Growing up in Jamaica, Kaylee Reynolds (Steinhardt, BFA, 2020) rarely considered politics, culture, or race. “Especially race,” she says, “because where I’m from the population is more than 90 percent black.” But when she arrived in the United States to pursue a BFA in Studio Art with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media, and Technology at NYU, she used her art to explore these ideas—along with people’s connection, or lack of connection, with themselves, each other, and ultimately, society.
In Breakthrough (2015), Kaylee holds both a literal and metaphorical mirror up to societal preconceptions. The piece forces viewers to consider how they treat people who look different from them. “In the middle of [the subject’s] face, where her skin is lighter due to vitiligo, I used reflective paper so viewers see themselves in their judgements,” she shares. “At the same time, she’s breaking through those judgements to embrace her beauty.”
Kaylee’s exploration turns personal in Roots (2018). She started this oil-on-canvas piece with photographs. “I layered a portrait with a picture of Blue Hole in Jamaica, using them as the template for the painting,” she says. The painting showcases her own layers and desire to stay connected to her Jamaican heritage. The subject’s serenity displays the love and strength these connections provide.