You would by now have seen the suite of imagery and an accompanying text that Beyoncé unveiled in occasion of her sophomore pregnancy.
Published overnight on Beyoncé.com, I have three hearts was composed by Warsan Shire, the Kenya-born, Somali-British poet whose prose was also read throughout the duration of Beyoncé’s second visual album, Lemonade.
“Venus has flooded me,/second planet from the sun,/I wake up on her foamy shore”, read the final stanzas. “She wants to take me to meet my children/I’ve done this before I’m still nervous.”
However, it was the vast array of painterly, neoclassicist images redolent of Renaissance era works that piqued our collective interest. They’re undoubtedly arresting images that, when viewed in conjunction with Shire’s text, align Beyoncé with art historical and mythic ideals of the sacred feminine, positioning the performer within a class of maternal deities and queens to which she’s often likened, namely Venus and Nefertiti.
But who, besides obvious influences like Titian, Edouard Manet, Ingres and Jan Van Eyck, is responsible for creating these now-iconic images?
Credit: Courtesy of the artist/Tumblr
That would be the Ethiopian-born, Los Angeles and New York-based artist Awol Erizku, who confirmed to ArtNews (via text) that he produced the images. A multi-disciplinarian who works primarily in photography, Erizku is a recent (2014) graduate of Yale’s MFA program and has had his work exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
A cursory search of his Tumblr also reveals that Erizku enjoys a strong relationship with the entertainment world, having previously shot A$AP Rocky, Viola Davis, Yasiin Bey and Tinashe for various publications, including the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker.
Erizku also works as a painter and installation artist who accompanies his work with themed mixtapes. The car on which Beyoncé is posed above appears to be a pre-existing work made in collaboration with floral designer Sarah Lineberger, Ask the dust. In 2015, he also created a body of work featuring Ethiopian sex workers, New Flower | Images of the Reclining Venus, that appears to have heavily influenced his collaboration with Beyoncé, with whom he appears to have had a long-held fascination – there’s a photo on his Tumblr of Beyoncé and Jay Z posing in front of the Mona Lisa during their visit to the Louvre in 2014.
It’s tagged ‘outtakes‘, and the artist has replaced the Mona Lisa with his version of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, which he reimagined in a 2009 portrait entitled Girl With a Bamboo Earring.
But it would appear the opportunity to collaborate directly with Beyoncé on the most popular imagery in Instagram’s brief history comes with some unintended side effects.
At approximately 3:15pm, Erizku set his once public Instagram to private.
(Update: A few hours later, Erizku reverted back to a public account)
Tile and cover image: Beyoncé/Instagram