Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tim Okamura

Tim with Nurse Tracy in progress

Tim Okamura investigates identity, the urban environment, metaphor, and cultural iconography through a unique method of painting – one that combines an essentially ‘realist’ approach to the figure with collage, spray paint and mixed media. The juxtaposition of the rawness and urgency of street art and academic ideals has created a visual language that acknowledges a traditional form of story-telling through portraiture, while infusing the work with resonant contemporary motifs.

Born in Edmonton, Canada, painter Tim Okamura earned a B.F.A. with Distinction at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts in 1991. After graduating with an M.F.A. in Illustration as Visual Journalism, Okamura moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he continues to live and work.

Tim Okamura – a recipient of the 2004 Fellowship in Painting from the New York Foundation for the Arts – has exhibited extensively in galleries throughout the world, including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Ecuador and Turkey, and has been selected nine times to appear in the prestigious BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.

In 2006, Okamura was short-listed by the Royal Surveyor of the Queen’s Picture Collection for a commissioned portrait of the Queen of England.

In 2013, the University of North Carolina hosted a retrospective exhibition of Okamura’s work that focused on nearly a decade of production.

Okamura received an invitation to The White House in the Fall of 2015 to honor artists whose work addresses issues of social justice – there he received a letter of commendation from Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.

Okamura’s painting titled “I Love Your Hair” was selected in 2016 for inclusion in the “American Portraiture Today” exhibition, featured at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and subsequently toured museums across the United States.

Several of Okamura’s works were recently featured in the “Still I Rise” exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tim Okamura’s art is on display in the permanent collections of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Jiménez Colón Museum in Puerto Rico, The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at the University of North Carolina, The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Toronto Congress Center, the Hotel Arts in Calgary, Canada, and Standard Chartered Bank in London, England.

Collectors include Uma Thurman, Meg Ryan, John Mellencamp, DJ Black Coffee, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, athletes Courtney Lee and PK Subban, director Ben Younger, and actors Bryan Greenberg, Hill Harper, Annabella Sciorra, and Spike Lee.

“PPE”, 48 x 60″, oil, color pencil and graphite, 2021
“Two Front War”, 55 x 56, oil on canvas, 2021
“Nurse Tracy”, 40 x 60″, oil on linen, 2021




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  1. […] Tim Okamura lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Over the last year, as the pandemic rolled on, he felt its effects quite strongly. Okamura lives adjacent to the emergency side of a hospital which has strongly colored his experience. In addition to contracting COVID himself and experiencing long-lasting after effects, his cousin was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who fell ill with the virus and was hospitalized in Japan. Sadly, his cousin did not survive. Woven throughout all this has been the emotion and processing of the social justice crisis that the U.S. has been experiencing. Although he was physically compromised, he has felt intellectually and emotionally energized. A painter, Okamura has created work that focuses on the social justice movement as well as portraits of healthcare workers. He also found himself retreating back to academic exercises such as painting a single eye on a 4×4 canvas which brings him comfort. To hear more about his experience and his Healthcare Heroes series, listen to the complete interview. […]


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