Jordan Casteel: Painting ‘Genius’ Captures Humanity in Portraiture

Jordan Casteel with her paintings

This week, FF2 Media is celebrating the 2021 winners of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants! Today, we’re featuring painter Jordan Casteel.

Also known as MacArthur Fellows, these extraordinary recipients are awarded $625,000 as an investment in their potential. Each fellow has branched out either creatively or scientifically to earn this grant and has been nominated and selected by an anonymous board that believes in their originality and insight. The winners were recently named, including many women and people of color in a diverse list of 25 “geniuses” who can spend their no-strings-attached $625,000 however they see fit. 

Congratulations to Jordan Casteel, a talented portrait artist and now a MacArthur Fellow! She is a Denver native who uses her artwork as a way to connect and understand her community as well as herself. Casteel’s painting, titled “God Bless the Child,” was featured on the cover of Time magazine’s first BIPOC-led issue. She made her debut at the Denver Art Museum in 2019 with her exhibit, “Returning the Gaze,” which contained 30 pieces. 

Earlier this year, she had her first solo museum exhibition in New York City, “Within Reach.” It included 40 pieces from Casteel, mostly portraits of Black men in her community to foster a conversation about identity and the reality of life in America.

In an interview with CPR News, Casteel described her love of the craft, “Portraiture and painting is just my way of slowing down and getting to know people at my own pace… What’s most important to me is to capture the essence of the people that I’m painting. So my experience of them, the gesture of their pinky sticking out or the clothes that they’re wearing, or the environment that they’re in.”

Her exceptional talent and skill for observing her surroundings with a worldly nuance has earned her success in the art world, and the distinction of a MacArthur Fellowship. Congratulations, Jordan Casteel!


© Anna Nappi (10/14/21) Special for FF2 Media.



Featured photo: © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, used with permission.

Tags: Anna Nappi, FF2 Media, International SWANs, iswans, jordan casteel, macarthur fellow, Support Women Artists Now

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Anna is currently a senior at Brandeis University studying Film, Journalism, and Psychology. At Brandeis, she writes for the student newspaper and is the undergraduate degree representative of the Journalism program. From theaters to museums to concert halls, she loves exploring the art world in Boston as well as in her Maine hometown. Anna is passionate about FF2’s mission and excited for the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful team dedicated to supporting women artists.
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