January 9, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When I paint, I don’t start with just one idea,” said artist Shawnequa Linder. “If something emerges, I go with it and see how it reveals itself.”

And revealing it is. The artist’s paintings involve complex combinations of color and texture, which in turn result in works that are simultaneously harmonious and discordant, yet wholly unified. Linder likes to describe her paintings as fitting within the abstract decay genre, a genre that highlights how visually compelling weathered and worn art can be. “I love the beauty of inner destruction when everything is not related to each other,” she stressed.

That means Linder has an uninhibited, spontaneous approach to painting. Her technique is loose yet controlled, and she applies layer upon layer of paint to create a surface density that she in turn wears down and builds back up—or vice versa. While she uses conventional artist brushes, she often eschews them in favor of foam brushes and particularly her fingers, which allows her to control the work in a fluid manner that lends a distinctive quality to her work.

Linder also often changes the direction of her paintings as she progresses. “A lot of pieces have paint that I don’t like,” she said, “so I paint over it with different colors, and I scrape to find a pattern. Then I paint over that again using a water wash.”

The artist also doesn’t confine herself to creating just one painting at a time; instead she works on several paintings at once—sometimes up to seven—with each one interacting with and playing off the other. Linder loves when this kind of synergy occurs. “I’m in the mode of something happening,” she explained, “and it’s somewhere I’m happy to be.”

Size frequently depends on the amount of space a painting dictates. “I used to paint so small,” she said. “I was afraid of all that space, but an art professor once projected an image of my work onto a large-scale screen and said to the class, ‘This is museum quality right here.’”

Museum quality, however, doesn’t mean that Linder’s paintings are priced too expensively for most art lovers. They range anywhere from $125 to $600, with sizes that display well on the walls of typical homes or apartments rather than in large, sprawling spaces. “I want to make my paintings affordable,” Linder explained, “because I want a Shawnequa on every wall.

In the end, all of Linder’s techniques and approaches result in inimitable paintings that are wholly her own. “I don’t know how a painting will turn out,” she said, “and for that reason, every painting is an original. I don’t duplicate.” That means sometimes her work is so varied, they don’t even seem created by the same artist. “In the end, all the pieces are different,” Linder said. “They all have their own personalities.”