Elizabeth Colomba is revisiting history and repainting it. Raised in France by parents from Martinique, she recalls going on a school trip to the Louvre. Among its vast galleries of European art was a portrait of a black woman. The painting surprised her, she would say later, simply because it existed. That moment, she said, led her to the kind of representational painting that has become her hallmark.
The 40-year-old artist, inspired by the Dutch Masters, now lives in the city that was settled by their countrymen. Rebelling against the Eurocentric canon, and its predominantly male visions of an art without black people, Ms. Colomba, using allegory and mythology, began to feature black people in her portraits.
Painted largely in oil, her richly hued paintings of black people in upper-class household settings are intended to turn history on its head by putting their subjects in forbidden tableaux.
The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts graduate has exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in New York, the Fondazione Biagiotti Progetto Arte in Florence, the Gallery MOMO in Cape Town and other museums. Her most recent work can be seen in “Uptown,” an exhibit at Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts on the new Manhattanville Campus through Aug. 20.