By Jonah Grinkewitz

Old Dominion University alumna Avery Bolden is in her own artistic corner: The "Maverick's Corner," to be specific.

That's the name of her art brand, which captures her individualistic approach to painting and curating art.

Less than two years after graduating with a bachelor's degree in art history, she channeled this energy into her first solo exhibition at North Carolina State's African American Cultural Center in Raleigh.

Titled "Black Girl Maverick," Bolden's paintings explore how Black and brown women create a safe space for themselves through beauty and hair culture, relationships and individualism.

"I wanted to create work that symbolically highlights the experiences of women of color as they find themselves in a society that historically has not benefited them," Bolden said.

Many of the paintings, like "Beads and Braids 1," use vibrant colors to reclaim Black identity through hairstyle.

Bolden landed the opportunity to curate this exhibition through her friend and fellow ODU alumnus Isaiah Lucas.

Lucas graduated from ODU in 2021 after earning a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in higher education leadership. He also served as Student Government Association president twice.

He's now program coordinator for N.C. State's African American Cultural Center.

"This role has allowed me to support and develop Black students in diverse ways," he said, "from curating Black art exhibitions to leading cultural programming."

Bolden's exhibition is the first of five scheduled for the academic year. Lucas said the exhibitions will focus on the theme of creating "home" through time and space, something students at N.C. State are already finding through "Black Girl Maverick."

"We have seen people popping into the gallery just to breathe and reflect," Lucas said. "Women of color have come into the gallery space for a boost of confidence, with some even taking selfies to really tap into their own 'maverick moment.'"

Bolden used art to explore issues of race well before this exhibit.

When she was an Association of Art Museum Directors intern at the Chrysler Museum of Art in 2020, she worked on a series called "Double Takes."

These mini-installations featured unlikely pairings of artwork that challenged historical and contemporary questions on racial representation, standards of beauty, masculinity, implicit bias, white supremacy and youth culture, among many others.

But it was at ODU where Bolden first displayed her own artwork - something that prepared her for this solo exhibition.

"It was there that I really found that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts and had my first opportunities to showcase my work at events like 'Black Art Matters,'" she said, referencing an event ODU held to showcase art by Black students.

Now she hopes "Black Girl Maverick," which runs through Feb. 11, will impact people from all backgrounds.

"I hope that attendees will think about their own cultural experiences, as well as empathize with women of color, and be inspired to be their own individual," she said.

You can learn more about Bolden's "Black Girl Maverick" exhibit here.

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