Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Certificate '06) was born in Enugu, Nigeria. Her paintings, characterized by rigorous figuration, explore the artist’s complex relationship to both Nigerian and Western culture.

Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe and is in the collections of PAFA, Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Yale University. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum's 2014 James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize, which “recognizes an artist younger than 50 who has produced a significant body of work and consistently demonstrates exceptional creativity.”

Crosby speaks at PAFA's 211th Commencement in May 2016, where she received the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“In my four years at PAFA I must have studied with everyone,” she says. “I obtained a vast knowledge of art, the history of it, how my art fit into it, and it’s still with me today, and it feels really good. I still struggle in my studio—I think all artists do—but it’s a different kind of struggle. If I want to achieve an effect, I know I can do it. After four years at PAFA you can dance around, paint and brush in a way very few people can. I don’t think there are a lot of schools that offer that.”

She says the best part of the PAFA experience was the opportunity for technical growth as an artist. “It just makes you realize that a lot about drawing isn’t talent the way people think; it’s practice. It helped to have a lot of practice under my belt. You just drew and painted until you figured it out. Going to PAFA was one of the best decisions I made.”