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Dynamic Paintings Fuse Realism With Rawness to Depict Empowering Portraits of Women

Portrait Oil Painting by Tim Okamura

“Rosie No.1”

Artist Tim Okamura crafts oil portrait paintings that focus on identity, metaphor, and cultural iconography wrapped up in storytelling. A majority of his works feature women—particularly women of color—that depict their strength and willingness to stand up for themselves in the face of oppression. Combining realism with rawness, his figures are meticulously painted while their environments are loosely handled and include the likes of dripping paint and graffiti text.

“I am looking for a balance of detail, precision, and more organic, sometimes abstract passages,” Okamura tells My Modern Met. “My work allows for the incorporation of typography collage, spray paint, and mixed media—whatever the concept may call for. I feel it’s important to have room for exploration and experimentation.” By marrying elements of street art with the “academic ideals of historical masters of painting,” he imbues the field of portraiture with a contemporary feel.

Okamura’s latest series is titled GIRL-ILLA WARFAIR that’s based on his invented “samurai gang”: an underground collective of women warriors fighting for social justices, equality, and marginalized groups.

“The story is still developing,” Okamura explains, but he shares the inspiration for one of his paintings. “Storm Warrior depicts a squire helping a knight don her armor in preparation for battle. Guided by the Code of the Samurai, this renowned champion is responding to a call to arms—she is prepared to take up the fight against social injustice and to defend the defenseless from the tyranny of evil plaguing our society,” he says.

“Black clouds roll in as the sky darkens, signaling impending conflict—she will harness the transformative power of the storm, and wield the ability to manifest lasting change and elevated consciousness,” he describes. “She is an Onna-bugeisha, and a key member of the leadership of a mysterious underground alliance—a noble sisterhood known as The Warriors of Light.”

A selection of Okamura’s work is currently on display in a group exhibition called Still I Rise at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. It is on view through May 25, 2020.

Artist Tim Okamura crafts oil portrait paintings focusing on identity, metaphor, and cultural iconography wrapped up in storytelling.

Portrait Painting by Tim Okamura

Tim Okamura with “Everyday Injustice”

Tim Okamura Art

“The Flight Club”

A majority of his works feature women of color that depict their strength and willingness to stand up for themselves in the face of oppression.

Tim Okamura Art

“Storm Warrior”

Tim Okamura Art

“The Expectant Guard”

Portrait Painting by Tim Okamura

“Courage 3.0”

Portrait Painting by Tim Okamura

“The Parlor”

Portrait Painting by Tim Okamura

“Walk and Talk”

Tim Okamura Art

“Stop the Violence 2.0”

Portrait Oil Painting by Tim Okamura

“Part Wolf”

Portrait Oil Painting by Tim Okamura

“I Love Your Hair”

Portrait Oil Painting by Tim Okamura

“Racism is Social Terrorism”

Portrait Oil Painting by Tim Okamura

“Samurai Princess”

Tim Okamura Art

“The Future is Female”

Portrait Painting by Tim Okamura

“Artemis”

Tim Okamura: Instagram | Facebook | Artsy

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Tim Okamura.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.

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