Object Lesson: The Garden Party by Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odutola, The Garden Party, 2016, Charcoal, pastel, pencil on paper, New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Leah Chase Fund, 2017.1, © Toyin Ojih Odutola, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

“I am my own person, a land that I now wish to take back. Here, I will show you. Do not omit me or render me invisible…I am here, I will not be erased or smudged out. I am as vast and wondrous as the night sky.” –Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odultola created The Garden Party after a springtime visit to New Orleans in 2016. Shaped by her own experience immigrating from Nigeria to rural Alabama as a young girl, Ojih Odutola’s exquisite drawings present powerful portraits of people of African descent.

Ojih Odutola sets this portrait of three women clad in vibrantly patterned clothes against a lush backdrop of bright red flowers. In the center of the composition, a woman in a bright yellow jacket defiantly confronts our gaze. 

Take a closer look. What do you think the artist is trying to say?

NOMA acquired The Garden Party in 2017 through the museum’s Leah Chase Art Purchase Fund. In 2012, the New Orleans community came together to honor chef and civil rights activist Leah Chase by creating a dedicated fund for NOMA to purchase new contemporary artworks. This fund enabled NOMA to acquire five artworks that celebrate Chase’s lifelong commitment to the arts and strong legacy of political activism and engagement.

Learn more about Leah’s life and legacy in this article

Katie Pfohl, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

NOMA is committed to uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures through the arts — now more than ever. You can support NOMA’s staff during these uncertain times as they work hard to produce virtual content to keep our community connected, care for our permanent collection during the museum’s closure, and prepare to reopen our doors.