Meet Artist Awol Erizku, the Man Who Photographed Beyoncé’s Mystical Maternity Photos
Photo: Beyoncé’s Instagram announcement (detail).
Crave fave Awol Erizku has made headlines worldwide as the artist who photographed Beyoncé’s pregnancy photographs. The superstar wowed the world on the first day of Black History Month when she posted a portrait of herself on Instagram wearing nothing but a bra, panties, and veil, showing her bare belly swelling with life, with the announcement that she and Jay Z are expecting twins. That post, which set the internet aflame, now has more than 9.2 million likes.
Seated in profile in front of an enormous wreath, Beyoncé evoked the goddess of fertility and the rites of spring. Yesterday, ARTNews reported that a source close to Nina Johnson gallery, Miami, revealed that Awol Erizku confirmed via text that he took the photograph.
The announcement was timed with the release of a larger selection of photographs from the series currently on view on Beyoncé’s website. Here we see Beyoncé in various states of undress, both on land surrounded by flowers and underwater covered by gauze. The photographs, which channel the spirit of The Empress and of Yemaya, both manifestations of the great mother and the spirit of nature, are superimposed with the words “I HAVE THREE HEARTS” when the cursor rolls over them.
The photographs are a radical departure from Beyoncé’s previous pregnancy with Blue Ivy, which she kept very much underwraps, revealing images for the very first time in the 2016 release of Lemonade. Beyoncé’s privacy led to a rumor that she was not actually pregnant at the time. Those words will not be spoken this time around.
Awol Erizku, the Ethiopian-born, South Bronx-raised, Los Angeles-based artist, has been making a name for himself as the It Boy of the art world for the past couple of years. Most recently he exhibited I Was Going to Call It Your Name But You Didn’t Let Me, a new series of 20 paintings and conceptual sound collage at Nina Johnson, which was timed with Art Basel in Miami Beach. The exhibition took the image of the beautifully manicured hand of Queen Nefertiti holding a rose, appropriated from nail salon signage where Erizku keeps his studio, as the central motif for a series of paintings that incorporate elements of the cityscape to create a love letter to his partner Sarah Lineberger.
“The motif was something that I saw a lot growing up. I never saw a black hand, and once I created my version of it, I became obsessed with it; I want to put as many of them in the world as I can. It comes from a soon-to-be-realized mobile flower shop/truck I’ve been working on with my partner of many years. Our idea was to create a motif that would resonate with the communities we wish to drive the truck through and expose young kids to the lives of plants and flowers,” Erizku told Crave in an interview.
Over the past two years, Erizku’s work has been featured in some of the most prestigious publications including on the cover of “Vision and Justice,” Sarah Lewis’s bestselling issue of Aperture Magazine, in The New Yorker for a feature on Viola Davis by John Lahr, and on the cover of Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer (New York University Press).
Erizku, who has previously exhibited at Duchamp Detox Clinic in Los Angeles, Flag Art Foundation and Hasted Kraeutler, both in New York, will be exhibiting his work this year at Night Gallery in L.A. and Ben Brown in London. Visit his Tumblr to check out new work.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.