Wangari Mathenge: Kenyan Artist Who Sold Ksh4 Million Paintings in US – Kenyans.co.ke
“Sit down, look at the blank canvas, grab the pencil, and just let the hand move,” Kenyan-born Wangari Mathenge recalls how she draws her inspiration for art which has propelled her to fame on a global scale.
She attributes her rise to stardom to her family background, primarily her father, whose impact is evident in her art pieces.
“He’s a really interesting person when it comes to history,” she stated. “He’s a huge reader. He keeps all this information in his head, it’s amazing,” Mathenge told Artsy.net
Mathenge’s story depicts a tale of sheer hard work and zeal and embodies the character needed to chase one’s dream. Born and bred in Nairobi, Mathenge and her family, however, had to relocate to London after her father was handed a diplomatic assignment for five years.
After completing the task, the family came back to Kenya where she pursued business administration before shifting to San Diego, United States of America (USA) to get an MBA and begin a career in finance.
After getting bored with finance, Mathenge resorted to changing courses and delved into law. The artist, who earned a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, began working for an insurance company.
However, she became restless with her career as she sought her true purpose. “I quickly realized I was just moving from thing to thing and not finding my place,” she stated.
She began taking classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and embarked on her journey to artistry.
“I kept on asking myself, ‘5 years, 10 years down the road, will you look back and regret it?’ And you start thinking, ‘Why didn’t I just do it?’ “It’s scary, and I think that’s why you should do it,” she affirmed.
During her first Semester at the institution, she hosted her first solo exhibition- Aura of Quiet- held in Los Angeles.
She noted that art school changed her concept of drawing as she was challenged to apply critical thinking to her art pieces. Her paintings currently personify Alice Neel, a popular American visual artist who lived in the 1900s.
“Paint lends itself to blending really well; in drawing, you’re working hard to blend. Paint as a wet medium naturally wants to blend,” she stated.
Mathenge has tasted success in art, having featured her exhibits in London, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Milan and Frankfurt.
Her record-selling painting was Ksh4 million for Supplication in Alabaster, sold at Phillips London in 2022, while the lowest price for her painting retails around Ksh2 million.