How art, and being out, married lesbians changed the course of these women’s lives.
Adrienne and Janeeka Muse bet on love and happiness and are winning. If you haven’t heard of them personally, you may be familiar with their work — notably, Janeeka Muse’s (J.Muse) portrait of Michelle Obama which went viral in 2016.
Matriarchs Adrienne (A.Muse) and Janeeka (J.Muse), head this family of four, in which three are visual artists. Asia,16, is their resident photographer. While Aliyah, 14, is the other visual artist and makeup maven. Their YouTube series, “Her Wife and Kids” invites the world in to see what it’s like to raise two daughters as a Black lesbian couple.
The Obama portrait is just one example of their work. A.Muse’s work focuses on realism and color with the use of mixed mediums including acrylic, spray paints, aerosols, and newspaper. Whereas, J.Muse, who learned her craft from A.Muse, focuses on pop art.
Their successes sit on a foundation built on love, struggle, support and extreme faith. Frustrated and depressed by her corporate job in Jacksonville, Florida, A.Muse would “doodle” to clear her mind. Meanwhile, J.Muse was also unhappy at her job and decided to quit. She says, “I like to live a life doing things that make me happy.” Her job was not one of them, but being around A.Muse definitely was one of those things. The boost of encouragement from J.Muse motivated A.Muse, to consider creating art for a living. She quit her job and decided to pursue art full time.
Already engaged to be married, the two took a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate J.Muse’s birthday. That weekend resulted in an impromptu wedding (at the time, same-sex marriage was illegal in several states), being outcast from their families and subsequently, realizing they would be homeless.
Unable to get home to Florida, they stayed in Los Angeles and moved into a shelter for women and children. Still committed to the journey, A.Muse continued to teach herself how to paint, including theory and color. Additionally, she started teaching the other women and children how to paint.
A.Muse recounts, “I was thinking ‘we’re f—ed!’ But it was J.Muse who was smiling. She would say, ‘seriously, we can do this babe.’ ” It wasn’t until after they had gotten back on their feet and into their first apartment in L.A. that J.Muse began painting. J.Muse credits her ability to paint to an amazing instructor in A.Muse.
A.Muse shared when she knew J.Muse could paint: “One day I was frustrated because I was still learning what colors to make what, when Janeeka said, ‘You should mix raw sienna with burnt umber to get that tone’ … I knew then that I could teach her how to paint.”
Since then, opportunities with major brands such as Essence Festival and Coca-Cola have come their way — from being commissioned to paint honorees at the Essence Music Festival to supporting Coca-Cola in the media launch of their new flavors.
How does being a Black lesbian influence how people accept or perceive you?
A.Muse: I can’t tell if I would have more clients if I wasn’t out. But I do think how I present myself, as a more masculine presenting woman, influences how I’m accepted. … Outside of my sexuality, art depicting Black female bodies has been seen as vulgar whereas that same pose on a White woman is seen as “artistic.”
Why open up your private life on YouTube for the world to see?
A.Muse: When we had questions and were looking for shows that featured people like us, they weren’t there. We created our own lane. Our followers look for Black, family oriented lesbians. And subconsciously, because we weren’t speaking to our family at the time there was a hope that they would see that [our life] was normal. We are not these aliens from another planet. We are normal people whose children are on the honor roll.
We asked the Muses to share their wisdom for queer women and artists:
To queer women: “Get comfortable with being who you are; Use the power within you to live comfortably.”
To artists: “Keep going. 1 out of 100 pieces is what can change your life.”
If you could co-create with anyone who would you choose?
Muses: Beyonce! [They say in unison.]
J.Muse: She is the muse of all muses. We listen to her when we paint. We admire her work ethic, her creativity, how she blends with other artists, the things that she thinks to put together. The strong creativity and sleepless nights.
National painting tour. [Follow them to find out the locations.]
Commissioned paintings for corporations, celebrities and collectors.
New print series depicting the Black female form.
Get inspired and keep up with the Muses:
On Instagram: A.Muse: @iam.muse; J.Muse: @j.muse
Their resident photographer, Asia Muse: @musemadeofmelanin
YouTube Show: Her Wife and Kids