• Invitation Oxford

Faces In The Crowd

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

Written by Andi Sherrill Bedsworth | Art by Kirstie Manning

Artist Kirstie Manning brings bold and captivating subjects to life in a recent collection of portraits.

Kirstie Manning, an Oxford resident, has always been drawn to faces. As a young child in first grade, her classmates would crowd around her as she drew, waiting for their turn to be sketched by the budding artist.

“I enjoy looking into and capturing the eyes of a person,” Manning said, recalling the scene. “I would draw huge heads filling [the pages], with little box bodies with stick arms and stick legs.”

Manning attended elementary school in Verona, where she looked forward to art class — taught by video lessons. In fifth grade she was accepted into a gifted art class with a real live teacher. Manning went on to study art at the University of Mississippi where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in art with a focus on painting. She works primarily in acrylic, occasionally dabbling in watercolor or ink.

Manning said she’s inspired by those whose lives are a testament to the impact of African-American history and culture on the arts, literature, music and the character of our country. She often finds subjects in people she hears about on the news, especially victims and people who refuse to be victimized.

“Being a millennial, I see a lot of what’s happening in the news on social media,” Manning said. “I am inspired by the faces of truth-tellers because they aren't afraid to say what needs to be said. They use their voices or their platforms to serve their truth, and through speaking truth, people are healed.”

Manning’s latest body of work is evident of the passion she has for capturing the spirit of these “truth tellers” in paint. They are people facing adversity, and Manning has made it her mission to make sure they are known and their stories are heard.


“Killed by Systemic Depression”

12”x12” acrylic on stretched canvas

This is a haunting portrait of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old who was accused of stealing a backpack and its contents in 2010 in The Bronx, New York. He spent three years jailed on Rikers Island while he awaited trial and was eventually released due to lack of evidence against him. He committed suicide just two years after his ordeal, some believe as a result of the suffering he endured during his imprisonment.

“He was young going in and coming out.”

— Manning


“Distracting Hair”

12”x12” acrylic on stretched canvas

Zulaikha Patel, the proud young South African teenager full of grit and willing to stand up for her rights, refused to tame her hair despite rules set by Pretoria Girls High School’s policy regarding black girls’ hair.

“Our hair is very similar and that was what drew me to her.” — Manning


“Get Outta My Hair”

16”x20” acrylic on stretched canvas

Manning painted this self-portrait in response to the stories of police brutality she was hearing about on the news. Though at first glance it might seem to be a simple image of a young woman, the army tank in her hair makes a strong statement about her feelings.

“If we as people of color are a threat, then my being — our existence — is bigger than the tank. I'm bigger than oppression and any tactics made to quiet or snuff out my existence.” — Manning

Oxford, Mississippi | United States

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