7 Artists of Color Talk Representation
V sits down with a group of rising POC artist to discuss their experiences in the industry, their artistry, and the importance of representation.
Although various industry veterans have made waves calling attention to the lack of proper representation, it is today’s generation of rising Artists of color who are at the forefront of increased representation and demand to be seen. Rather than twiddling their thumbs waiting for the industry to give them a seat at the table, young artists of color are creating spaces in which their art and creativity can flourish, disrupting traditional and outdated notions that have defined the art world for so long. Allow V to introduce you to seven rising artists of color who are unapologetically paving their own way and determined to make a name for themselves.
MOST RECENT WORK: I just released an album titled Doom Generation
V: What power does art hold in your community?
I think art is the main point of healing and connection for the black community, which has also been a powerful tool for our ancestors. Black/African Americans have always used song, dance, and art to build each other up. I find creative expression to be extremely cathartic and empowering, and I think all human cultures have their own roles for art and creativity.
V: Does your experience as a POC impact how and what you create?
I think being black has influenced how I see the world and in turn has changed how I view art. I think culturally I’ve been taught that no matter what, I can always make something out of the materials I have. I think it makes me way more creatively resourceful. I also believe it drives me to want to create space for others like me, and show people we can create our own space
V: What advice would you give to the next generation of POC artists?
I would tell them to listen to their visions, dreams, and ideas. Don’t wait for others to start working, do what you can with what you have. Also your culture, background, and race are a strength not a weakness. Learn about your history and allow that to empower you. Don’t waste time in doubt
ARTISTRY: Music (R&B)
MOST RECENT WORK: I just a single released Wildin Out (First single on forthcoming EP)
V: Why do you think representation in media and art matters?
Representation matters more so now than ever. The media plays into offensive stereotypes that don’t actually represent who we are as people of color. It shows the ignorance of those working within these media companies. I would like to see people of color being valued and loved for being themselves, rather than being portrayed as something they’re not. Also, it would be a dream come true for the industry to stop pinning POC artist against one another. There is this unspoken rule that we can’t all coexist in the same context, especially in the music industry.
V: Do you think social media has played a role in more representation and opportunities for POC artists?
Social media is a platform that you can curate to reflect who you are which means no one can project an image onto you that doesn’t embody who you are. With social media the world gets an unfiltered look at people with different backgrounds and this is pivotal for POC artist because it puts our you and your work out there.
V: What differentiates your experience as a POC artist from your peers who aren’t of color?
In terms of the music industry there is no room for mediocrity when being an artist of color. Everything we do has to be the best, even if we don’t have the same resources as our non POC peers. This can be a lot of pressure; I feel like I have to work twice as hard to gain some recognition. While this might seem dreadful It surprisingly doesn’t scare me. I refuse to create music on someone else’s expectations. I can only be me and let the world decide if they rock with it.
ARTISTRY: Fashion Design
BASED: Philadelphia, PA
MOST RECENT WORK: I am currently working on a contemporary children’s clothing line.
V: How has self-expression and creativity been pivotal to your growth as a POC artist.
Expression and creativity to me is natural human process. I believe it is our personal responsibility to create and put out positive energy into world. Creating is a therapeutic process that allows our minds to unpack and unload from within. The freedom to express my creativity has played a major role in my process and journey of self-realization.
V: Was there a pivotal moment where you realized design was something you wanted to pursue?
My first experience designing came about from a literal hardship. My daughter was growing out of her clothes which I couldn’t afford at that point in time. So I began to rework old denim, jerseys and tops. I began playing with shapes and silhouettes which grew into a passion and furthermore led to me creating a brand.
V: What would you say to those who don’t think proper representation is necessary in all faucets of the industry?
As a person of color, my own experiences, references and culture are very personal to me which I don’t think can be duplicated. So in order to properly tell the stories of people of color, you need to have us involved or it won’t be authentic. Also going beyond authenticity, this country still hasn’t healed from things that happened hundreds of decades ago. POC art can aide in getting that conversation started, it can push us to talk about the societal wounds that haven’t healed.
ARTISTRY: Fashion Design
BASED: Philadelphia, PA
Most Recent Work: Styling an editorial for my brand; Metallihelmiä
V: What are some of your main sources of inspiration for your work?
I create and pull from elements of my surroundings, my struggles as a person of color, and I put those elements into projects. My main objective is to create for the betterment of myself and my community.
V: In your opinion what is the most empowering thing about being an artist of color?
I believe art holds the power of uniting and bringing people together in my community by connecting us through self-expression rather than a simple conversation over liquor & a blunt.
V: What do you think has been the strongest tool for artist of color who are making their voices heard and their work visible to the world?
Social media has definitely created more opportunities for POC & me personally from politics (so thankful to have been alive to see a black man become president) down to simply branding & promoting more easily. I think we are able to make our presence and history that much more known, raw & unapologetic because of the social media era in which we are in.
MOST RECENT WORK: Showcasing my film photography.
V: In what ways does art influence or impact your community?
I believe POC artists have a role to play in healing our communities. Art has the power to bring people together and unify us all. So, with whatever type of art we create we should be educating not only our communities but everyone. Even if it’s not through the art, but through your presence on social media or face-to-face encounters. That is the only way to make an impact on our communities and ultimately the world.
V: How has art been a driving force for you? What struggles were you able to overcome with the help of art?
I am constantly dealing with depression and anxiety, but art and creating has been my source of therapy. Every time I finish a piece or just start something that I’m passionate about; I get a sense of relief. Creating is a life line for me, I have always craved to create music, paintings, drawings, clothes, jewelry, even as a child. So, I am happy that hunger hasn’t gone away!
V: What is the most important lessons you have learned throughout your journey of creating art?
It’s okay to be alone, that’s the best time for you to grow and put that time into creating. Also, try not to compare yourself and your work. If you’re going through a dry spell or have no motivation, take some time to yourself. Do not beat yourself up over that, because we all have our own special journeys to take. Most importantly don’t forget to smile, laugh and enjoy life, because life is too short.
ARTISTRY: Fashion (Styling)
MOST RECENT WORK: Styling a social media campaign for streetwear brand; Only The Blind.
V: How the freedom to create help you on your path of self-discovery as a person of color?
Styling has actually helped me to develop a sense of individuality. I kind of grew up wondering what was special about me. People would often compliment me on what I was wearing but I felt pretty lost in my adolescence. I started to style others and saw how it made them feel good about themselves and brought their vision to life. Once I realized the power that came with styling, I finally felt like I found my purpose.
V: How has being brought up in an African American or Black household influenced your decision to pursue a career in fashion/design?
I was raised by independent, young women who made a living as artists. My mother was a painter and nail technician and my aunt owned a hair salon; both while in their 20s. I think growing up in an environment surrounded by women like that is important for young girls, especially girls of color. Also, my mother and aunt always had the hottest new furs, leather jackets, heels – everything that was cool in the 90s – which I played dress up in. Not only did they teach me that I could succeed at whatever I’m passionate about but they also fostered my love for fashion.
V: As an artist of color, what are some reasons you feel it is important to keep creating work that reflects your community and who you are?
I think that art has always served as a major form of expression and a way for people to connect. A lot of POC art forms are created to induce feelings of inclusivity while still promoting the uniqueness of individuality. POC art, especially on social media, helps to connect thousands of individuals amid all of the hate and negativity that is taking place in this country. Seeing POC artists who have the courage to express their feelings about individuality, their community and this country; offers comfort to a lot of people who may not have the courage to do so.
ARTISTRY: Visual Artist (Graphic Design & Architecture)
BASED: Philadelphia, PA
MOST RECENT WORK: Modeling for Ubiq’s collaboration with Broccoli City Festival.
V: What inspires you to create?
When creating a sense of freedom and empowerment come over me. I feel my strongest when I am creating, almost like I can conquer anything. Having that freedom to create is a very important to me because it gives me a chance to articulate myself and how I am feeling at that moment in time.
V: How has creativity and art help you defy the status quo or societal norms?
When I left college without a diploma/degree, I felt like a failure and life was over; as any 20 years old art school dropout would feel. But I figured I’d do it on my own, without a piece of paper telling me I was qualified for the job I was going for. So, I just took the tools I already learned and some projects that were a part of the curriculum and used it all to build my own portfolio. I am doing what I love without a degree.
V: Why is it important for artist of color to continue to demand proper representation?
If we don’t spread awareness and hold the industry accountable for their actions it’ll continue the cycle to further generations. So, as an artist we’re given a platform and the ability to heal our community and correct wrongdoings. Why should we waste that gift?