Thelonious Stokes (b.1995, Chicago) is a classically trained oil painter and the first African American to graduate from the prestigious Florence Academy of Art in Italy. Shaped by his Baptist culture and upbringing around jazz music on the Southside of Chicago, Stokes gravitated towards art at an early age as a means to express himself. Stokes’ work interrogates Western art history and Judeo-Christian themes – challenging and recontextualizing the canon to include themes and depictions of Black figuration that have been historically omitted. Writer and curator Antoine J. Girard says of Stokes’ practice: “[His] work anchors itself in the figurative movement as an attempt to compensate for the centuries of missing Black representations in the arts.” Thelonious currently works and lives in Florence, Italy, and he is the founder of The Black Academy of Art.