Among the media listed for her work—acrylic, oil sticks, spray paint—expressionist painter Genesis Tramaine includes Yeshua. “Yeshua” is the Hebrew word for Jesus. Tramaine, who grew up witnessing the unwavering Christian faith of her grandmother, is unapologetic in claiming the divinity that is integral to her art making. “Yeshua is the source! The sauce! The magic! Without Yeshua, it ain’t nothing. It’s not my hand alone that delivers the work, I’m just a vessel. Without Yeshua, it’s just paint.”
Prayer and listening to gospel music are part and parcel of Tramaine’s studio practice. It is out of these sacred spaces that she becomes a vessel to receive images that will develop into her large-scale portraits. Writer Halima Taha has likened Tramaine’s practice to glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” a spiritual practice embodied by some Christians, including the Black Pentecostal movement, explaining that the artist uses marks on canvas and paper to translate “languages” unknown to her. Taha wrote in an exhibition press release, “Akin to her name, Genesis, her practice manifests a spectacular surrogate universe that consumes her psyche and body into a spirited painting frenzy.”
Tramaine has expressed that she has never met a Black girl who “wasn’t the bearer of good news.” Last to Get My Hair Done is part of Tramaine’s Black Girl University series honoring young Black girls. Out from under thick oil stick marks, an inner joy rendered in jewel tones of emerald, ruby, and sapphire shines through the surface of the perceived facial structure. The girl in this particular work is the artist herself. In her statement about the piece, she wrote, “When I was a little girl, I had to ’get our hair done’ on Sunday morning or Saturday evening for church and the week ahead. I absolutely hated being last when I was a young girl. But I’ve learned from the Word that it’s not so bad … the Word says and the last shall be served first and the first last. Matthew 20.”
For Tramaine, Scripture, memory, and faith comprise the blueprint for a place in which “otherwise possibilities” and revival can be made manifest.
– Cara Megan Lewis