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Crystal Bridges Acquires Evidence of Grace by Genesis Tramaine

Crystal Bridges recently acquired Evidence of Grace (2020), a painting by the artist Genesis Tramaine. On view in the Contemporary Art Gallery, this work requires the viewer to spend time decoding its dense imagery.

Set against a vivid green background, two abstract figures loom over the viewer. The work is large–8 ft x 6 ft. Standing next to it, you feel absorbed by the scale and can observe visible brushstrokes and graffiti-like mark-makingevidence of the artist’s hand.

The figures in this work are difficult to see. Legs and feet are layered over a torso, lips are found near the shoulders, and several eyes stare back at you. Many of the body parts become identifiable only after you’ve looked at the painting several times. The multiple facial features of each subject perplex and excite. Perhaps they hint that the figures are in motion or signal the inner complexity of these characters. 

Tramaine identifies as a devotional painter, and her work explores her Christian faith. She incorporates prayer in her practice and lists “Yahweh” (a Hebrew word for God) as one of her materials. Yet her paintings don’t look like typical religious imagery. Instead, Tramaine interprets her faith through her experience as a queer, Black woman, encouraging people to “pray to a God of their understanding.” 

Tramaine is known for embracing both her queer identity and faith. When describing her experience as a queer Christian, she says, “It’s all out and open and public, because that’s very much in accordance with how the relationship that I have with Jesus is, right? Like, there are no secrets between us. I have faith that I get to be all of who I am under the eyes of God.” These two aspects of Tramaine’s identity are explored through much of her work, like in her 2018 exhibition GOD IS TRANS. This exhibition asked viewers to see God not as a white man, as is common in religious imagery, but as beyond societal gender norms. Tramaine says her “paintings empower spiritual fluidity that gives representation to people who love God.”


a gallery view of
Photo by Stephen Ironside.

This work, Evidence of Grace, was inspired by Tramaine’s experience in 2020. Amid a global pandemic, injustice, and discrimination, the artist was deeply troubled by the lack of care we show to one another. Tramaine explored her concerns by reinterpreting the biblical story of David–a person chosen by God to overcome insurmountable odds. This painting is one of a series of works exploring David’s story. Ultimately, Tramaine creates work that investigates the sacred and confronts the world’s wrongs with hope and faith. 


Written by Marie Hofer, interpretation specialist, Crystal Bridges.