The Bennett Prize

3.0 Bennett Prize Finalist

Monica Ikegwu

Monica Ikegwu uses her paintings to “give people a platform to display themselves in the way that they truly are without any limitations.” The artist presents classically and meticulously rendered figures in bold spaces defined by unconventional use of color, texture and composition, resulting in an intriguing blend of academic and contemporary art. The primary focus of her work is African American youth and current fashion trends as a celebration of Black aesthetic and self-identity. Each portrait is a collaboration between artist and sitter, with the subject choosing pose and clothing as a “way to take charge of their image.” In presenting Black youth in a positive and self-identified light, Ikegwu hopes to challenge stereotypes, to encourage those outside the Black community to set aside preconceived notions about outward dress and to see the individual. For Black youth, she invites consideration of outward appearance as a positive form of self-expression. Ultimately, she aims to “produce work that is a culmination of people, not as subjects to paint, but as people with their own sense of self.”

Ikegwu holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the New York Academy of Art. Her paintings were featured in a solo exhibition at Band of Vices in Los Angeles, CA, and have appeared in group shows around the U.S. and internationally, including at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL, the UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills, and at the Venice Biennale in Afro Futurist Manifesto: Blackness Reimagined. She was the recipient of an honorable mention in the 2022 Future Generation Competition of the Portrait Society of America, Young Artist Award winner of the 2020 Bethesda Painting Awards, an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant recipient, and the 1st place winner of the 2018 AXA Art Prize. Her paintings have appeared in numerous publications, including Voyage Baltimore, Tomorrow’s Talent (Boooooom), Voice of Artists (Artit), New American Paintings, Fine Art Connoisseur, Bmore Art and Artpremium Magazine.

Ikegwu resides in Baltimore, MD.

Instagram: @mikegwu


NiaJune, oil on canvas
Monica Ikegwu, NiaJune, oil on canvas