Ferrari Sheppard

American artist Ferrari Sheppard muses on childhood and family life in his gestural paintings celebrating Blackness, humanity and compassion.

Sheppard’s thoughtful and expressive works combine paint, charcoal and 24-karat gold leaf, depicting familiar scenes of everyday life like children at play or people relaxing in their homes.

  • Solo show, Positions of Power at UTA Artist Space, Beverly Hills, 2021
  • Solo show, Dark Bodies—Bright Crest at Maruani Mercier, Brussels, 2021
  • Solo show, Heroines of Innocence at Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, 2020
  • Group show, Black Voices Black Microcosm at CF Hill Gallery, Stockholm, 2020
  • Group show, MoAD Benefit Auction at The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, 2020
Paka (Cat)
Ferrari Sheppard, Paka (Cat), 2020. Courtesy the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.
Ferrari Sheppard, Oxide, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.

An impressionistic language of wide, rough-edged brush strokes blurs codes of figuration and abstraction. The brisk mark-making suggests movement, giving the canvases a sense of life and dynamism. Sheppard’s palette combines pale beige washes with bursts of bright colour and deep black backgrounds. The dark skin tones of the figures place Black narratives at the centre of Sheppard’s practice. 

Ferrari Sheppard, Let’s get the Rhythm of the Feet, 2019, from the Americana series. Courtesy the artist.

The series Americana (2019), for example, depicts scenes from 1950s America from the perspective of children. Focusing on their hand-games and black cultural traditions of call and response, Sheppard sheds light on the normalcy, resilience and beauty of humanity in spite of the violence perpetrated against Black people in America at the time. Sheppard also explores racial and ethnic identity in his work as writer, photographer, record producer and activist.

“It seems a lot of people right now are interested in knowing what Black people say about their own oppression, and that in itself can be draining. Still, my work is generally hopeful, and that hope comes from within.”
Ferrari Sheppard, Scribes (Study II), 2020. Courtesy the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.
Heroines of Innocence
Ferrari Shepherd, Magnetite, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

A key motif in Sheppard’s work is that of a mother and child, symbolic of the human instinct to nurture and protect. Bond (2020) sees a mother gently holding her infant — a sense of exultation emanates from the painting. The baby is adorned with patches of gold leaf, a material associated with enlightenment and saintliness, and the mother is sketched in brisk lines of charcoal and paint. The baby’s golden aura contrasts the surrounding busy outline sketches, focusing the viewer less on its physical form and instead on its radiance.

Ferrari Sheppard, Bond, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.

Sheppard’s work is a tender and affirmative call to action. As the artist explains, “right now, we live in an age where there is so much disagreement and turmoil, we need to focus on the things that are truly important.” By re-focusing on family, children and humanity in the face of racial inequality, Sheppard pulls together personal and collective histories, imploring the viewer to consider the importance of love, compassion and community. Acting as a narrator for the everyday experience of important and oft-forgotten Black histories, Sheppard’s impassioned paintings imbue kindness, strength, and hope. 

“We need to focus on the things that are truly important and I think that family, children and humanity in general is that.”
Ferrari Sheppard
Ferrari Sheppard
Ferrari Sheppard
Ferrari Sheppard
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