Los Angeles/ New York
How did you get your start in Art?
I consider myself a cultural enthusiast mainly because I'm into a lot of different things, I plan special events, my family runs a cultural travel experience called Encounters with African Religion, where I take a group to Ghana and Ethiopia and of course the painting.
I've always been an artist, whether I like to admit it or not. I've always known how to draw. When I was younger I made sculptures out of old gum. I didn't realize I had a true skill until 2 years ago when I sold my first piece. A friend of mine saw some of the paintings I created on the walls in my apartment and he said "Wow you are a really good painter. I want you to paint something for me." He wanted me to paint a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. because they share a birthday. I was hesitant at first but I went to the warehouse, got canvases, paint, acrylic and other supplies; then I locked myself into my apartment for almost a month. It was the most therapeutic experience of my life. I wanted to make such a great impression on my friend that I committed 500% on that wall. I totally transformed his space and he loved it. I don't think I had ever been so dedicated to a project. After that experience, I thought to myself "I'm in this thing... I'm doing it."
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would describe my artistic style as cubism* mixed with realism. I paint people as they are but it has this cartoon-ish cubism twist to it as well.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your pieces?
I draw my inspiration from whatever surrounds me when I travel abroad. I'm definitely more drawn to painting women. I can see the story in a woman. I think women are complex and beautiful, so I definitely get my inspiration from them.
On notable projects:
My first solo show, When Joy Overcomes Pain, is when I realized I was serious and how hard it is to develop a body of work around a theme. All my paintings are pretty big scale, all of my work spans from 72x85 or 48x60, I spent about a year creating all of the pieces. There were times when I wanted to give up and just didn't want to do it anymore. I kept pushing through because I knew I had something I wanted people to see. And the response that I got from it made it well worth. Someone at the show told me "You really know how to capture a person's soul and I feel them." And that's really what I want. I want a person to feel an overwhelming sense of joy when they see my artwork because that's what I feel inside.
What messages did you want to convene to the audience with the When Joy Overcomes Pain theme?
Perspective is a really big thing for me, especially when it comes down to a person's happiness. All my paintings are of real people. I have traveled the world and I know there are people who did not eat today or yesterday. Meeting these people gave me an understanding between "riches and wealth" and "the things that you think make you feel joy and the things that really make you feel joy."
I had been painting this piece I named "When Joy over comes Pain" of three women who are all married to the same man. I'd seen them before on one of my journeys and I noticed I never saw them smile. On this particular day I saw them smiling and I wondered, "why are they smiling?" Other travelers were speaking about how the woman in that particular village were oppressed due to having to married the same man and take care of the many children. What I found is that the women weren't oppressed they were living together in harmony, operating this whole village effortlessly. Everyone ate everyday and everyone got along. The way they were embracing and helping each other was beautiful to me.
What are some of the challenges you face as an artist?
One of the challenges I face is getting bombarded with a lot of opportunities to collaborate with other artists. I have to take the time to think about what baskets I want to put my eggs in. I have to think of things in a year span. It takes about a month for me to create a piece not matter how big or small. Just saying no to certain things has been one of my challenges.
Personally, the "Jack of All trade, Master of none" moniker has been something I've always struggled with. I don't struggle with it anymore because I've made a name for myself, Cultural Enthusiast. It's a person who is into many things and can monetize based off their interest in all things culture. That's what I am.
Who is your favorite artist?
One of my favorite artists is Ab2ether. His style is so unique to me. I love what he paints, his colors and messages are so beautiful. Picasso and others have been world renown for so long because they were the first to create what they created, and this guy has his own style. He doesn't use the most expensive paint or the most expensive canvas but it works . It makes a statement that I'M HERE.
I also like Kerry James Marshall. His portrayal of African life and use of bold colors. He is a master at what he does.
And I love Kara Walker, a lot of artists might not agree with this choice. As an artist you have to make people feel something and I love her unique medium. Her art, particularly her silhouettes, are very beautiful and uncomfortable at the same time. It makes you wince but you can't help but look at it.
On upcoming projects?
I'm currently in the process of conceptualizing my next solo show. The title as of now is "The Problem with Going Nowhere".
I have been thinking about all the people in my life who are in this cycle of living and working, living and working, having a little bit of fun, living and working. I began to wonder what is life going to be like if they stay in this cycle where they aren't going anywhere. I'm not sure where this project is going to go but something amazing will come out of it in a year.
What is your dream project?
I would like to collaborate with a company who makes composition notebooks and produce customized notebooks with my Black American Girl image. I believe it is important to have affordable visuals such of this available for young girls.
What quote or mantra do you live your life by?
If want to go where you've never been, you have to do things you've never done.
Whether it's your dreams, professionally, or even dating, you have to go out and get uncomfortable.
*cubism - an early 20th-century style and movement in art, especially painting, in which perspective with a single viewpoint was abandoned and use was made of simple geometric shapes, interlocking planes, and, later, collage.