Releasing Grief through Golden Tears: in Conversation with Courtney Minor

Most known for collage portraits and typographic mixed media styles of collage on canvas, visual artist Courtney Minor wants to expand the definition of what “collage” means, loving to create multiple styles of collages and playing with materials such as yarn, textures, photographs, and, most recently, 3D elements. A professional artist since 2019, Courtney is represented by various galleries in New York and has participated in several exhibitions during the past 3 years.

In the middle of December 2022, Courtney and I met via Zoom to talk about her creative process, the difficulty of being put in a box by art galleries & institutions and her most recent work, the “Blue Series”, a vibrant series of mixed media collages & paintings that honour the loved ones who have left Courtney’s life
. Enjoy!


Hi Courtney, thanks a lot for taking your time to talk to me today. I’m going to start with the basics: for people who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into art? 

My name is Courtney Minor, I’ve been a visual artist publicly and professionally for the past 3 and a half years. I used to paint specifically pointillism when I was in elementary school, and I just stopped for like 15 years, I guess life got in the way. And then, I had an epiphany in 2018, and I started making art again and couldn’t stop.

I actually made this here, it’s the first painting I ever made. (Courtney shows me a painting on the wall close to her). It started with a photograph, a selfie of me, because at that time I had just gotten a new iPhone. So, I took a photo of myself and sat with it, and I thought to myself, “This is really pretty.” But at first, I was like, “I’m not going to show anybody because who wants to see a selfie?”, but I decided to leave it on my phone. So, every winter I make an effort to take about one or two months off if I can, and I just take care of myself, I take a break from social media, I usually go somewhere and travel. That year, I went to Vietnam, like in Eat Pray Love (laughs) and I looked at that photograph again, and I kept thinking, “I want to do something more with this.” And before you know it, it became that painting.

Courtney gets up from her chair to show me the painting.

You can see there’s yarn in it, there’s embroidery, all kind of stuff. I was really just experimenting and from there it was it. That was the beginning, and I haven’t stopped since.

Coterie: A Boy by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

Dad the Unreadable by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

You use a lot of gold in your work, does it have a meaning?

The Gold has a meaning, yes, everything in my work has a meaning. For me, gold is daylight, it is re-emergence, and I do a lot of my highlights, as well as my tears in gold. A lot of people find tears of pain the embodiment of sadness, but sometimes, tears are a release. And so, if you see tears of gold in my work, it’s because it’s a release.

The writings in your paintings, I don’t see that in your first painting yet. Is that because the painting is far from me or because it hadn’t come yet?

It hadn’t come yet. Remember, I took basically almost 15, 20 years off- now I say off, then I just didn’t think of myself as an artist. My friends and family would be like, “You used to draw and paint and create little miniature plays, what happened to that little girl?” And I think I intimidated my own self. I had friends that were fine artists, they were painters and illustrators and could draw and paint photorealistic, and in my mind, I was like, “I can’t do photorealistic, I guess I’m not an artist.” That was literally what I thought. And then, I just got over it (laughs). I was like, “You know what, who cares if I can do photorealistic? I can put things together and that is art as well.” So, it took me all those years to realize that art doesn’t come in one form, that I could make something else, and that it’s ok.

Another thing that happened was that one of the artists that I really love, Johanna Goodman, she made this beautiful collage portrait- no paint, no nothing, just all paper. And I loved it so much, I ended up buying one of her limited-edition prints. And so, I thought, “Wait a minute, am I saying to myself that I can’t be an artist because I don’t draw and paint well (at least to me) and I just bought this print from this artist who didn’t draw or paint on herself at all?” And so, I decided to try and see (laughs).

If I had to give advice to anybody, it would be: just get out of your own head! Because that’s what stopped me for 15 years.

Magritte by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting
Black Future is Female by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

You told me that you want to expand what people view as collage. Could you comment a bit on that?

So, and I’m sure that other artists have done it, but I’m going to explore it in my own little world, people often like to put things in boxes, even in art, especially in the art world. At that time, the representative of the gallery that represents me in Harlem, said, “So, what is your common thread in all your artwork?” and I was like, “Well, the one thing I definitely do whether it’s physical, digital, or any other kind of layer, is I put things on top of each other, I collage things together.” And then I said that I would love to collage things together that truly aren’t always together, like texture and metaphysical, I want to collage that together.

(Courtney gets a message on her phone and tells me): So, you’re going to get a big announcement: I’ve been accepted for a residency in Mexico! I’ll be going for a month and the thesis that I submitted was that I want to create collages out of many different things. And I want to focus it on a group of people that I call the “others”. Every group, every nationality, every country has a group of people that are not shown in the media, they’re not considered the ideal, and that’s exactly who I want to create, and paint, and capture, and learn their history.

It’ll start with my trip to Ghana in like a week, and then I’ll be doing Mexico. I’ve travelled the world three times over but I didn’t have an art hat on, so now, when I go back to several countries that I’ve been to several times, I’m going to do that. But all that to say, I want to capture their voices, their words, their sounds, all the five senses. I want to see if I can collage that together, that’s my goal! I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it but that’s what I want and I know other artists have done that. I wonder what happens if you collage a space, what happens if you collage everything you see, touch, and feel, together?

Every group, every nationality, every country, has a group of people that are not shown in the media, they’re not considered the ideal. That’s exactly who I want to capture and paint.

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