
Perhaps most strikingly, though, is the use of mixed media to portray the sitter’s natural hair. Proudly standing out from the canvas is a mixture of layered paint and glitter to create an effect that honours the beauty of natural Black hair.
W.E.B DeBois’ philosophy of “double consciousness” is often a subject Alfonseca’s work often grapples with. Illustrating a dignified and elegant pose, Alfonseca demonstrates that race is a unique experience and there is strength in identifying with who you are. Emphasising the beauty of Black hair is just one reflection of this.
During the USA’s lockdown, Alfonseca used her time to produce a number of graphite drawings in a project titled ‘In Quarantine Series’, where she asked friends and family to send her photos of them in their homes. Like her paintings, the series is a radiant response to women, culture, family and ritual. Despite losing the colour associated with her paintings, Alfonseca still produces a bold depiction of the people around her that explores the nuances of society.
In Alfonseca’s drawing ‘Jane Aiello’, the viewer’s eye is once again immediately drawn to the spectacular array of hair. The subject’s dress is adorned with intricate line drawings that break up solid blocks of black and white. Seemingly a very personal moment, the subject’s pose has an air of confidence about it, as she stares directly at the viewer. Just with a glance, Alfonseca conveys the strength of the Black and Afro-Latinx communities.
There is no doubt that Tiffany Alfonseca’s work will continue for many years to champion the voices of communities who feel overlooked. Her work is not only aesthetically captivating, but also has the potential to be an important tool for social change.