Black History Month – Birth Artist Ashley January

Black History Month 2024 has the theme of African Americans and the Arts. Black artist Ashley January uses her art to bring attention to the black maternal disparity crisis in our country.

“I address the Black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis in America through painting and multimedia. Influenced


by my own traumatic pregnancy and survival, the imagery centers on the experiences of Black mothers, birthing people, and children who have suffered adverse birth outcomes but challenge the institutional modes in finding solutions. Confronting themes through quiet, often heavy motifs, the artistic environments articulate the imposed health effects disproportionately experienced. All familial perspectives are considered after a tangential birth trauma survival. Continuing the delicately layered conversation surrounding Black maternal health, the images serve as a global call to action for more awareness, research, and the eradication of unnecessary maternal and infant deaths.”


Ashley January (b.Illinois, 1987) creates contemporary paintings informed by her maternal experience. Exploring themes of preeclampsia, premature birth, and birth trauma, her newest body of work continues to address the Black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis in America. Ashley became the first recipient of the Women’s Caucus for Art, 2022 Emerging Artist Award, and was selected as a finalist for the 2022 Artadia Chicago Award.


In January 2023, Ashley had the second installment of her solo exhibition, Human | Mother |Black, at Western Illinois University. Most recently, her works were featured in the New York group show, Fruits of Labor: Reframing Motherhood and Artmaking at Apex Art. She was invited to participate in the Unit London (Voices) online group exhibition Naissance/Re-Naissance. She was also included in the London Art Fair Platform curation through Cynthia Corbett Gallery. Additionally, Tufts University School of Medicine’s Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice, acquired paintings from her series. Her works have been exhibited in numerous venues including, The Young Masters Autumn Exhibition in London, UK; the South Side Community Art Center, Chicago, IL; Mana Contemporary, Chicago, IL; SoLA Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA; the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL; Viridian Artists Inc, New York, NY; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA; Pacific Art Foundation, Newport Beach, CA; and the Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine, CA.


Recently, she was featured in the January 2023 issue of Luxe Interiors+ Design Chicago magazine. Her paintings have also been featured in the television series, Kings of Napa, on OWN. In 2018, she was selected as a first-place award winner at the WomanMade Gallery’s Midwest Open in Chicago. In 2017, Ashley won the Beverly Bank Best of Show Award at the Beverly Arts Center’s juried competition. When asked about her sentiments towards Ashley’s work and practice, Dr. Joy West, MD, Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, said, “It is fitting that your work, now installed


at Roseland Hospital, will reach the women most impacted by birth trauma; the underserved, the systematically excluded, the forgotten. They will be uplifted simply by seeing themselves in your beautiful art. I’m certain of this. Thanks for creating and sharing all aspects of Human | Mother | Black. “Ashley will showcase paintings with Cynthia Corbett Gallery from her new series, Environments of a Heavy Joy, at EXPO Chicago in April (2024).Her works are currently featured in the group show, Neighbors, South Shore Arts(2024), curated by Dorman + Torluemke from January 19-March 16.Ashley earned her MFA in Painting from the Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, CA in 2017 and her BS in Communication with an Advertising concentration and Minor in Studio Art from Bradley University, Peoria, IL in 2009. She lives in Chicago with her family while working from home and her studio at Mana Contemporary.




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