Artist Spotlight: Yoyo Lander

By Danny Dunson

Yoyo Lander is a self-taught painter based in Los Angeles, CA. Lander’s visions emanate from all that surround her while abroad. Lander’s work explores unconventional color palettes, bold color contrasts, and womanhood. Her subjects are composed from brown hues, placed on backgrounds of both subtle and contrasting color fields. Lander creates her interpretations by using personal photographs and stories of indigenous women as her inspiration. The figurative artwork enjoins a conversation between itself and its audience regarding joy, identity, sisterhood and community. ArtX is very excited to present the series TIME OFF, by Yoyo Lander.

Artist Statement


For Black America slavery is a dominant mindset that has shaped our expectations as black people.

Because of this, America is NUMB to the murder, suffering, grief, and adolescence of black people.

And so we, as black people, have become NUMB to vulnerability because we NEED to survive.
Vulnerability is the essence of fear, shame and our struggle for worthiness. Yet it is also the birthplace of creativity, joy, love and belonging. To be vulnerable means to open yourself up completely, to stand in your nakedness and to lean into every imperfection. It is not easy, but necessary to elevate, grow, love, and evolve.
But…when do we get to be vulnerable? When do we get to ponder how we want to live our lives? When do we get to think about what matters most to us? When do we get to explore the heart of it all? Is it at night before bed when we are fully unmasked? Is it in our alone time?

TIME OFF is a collection of eight large-scale works made with watercolor paper and wood panel. The series explores black people who are perceived to be strong in vulnerable positions. Pondering questions like the ones mentioned above.

Yoyo Lander, Faith is an Attitude, 2019, Watercolor Paper on Wood Panel 42in by 68in.

ArtX: Tell us about you as a person.

Yoyo Lander: My name is Yoyo Lander and I’m a visual artist based in Los Angeles, CA. I’m originally from Sumter, SC.

How long have you been practicing art professionally, and when did you start to consider yourself a real artist?

I’ve always been an artist, but I didn’t sell my first piece until 2014. Up until 2014 art was just a hobby, but one day a friend of mine saw a mural painting I did on my kitchen wall and asked me to do a portrait for him. I didn’t take him seriously, so I ignored the request. A year later he asked me again (and wired me some funds), so I took it seriously that time, and that was the first piece I ever sold. Immediately after that, it seemed like I began selling a lot of original work as well as getting commissioned projects.

Did you go to art school?

I’m an autodidactic painter. I do have a BA from Howard University and an MFA from UCLA, but my MFA’s concentration was not in Visual Arts.

Yoyo Lander, Romans 12:2, 2019. Watercolor Paper on Wood Panel. 25in by 37in.

What medium do you prefer to work in?

I prefer to work with watercolor. I enjoy the mystery of watercolor because when mixing, you never really know exactly how the colors you mix are going to come out, but it’s always a nice surprise. It’s pretty freeing too!

Who are some of your art inspirations? What are some of your non-art inspirations?

My art inspirations are El Anatsui for his process and use of materials. Kerry James Marshall for his use of color and imagination. Knowledge Bennet because his work is so thought-provoking and offers amazing conversation. Calethia DeConto for her handmade photo art expressing divine femininity. Vincent Van Gogh for his style and the storytelling his work offers us. Amy Sherald, Deborah Roberts, and Mark Bradford amongst others.

I’m also really inspired by curators. I think they offer us a different perspective and I respect anyone who can master the art of storytelling through different facets of artwork. Shawanna Davis and Arianne Edmonds are two curators in LA that I am truly inspired by.

Yoyo Lander, Deep Water and Drowning Are Not the Same Thing, 2019. Watercolor Paper on Wood Panel, 30in by 40in.

I can’t say I have many non-art inspirations because so much of my life is submerged in all that falls under art, but recently my cousin Reggie has been a source of inspiration for me. Reggie is about 65 years old. He is a general contractor and does fabulous work. He can build cabinets, put down any flooring, he can do countertops, install windows, do plumbing and electrical work…you name it. But what inspires me about Reggie is how meticulous and detail-oriented he is. He does every job with a level of integrity that surpasses anyone I have ever known. His work is flawless and beautiful. Whenever I am working on a piece and I feel like I’m rushing to meet a deadline, I think about Reggie. I think about how he is still able to find so much joy in something he has been doing for so long. I love art, and I never ever want this candle to burn out. I want to enjoy it for as long as I live. Reggie doesn’t know this, but he has taught me to enjoy the PROCESS. Reggie always says, “I’ll finish when I finish, and when I do it’ll be worth the wait.”

When do you know when a work is finished?

I have an idea of exactly how I want each piece to look. Once I get as close to that as possible. Then I know that I’m finished.

Tell me about your process when working.

Creating art is a very spiritual process for me. I can’t touch my canvas if my mood is off, if the energy in the room isn’t right, or if the background music isn’t smooth. I need a clear mind and the freedom to only think about the task at hand, so that I can get lost in it for 8 hours or so each day.

What are the meanings and the concepts behind this particular body of work?

Right now I’m finishing up an eight-piece series called Time Off and it’s all about vulnerability. Vulnerability is the essence of fear, shame and our struggle for worthiness. Yet it is also the birthplace of creativity, joy, love and belonging. To be vulnerable means to open yourself up completely, to stand in your nakedness and to lean into every imperfection. It is not easy, but necessary to elevate, grow, love, and evolve.

Yoyo Lander, God Where Are You? 2019. Watercolor Paper on Wood Panel. 30in by 45in

What do you want viewers to take away from your work?

I want them to think about how vulnerability shows up in their lives. I want them to allow themselves the freedom to explore vulnerability.

What are your biggest goals as a visual artist? And what has been your proudest moment professionally?

I would like to participate in as many biennials as possible (particularly the Whitney Biennial). I want to create 100 portraits next year. I’d like to do a three-month residency in Copenhagen, Denmark Bahia, Brazil or somewhere in Sicily. I’d like to one day create several art pieces for The Ronald McDonald House Charities, which is an amazing organization. I’d like to license artwork to hotels. I’d also like my work to travel the museum circuit.

My proudest moment professionally was when my work was featured on the television show, Greys Anatomy on ABC. That was pretty cool!

Visit Yoyo Lander’s website and follow her on Instagram at @yoyolander

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