Christina Quarles

Christina Quarles – Contemporary Explorations of Social Issues

Christina Quarles is a contemporary American artist known for her captivating and thought-provoking paintings that explore themes of identity, race, gender, and sexuality. Born in Chicago and based in Los Angeles, Quarles has gained widespread recognition for her distinctive style, which combines elements of abstraction, figuration, and surrealism. Her dynamic compositions often feature fragmented bodies, fluid forms, and vibrant colors, inviting viewers to engage with complex narratives and perspectives on the human experience. Quarles’s work challenges traditional notions of representation and invites viewers to reconsider how we perceive and understand the complexities of the self and society.



Key Takeaways

  • Christina Quarles’ work centers on the multifaceted aspects of identity and personal experience.
  • Her education and techniques contribute to her unique abstract and figural painting style.
  • Quarles is influential in current art discussions, known for addressing complex societal themes.



Early Life and Education

Place of BirthChicago, Illinois, United States
Genre of WorkContemporary painting

Christina Quarles is a contemporary American artist recognized for her distinctive and provocative artworks that navigate the complexities of identity. Born in 1985 and based in Los Angeles, Quarles has carved a significant niche in the art world with her gestural, abstract paintings that engage with themes of racial and sexual identities, gender, and queerness. As an artist who identifies as queer and of mixed race, her work often reflects her personal experiences and viewpoints, inviting viewers to contemplate the fluidity and multiplicity of self.

Christina Quarles Drawings Collapsed Time (2013) by Christina Quarles; Birte Fritsch, CC BY 4.0, via Flickr

Educated at Yale School of Art and Hampshire College, she has developed an artistic language that merges figuration with abstraction, allowing her to express the constraints and contours of the body in space. Quarles’ paintings are not only visually striking but also poetically imbued with her insights on life’s intersecting narratives. She achieves this through a distinctive use of acrylic on canvas, manipulating the medium to evoke emotions and question societal norms. Her powerful commentaries on identity and society have positioned her as an influential figure among millennial artists, reshaping contemporary dialogues through her art.


Background and Influences

Born in 1985 in Chicago, Illinois, Christina Quarles moved to Los Angeles after her parents’ separation in 1991. Her background as the daughter of a Black father and a white mother significantly influenced her understanding of race and identity.

Quarles’ early experiences in Los Angeles, a melting pot of cultures, further shaped her views on identity politics, which are deeply ingrained in her work.


Academic Achievements

Quarles’ passion for art led her to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), where she honed her artistic skills. After completing high school, she pursued her higher education at Hampshire College and later received her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the Yale School of Art at Yale University. Her time at Yale allowed her to develop a unique figurative language, which is evident in her distinct body of work.

Christina Quarles Artworks Now Top That (2016) by Christina Quarles; Rob Corder, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Current Career

Today, Christina Quarles is recognized for her evocative paintings that question and push the boundaries of gender definitions and identity. Residing in Los Angeles, her work continues to be informed by her personal experiences and academic background, maintaining a dynamic dialogue with themes of self-perception and the fluidity of identity.

Her contributions to the art world reflect a contemporary understanding of the human condition through a multi-faceted lens.



Artistic Style and Themes

Christina Quarles is an American artist recognized for her vivid and compelling work that addresses the complexities of identity through a diverse set of mediums and techniques. Her paintings are particularly known for their interrogation of themes surrounding race, gender, and sexuality.

Christina Quarles Paintings Small Offerings (2017) by Christina Quarles; Rob Corder, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Explorations of Identity

Christina Quarles’ paintings are a testament to the multifaceted nature of identity, with a particular emphasis on queerness and sexual identities. She engages with the queer experience and mixed-race perspective to question traditional notions of physical classification. Queer, mixed, an American artist, Quarles’s work often depicts bodies and limbs intertwined in ways that challenge perceptions of gender and race, reflecting her personal inquiries into identity.


Mediums and Techniques

Quarles is adept in using a variety of mediums, including acrylic, ink, and digital tools like Adobe Illustrator. Her approach to materials is just as experimental as her painterly gestures. Often working with acrylic on canvas, she has also expanded her repertoire to painting with acrylics on watercolor paper, adding a different texture and challenge to her oeuvre.

  • Paint: Acrylics are a favored medium, employed for their versatility and vibrant color.
  • Digital: Integration of digital processes, sometimes starting with sketches in Adobe Illustrator.
  • Canvas: Traditional canvas works display a mix of abstraction and figuration.

Through these methods, Quarles produces gestural and abstract paintings that offer a window into a universal experience, while still emphasizing individual and complex identities.

Her experimental techniques serve to deepen the visual language she uses to express these interconnected themes of body, pattern, and abstraction.



Significant Works and Exhibitions

Christina Quarles, a contemporary American artist, has garnered acclaim for her vibrant and evocative paintings. Her work explores themes of representation, space, and gesture, often depicting intertwined, ambiguous figures that challenge conventional interpretations of the human form. Quarles’ notable solo exhibitions and selected paintings reflect her rising prominence in the contemporary art world, showcasing her unique contribution to the narrative of millennial artists.

Christina Quarles Compositions Collapsed Time (2023) by Christina Quarles; Birte Fritsch, CC BY 4.0, via Flickr


Notable Solo Exhibitions

  • In Likeness at The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire (2019): This marked Quarles’ first solo European museum exhibition.
  • Solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois (2021): Here Quarles’ paintings took center stage, capturing fluidity and transformation through her distinctive style.
  • Collapsed Time at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2023): An exhibition showcasing Quarles’ continuous innovation and dexterity in the medium.
  • Additional entries: Her works have also been featured at prestigious institutions such as the Venice Biennale, Whitney Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum, and the Pacific Film Archive.


Selected Paintings

  • A Little Fall of Rain (2020): Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 84 in – This painting encapsulates Quarles’ remarkable ability to manipulate form and color.
  • Held Fast and Let Go Likewise: Notable for its dynamic composition and poignant titling, it underpins the multi-faceted nature of Quarles’ work.
  • By Tha Skin of Our Tooth: A testament to her capacity to intertwine flesh and structure, delving into the essence of human connection and isolation.
  • O Holy Nite and New Moon: These works further exhibit Quarles’ dedication to exploring the boundaries and intersections of identity, vulnerability, and resilience.

With her unique visual language, Christina Quarles continues to make significant contributions to the field of contemporary art.

Her exhibitions and works stand as testaments to her stature as an integral voice among millennial American artists.



Cultural Impact and Reception

The reception of Christina Quarles’ work is characterized by its critical acclaim and the significant influence her art has had on the modern art landscape. She deftly navigates themes of universal experience and representation, bridging the gap between personal identity and societal norms.

Christina Quarles Style Made in L.A (2018) by Christina Quarles; C-Monster, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Critical Acclaim and Public Perception

Christina Quarles, as a mixed contemporary American artist, has garnered attention for her unique ability to express complex views on sexual identities and societal manners through her art. Critics have celebrated her work for its evocative representations and the skilled incorporation of domestic objects.

Her color choices and painterly gestures are lauded for their ability to convey intimacy and ambiguity, allowing for a deep exploration of relationships within the social realm.

  • Public reception: Quarles’ artwork often depicts figures that are ambiguous, challenging the viewer’s perception and prompting a deeper consideration of identity.
  • Artistic techniques: She utilizes bold gestures reminiscent of artists such as Willem de Kooning and David Hockney, infusing traditional techniques with modern insights to examine the queer experience.


Influence on Modern Art

Christina Quarles’ influence is readily seen in the ways current artists approach themes of ambiguity and intimacy. Her handling of universal themes through a queer lens has offered a new template for discussing sexual identity within the arts.

  • Language of art: Quarles’ work pushes the boundaries of artistic language, intertwining physical forms with conceptual notions of identity, often leaving the interpretation open to the viewer’s experience.
  • Entangled narratives: Her paintings, teeming with entangled bodies and forms, shed light on the complex nature of human connections, influencing how modern art narrates stories of personal and collective identities.

Christina Quarles Art For Sorrow or Inspiration (2020) by Christina Quarles; Pierre Doyen, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flickr


Christina Quarles’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of art in challenging norms, sparking conversations, and exploring the intricacies of human existence. Through her unique visual language and compelling narratives, Quarles invites viewers to delve into the complexities of identity, representation, and the fluidity of the human experience. Her work not only captivates the eye but also prompts critical reflections on societal constructs and the diverse layers of personal and collective identity. Quarles’s contributions to contemporary art continue to inspire dialogue and foster a deeper understanding of the complexities that shape our world.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Themes Does Christina Quarles Explore in Her Artwork?

Quarles’ paintings are known for their interrogation of racial and sexual identities, as well as themes of gender and queerness. She utilizes abstract forms to explore the fluidity of human bodies and the societal constructs surrounding them.


How Does Christina Quarles’ Identity Influence Her Art Pieces?

As a queer, mixed-race woman, Quarles’ identity deeply informs her art. She addresses the nuances of intersectionality and the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect to shape individual and collective experiences.


Does Christina Quarles Produce Limited Edition Prints?

While the search results do not specify about limited edition prints, artists often release such prints through galleries or at special events. Interested collectors should inquire directly with the galleries representing Quarles, such as Pilar Corrias Gallery in London or Regen Projects in Los Angeles, for information on availability and purchase.


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Christina Quarles – Contemporary Explorations of Social Issues.” Art in Context. May 16, 2024. URL:

Meyer, I. (2024, 16 May). Christina Quarles – Contemporary Explorations of Social Issues. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Christina Quarles – Contemporary Explorations of Social Issues.” Art in Context, May 16, 2024.

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