Posts tagged Culture
Nadia Waheed: Wearing Your Braid as a Badge
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Wearing Your Braid as a Badge: Challenging Expectations and Finding Your Place

By Christina Nafziger

Through the female body and cultural iconography, Nadia Waheed’s paintings explore dichotomies present in her own life as well as those that affect the female experience, one that forces women to navigate through the unrealistic, and often contradictory, expectations from others. Originally from Pakistan, and now based in Austin, Texas, the artist has lives all over the world, with her artistic practice being the space where she can claim agency and be her true self, away from judgment. The blue, pink, and orange women in her paintings often sport henna on their skin and long braids, both strong and beautiful, nodding at her cultural roots. Recently represented by the London-based gallery BEERS, Waheed shares honest advice on how to stay focused on what is truly important as an artist. Join me as Waheed opens up about her struggles overcoming personal obstacles, and discusses the challenge of balancing the two sides of East and West in her work and life.

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Have you always considered yourself an artist? When did you first feel like you had found your voice artist voice? 

I haven’t always considered myself an artist, actually. I hold that word and title in very high regard and I don’t think that everyone who makes “art” is an artist. Artist to me implies a very high level of commitment to a certain type of work and practice. Mentally, it is not a “part time” relationship; the thinking about the work becomes something that’s always there, processing in the background of everything you do. It’s everything. I wasn’t comfortable calling myself an artist until I realized that this really was my only purpose in life. I could’ve taken another route after graduating with my BFA, but I felt so empty without my work, it was a clear sign that making paintings is an inherent part of my identity and that I could never be a functional version of myself without it. 

I grew up drawing and that was my primary method for communicating myself artistically. When I moved to paint in 2013, I didn’t at all have the same fluidity or finesse as I did with line. I believe I found my artistic voice many years ago when I was young, but it’s been a years long process of honing it. When my mentor Kevin Wolff passed away in early 2018, his death rattled and pushed me to the brink emotionally—it was like a rebirth. I lost my apprehension and stopped thinking about painting and just did it. Everything clicked into place and this body of work is what came out; Blue Portrait (Sisyphus’s Boulder) is the painting that started it all.

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Originally from Pakistan (born in Saudi, but from Karachi), how has your cultural background affected your artistic practice? Are there aspects of your work that are influenced by cultural elements or iconography?

I think it’s affected everything - it has always been something that I’ve responded to. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, so my sketchbook was always my sanctuary. I could be my unadulterated myself, outside the sphere of judgment from Western or Eastern culture. My practice was born from a need to belong and be understood as myself, and my studio became the space for me to do it. I am heavily influenced by the styles and themes I see back in Pakistan, and am so in love with miniature painting and Islamic architecture, but I only draw from the pieces that feel mine. The things that I’m most excited by, or scared of, are the things that you’ll see in my paintings. The weight that I see carried by women, the different weight of expectation that I see carried by others and myself. Iconography aside, I’m interested in the social dynamics of the East and West - what’s “societally appropriate,” primarily in regards to the development of young women. The difference is incredible, and balancing the two has been a challenge for me. 

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There seems to be an emphasis on hair, specifically on the braid, in your work. Can you speak a bit to this?

The braid has become a metaphor for so many things. Connection, worth, beauty, vulnerability... but maybe the simplest answer would begin with me saying that I wore a long braid similar to the women in my paintings for many years. I felt it was a tangible connection to my culture, a badge I could wear that said, “This is where I come from.” Long braids are symbols of traditional beauty in Pakistan and I pay homage to that tradition in my paintings. It’s a heavily layered symbol, a liberation and simultaneously a huge weight. It can be your pride and your greatest vulnerability; the interdependence of opposites is something I think about all the time. My grandmother’s nurse in Karachi has an incredibly long braid, down to the back of her thighs. She says she keeps her hair wound away and hidden when she’s in public because she’s afraid that her hair is going to be cut off by a jealous woman or a man who thinks she’s being shameless about her appearance. She says it’s happened before to others. I don’t think I’ve fully unpacked it, but to me, the braid says, “I’m trying to be a good Pakistani girl.” It’s totally contradicted by the nudity, but that’s my point - we can have both and still be good.  


Can you tell me about the presence of the female in your work? Are the scenes in your paintings allegories or are they perhaps reflections on your own thoughts or experiences?

I’d say a combination of both. I love women. I love men too (I love all humans!) but I’m amazed by women every day. So much is put onto us, and for generations women have persevered, raised families under constant abuse, broken countless glass ceilings and fought for respect in society and from our male counterparts. In my paintings, all my imagery is very personal; a lot of it is a surrendering, the resignation and the waving of a white flag. Someone looked at my paintings and said that none of my figures were empowered, that this work doesn’t empower women. I still grapple with that today, but I don’t disagree. Some of these figures are not empowered. It’s because sometimes I don’t feel empowered. There is an idea of “conditional” love that I see everywhere in my world which panics me - why is our worth and value as an entity dependent on our appearance or our paycheck or our marital status? I paint women because I am a woman, and mitigating the endless layers of complexity surrounding femininity and vulnerability and whatever ideas are thrust onto us, hoops we need to jump through to be given “worth”... these are all questions I’m painting through. At this point I have no definitive answers, rather I’m more interested in the question and the idea.

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Congratulations on your gallery recent representation with BEERS London! Do you have any advice for artists seeking gallery representation?

Thank you! It was an incredibly serendipitous occurrence and I couldn’t be happier about it, BEERS has been one of my all time favorite galleries for years and I’m so thrilled to join the team. 

Advice wise, there is only one thing that matters: making a good painting. We all know it’s a very difficult thing to do, so that honestly should be the only thing on your radar. If you try to curate your authentic voice towards a particular gallery or type of gallery, you are doing yourself and your work a massive disservice. The only thing an artist needs to be doing is making the work the best and most authentically that they conceivably can. There is no timeline. There is no falling behind. The only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If you can proudly stand next to your art and say, “This is me, this is mine,” then that’s all that matters. Everything else will come. Any young artists out there who are feeling anxiety, take charge and tell yourself this, “as long as it’s not impossible to do, it can be done”. Even a 1% chance is still a chance. Commitment is key.

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Do you listen to anything (podcasts, music, etc.) while you paint?

I used to listen to music when I worked, but I’ve switched to NPR and podcasts in October 2018. I’ve placed really stringent restrictions on the music I listen to because I’m just so overwhelmed by it now. Commercials make my heart race and make me cry, any music that’s too emotive takes me too deep inside myself and my vision warps. It’s almost funny how strongly I react to it! Pretty much the only music I can tolerate without weeping is lo-fi hiphop, very calm music with few words, and nothing too emotionally charged. I’ve become a really big fan of On Point and Fresh Air on NPR, and the podcasts Philosophize This! by Stephen West and Making Sense (formerly Waking Up) by Sam Harris, and also, The Adam Buxton Podcast. I highly recommend all three of those. I deal primarily in ideas, so these are great podcasts that explore a particular idea or person in each episode, a deep dive into the nuances of a certain topic. Nothing in this world is black and white; I love being exposed to shades of grey I hadn’t thought of before. 

Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome an obstacle, either in your art career or during your painting process? 

Things in my personal life during 2018 overwhelmed me to the point that, at the tail end of the year, being alone with myself in the studio became dangerous. I prefer working without natural light so that I don’t see the passage of time and I can just get lost in the flow of the work, but things in my life were happening one after the other and I was drowning. Going into my studio and being alone in a windowless room for 10 -14 hours a day was so isolating. My studio was slowly becoming this echo chamber for all my terrifying thoughts and feelings: of failure, of worthlessness, of hopelessness - but I couldn’t stop working. More than being alone with myself, I was afraid of not painting, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I was afraid that one day would become two, that two would become three, and that I’d wake up one day and it had been a year and I hadn’t painted. Even thinking about it now is terrifying. My practice is about communing with myself and my deepest thoughts about different ideas, if my mind is full of fear and anxiety, it becomes intensely amplified in the studio. Learning how to mitigate the part of me that is compelled to paint and the part of me that was terrified of being alone with myself is something I consider to be one of my biggest accomplishments.


Do you have anything coming up this year that you’d like to share?

At this point in time nothing in particular besides a group show in Toronto and my two-person show in May with BEERS! I’m very excited to make a whole new body of work for that show and to see what comes out. I’ve got some really good ideas rattling around in my noggin and while they’re very labor intensive I think they’re going to look super good. If you want to keep up with my work or get more insight into my process, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @nadiakwd.

(And thanks so much for reading!)

Monica Ikegwu

Monica Ikegwu is a 20-year-old Baltimore based figure painter. She has been awarded as a first place winner in the XL Catlin Art prize (2018), a Young Arts Finalist (2017), a Gold medal winner in the NAACP ACT-SO National competition (2016), and as a Scholastic silver medal portfolio winner (2016). Her work was recently displayed and exhibited at the Reginald F. Lewis museum, as well as at Ida B’s Table in a joint show early in 2018. She now attends and studies at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) as a Junior.


Monica Ikegwu’s work is structured upon the portraiture and depiction of African Americans. She displays figures rendered in the three dimension while accompanied with two dimensional design elements. Her work brings to focus subtleties that she notices in the black community, as well as her personal life. Living in Baltimore and the way that she experiences it plays a big role in the ideas that she develops for the work. Taking feelings and aspects from her surroundings, she presents them in a way that is not only captivating but also unconventional. The figures presented in her work are often times her siblings and family from whom she draws most of her inspiration from as she watches them progress through life.

Giving up Is Not an Option with Ashley Longshore

Join Ashley Longshore and Kat on this special episode. We talk about the hard stuff: working through financial difficulty, not giving up, trusting and believing in yourself during times of uncertainty, staying in a positive frequency no matter what and working with high end clients. 

Sarah Ashley Longshore is a Louisiana-based painter, gallery owner, and entrepreneur. She is the owner of the Longshore Studio Gallery, located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Longshore's art focuses on pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and American consumerism and has been compared to the artwork of Andy Warhol.

Raul Gonzalez

Born and raised in inner-city Houston, multi-dimensional artist Raul Gonzalez explores topics such as work, fatherhood, construction, labor, the working class, identity, and abstraction through versatile methods of painting, drawing, printmaking, performance, and dance. Now living in San Antonio with his wife and two daughters, Raul spends his days as a stay-at-home-parent.

Raul’s work is often inspired by being a stay-at-home father, challenging stereotypes, and finding beauty in chaos. Raul’s foundations in drawing, painting, and self-taught dancing have allowed him to create a world of narrative, cultural symbolism, color, and energy.

His work ranges from paintings of construction scenes on concrete to colorful abstract installations made of cardboard and duct tape. He has danced 4 1⁄2 miles across San Antonio as a way to “paint a line in space”. He shares drawings of himself as a stay-at-parent and uses his artwork to express himself and educate. Raul recently launched Werk House SA, a short-term rental space/ art gallery that’s conveniently located in his backyard.

Raul has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Houston, and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Raul has shown artwork throughout the United States, including solo or group shows at McNay Art Museum, grayDUCK Gallery, Miami University Ohio, Artpace, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, Lawndale Art Center, MACLA, Mexic-Arte Museum, Centro de Artes, and Forum 6 Contemporary.

Raul was a recipient of a 2016 National Association of Latino Arts & Culture San Antonio Artist Grant and a Surdna Foundation Grant through the Guadalupe Cultural Center in 2017. In 2018, Raul completed an artist studio residency at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams MA.

Raul’s artwork has been featured by, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, San Antonio Current, The Austin Chronicle, and Whataburger. Raul’s artwork is included in public collections such as the McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, TX), The National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago, IL), Mexic-Arte Museum (Austin, TX), National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum (Albuquerque, NM), the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the City of San Antonio.

Addressing Social Issues Through Art: Amy Scheidegger Ducos

By Sarah Mills

I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting & Drawing from East Carolina University in 2005 and a Masters of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University’s graduate program in 2010. 

Originally from North Carolina, I relocated to Philadelphia in order to join the Drexel graduate program to pursue a more multi-faceted role in the world of art and culture.

In 2011, I founded the Artistic Rebuttal Project – a grass roots art advocacy initiative that strives to, through story-collecting and story-telling, emphasize the power and necessity of the arts. On the project’s behalf, I periodically travel around the country speaking with university students in art programs, creative adults and kids, imploring them to become active in their communities in order to better serve the places in which they are rooted. It is only when the public knows the importance of art and art’s way of connecting our past to our future, can the arts act as a civic lesson to citizens everywhere. That same year, I was nominated a Creative Connector, a recognition pioneered by Leadership Philadelphia. Creative Connectors are “hubs of trust, seen as trustworthy and credible who use art and design to mobilize people around an issue.” 

In March of 2017, I moved to Quito, Ecuador to study how arts and culture are managed and appreciated in an older, foreign country. Living here, I am able to carve out a lot more time to create my own work.

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My work is largely social issues-centered, ranging from global warming, mental health, immigrant rights to body positivity.

My recent body of work was sparked by a myriad of issues that were once at the center of a progressive government and leadership - broadening women’s issues and mental health policies, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, and confronting police brutality and many more - that are now being rolled back by an administration run by greed and ignorance.

Now that I am living abroad in Ecuador, I am seeing these issues from what is considered a third world country. In this third world country, the class of person who would be considered the minority in the States is the majority that runs the country. In turn, women and the poor are treated on the whole and with a lot more respect in my particular third world country than the United States. 

My intent with the images enclosed is to explore the experiences I’m having watching and learning how Ecuador deals with these issues in contrast to my country of origin.

My work is created through a variety of mediums. I work initially with graphite and ink on paper as a first layer, then watercolor and acrylic on paper, as well as non-traditional materials like coffee (from the Galapagos). After scanning in these traditional/non-traditional mediums, I inject more color and detail digitally, creating a digital painting using a tablet.


How did you first start creating?

I first started drawing when I was 2 years old and I haven’t stopped! My mom saved everything (including the attached photo what "what mommy looks like when I'm bad"), put me in every after-school art class my parents could afford, art teachers from elementary to high school (I was lucky enough to have art classes every year) all encouraged and nurtured my inherent urge to make art and it blossomed into a skill that I’ve sharpened throughout the years.


Travel obviously plays a big role in your work, can you talk about your experience and the impact it had?

I didn’t travel much until I was 17 - the first time I ever got on an airplane. But since that first flight, I’ve tried my best to see and experience as much as I could afford. As fate may have it, I met an extraordinarily kind man from Ecuador while we were both earning advanced degrees in Philadelphia, PA. Pedro, by the end of his student visa, had to return to Ecuador, so after about 2 years of dating and living together in Philly, we took the leap of faith that we were going to work out and I moved to Ecuador with him in 2017. The shift to a completely different culture where I was now the minority took a long time to adapt to. In the States, I felt like things were “made” for me. Everything was in English, almost everything on tv and online is marketed towards women because women do the the world catered to me and I had access to everything I needed, even when money was tight. And I wasn’t rich by any means - I grew up lower middle class in a very rural town. Once I moved out of state I had my struggles not being able to find full-time work after I got my Masters in Arts Administration and yet I feel I excelled because the society I was in was some-what tailored to help me, a young white woman, succeed. Therefore, to be taken out of that environment and placed in a city where I couldn’t understand one conversation being had on the street, needing my fiance to tag along everywhere I went to translate, I ultimately, after 9 months needed to fly back to the States because I had overstayed my time Ecuador without getting the proper documentation. I was a legit illegal immigrant for 5 of those 9 months. (Americans can stay in Ecuador for 4 months until needing to register with the government and we had a crap lawyer who didn’t do her job). It gave me a completely new look at the America I grew up in and I have to tell you, it’s not a positive new look. I think my South American now-husband and I are lucky to not be living in the United States at this specific point in time. We would be in constant fear that his status would be in question and that we might be separated. I have learned that all Latin Americans - from Mexico to Chile to Spain - are all lumped together when Americans in power talk about them. When the current administration started calling Mexicans rapists and Venezuelans criminals as they stood in line for asylum at the border, I listened as my husband, an Ecuadorian, called all of them “his people” as he watched in agony as the United States continued to perpetuate harmful myths, vow to deport them all, and separated children from their parents. And for me, who has always had art as a form of therapy, expression, and retreat, my subject matter naturally becomes a portrayal what I’m feeling in response to my husband and his family’s current state of shock surrounding what the United States has become - for them. I can always return and I have thousands of good memories of growing up in North Carolina and finding my voice in Philadelphia. America will always be my home but when you’ve never lived outside if it, you don’t know the true impact and role it plays as far as what direction the rest of the world is headed. As Mark Twain once wrote - “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”


Much of your work involves observations on social, political, and cultural events, how did you get started creating this type of work?

My first major move, long before I moved to Ecuador, was moving from North Carolina to Philadelphia - which completely opened my eyes to how different races are treated across the country. I grew up in a somewhat mixed community, had friends of all colors, but we were in a rural town where law enforcement (from the point of view of a teenager who maybe wasn’t clued into politics quite yet) was community-led, everybody knew everybody. So there was a sense of justice and fairness spanning all ethnicities because if you were caught doing something you shouldn’t have been, no matter the color of your skin, the town sheriff knew your momma and knew she raised you better. Once I got to Philadelphia, things couldn’t have been more different. Avoiding eye contact with strangers was paramount because if you did say hello, more often than not it would turn into a creepy guy trying to follow you home from the subway or an arrogant man feeling entitled to let you know your tattoos are “unbecoming of a lady” and “your job should fire you” for letting one peek out underneath your shirt sleeve. And because none of those experiences are against the law, sometimes you have absolutely no one to turn to. From rural North Carolina where you go from home to car, to work, back to the car, back home, to Philadelphia where you feel you’re exposed on a regular basis - I became very hardened myself yet very aware of what women and men of color are subjected to on the daily. I could endure someone talking shit about my tattoos or my weight on the bus, at least I was never spat on because of the hijab being worn, or followed around a drug store simply because my skin was black and I was wearing a hoodie. Living in such proximity to racial profiling and racial biases has made me more empathetic and aware that racism is alive and well - and that I’m always working on my own biases that I wasn’t fully aware of having grown up in the South. That emotional work shows up in my artwork now - that idea from Mark Twain about travel, I’ll amend it to say that proximity is also fatal to prejudice. If you can SEE what happens to people of different races and backgrounds and be able to compare that to how you’re treated - your world will be flipped on its head if you think equality or equity has been reached in any way shape or form.

What is your favorite part of your creative practice?

My favorite part is I guess what you would call the middle part, where idea meets reality. Once you’ve conceived an idea and you begin sketching it - for me the first few sketches are never what I had envisioned in my head, but by the 3rd or 4th, it starts coming out the way it should. So when I’m able to step away from my work and say “YES! That’s what I was going for,” I get really excited to keep going and finish.


How has making art impacted your life?

That’s a difficult question, considering I’ve never NOT had art as a critical part of my life and being. I would say, having this ability has been the greatest gift, no doubt, but it has also been the root of some sadness as well. I’m currently writing a children’s book about my childhood where I was used for my skills and then discarded when my skills/I myself wasn’t “needed” anymore. Or times in my life where I wished I could have spoken my mind instead of keeping quiet at the moment and instead of painting about it later. Both are valid ways of communicating but I think I always wanted to be more vocal but didn’t know how which is something that maybe comes with age and experience. My voice is a lot larger than it ever has been - my family can attest to that - and now that I’m almost 35 I’m finding a better balance between speaking vocally and speaking through my artwork.

What is a piece of advice that was given to you that you would like to share with our readers?

The main thing for me, when I was in art school, I had a teacher named Mr. Hartley, who has since passed, but he told me being an artist had nothing to do with talent: it was all about practice and sharpening your skills. I had a lot of people tell me when I was growing up that I’ll be an artist, no doubt, it’s a talent I was born with and I shouldn’t waste it. But the work you have to put into it is NOT something the average person realizes. The amount of artwork that doesn’t see the light of day because it’s not up the artists’ ridiculously high standards is not something the average person realizes. So yes, you can be born with talent, but don’t let that for a minute make you think that being an artist isn’t all about the work. “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” IS A LIE!

What is the most important thing you have learned from your creative journey thus far?

I have learned that the world and all its creatures are so complex, it’s beyond all of our practical comprehension. I grew up thinking being right was more important (to me) than anything else. In Philadelphia, I thought hustling and being busy from sun up til sun down meant I was doing all the right things. I learned that everyone’s got baggage so stop judging. In Ecuador, I am learning that the world was not made just for me, so I need to adjust-adjust-adjust myself on a regular basis and not be afraid of how other people see me. Through my journies of becoming an Ecuadorian resident, my own personal difficulties of learning how to speak Spanish, and now at the beginning of my marriage, I have learned that trying to be right all the time and trying to come off like I know something about everything is exhausting, arrogant, and won’t work for me or the important people in my life anymore. I’m settling into a place where most things are new to me and there’s no way I could have prepared for them or knew about them. Personal evolution is my current mindspace and I have to leave all the doors and windows open.

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Complexities of The Human Condition: O’Neil Scott

I am a self-taught, Philadelphia-based artist. Influenced early on by both my grandfather and uncle, each of whom pursued creative careers, I took to drawing as a child and spent much of my youth filling the pages of empty notebooks with images of individuals, both fictional and real. In college, I had hoped to study art. But I’d been awarded a football scholarship from Syracuse University and therefore had to prioritize my activities, which meant dropping my studio courses since they conflicted with the school’s training schedule. While I ended up majoring in Information Technology and then later earned my MBA at the University of Delaware, I never lost my passion for art. Rather, it remains a vehicle that I continue to utilize as a means to give voice to my innermost concerns.

Inspired by the Old Masters as well as contemporary realists, I always have been captivated by portraiture and its capacity to impart the complexities that comprise the human condition. It wasn’t until I stopped working with acrylic and started experimenting with oil two years ago that I started spending so much more time at the easel. Not only have I found the material’s pliability so much easier to navigate, but it’s ease of use has pushed me to delve that much deeper into my subject matter and risk voicing my trepidation about the many issues that I hold close to my heart, such as social justice, climate change, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. At their core, I want my paintings to invoke mindfulness, to inspire contemplation, and to convey understanding.


Your work has heavy political themes, what is the specific inspiration behind your current series?

My current series was centered around my 2018 Solo Exhibition, “American Emotion”. The exhibition takes a look at individuals and their different emotional states in relationship to America. These emotions span from a sense of pride to a sense of sorrow and anger. Currently, I am thinking about how America as a country is feeling about its current state and trying to reflect that through each painting. Even though each painting is portraying a different topic they all have an underlying theme of society’s current state.

What is your favorite part about working with fluid paints?

For me, it’s about capturing an emotion and a sense of truth about the subject. Oil painting evokes different emotions depending on the way the paint is applied. A smooth painting can bring in a sense of calmness and a heavy thick tactile painting can easily imply a sense of anxiety and disruption. The application is just as important as subject matter.


Were you always interested in realism? What drew you to painting in this style?

I grew up drawing nonstop, filling up notebooks with sketches of any and every one. For as long as I could remember I was sketching people, I think I fell in love with the form at an early age. To me, realism is the closest to nature and humanity. It’s about people and the things that make up the world around us. There is endless emotion in all of it.


What do you hope the viewer will take away from your work?

I hope each painting encourages the viewer to take a step out of their current world to relate and connect with the subject. In the end, it should bring us some awareness and insight into the life of others.


What are some goals you are working towards in your career?

My main goal in my career is to expand the level of truth in my paintings, in doing so I hope to extend my reach as an artist nationally and globally.


Who are your biggest influencers and mentors?

I draw most of my technical inspiration from the old masters. I am currently obsessed with David and Rubens. Lately, I have been spending hours in the Philadelphia Museum of Art studying Thomas Eakins. His application of paint is impeccable. I don’t have any mentors but I often go back to the works of contemporary artist like Mario Robinson and Cesar Santo for inspiration.

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What is next for you? What should we be on the lookout for?

I am exhibiting next at Gallery MC in NYC for “Show Your World” on September 28th and have been invited to be a part of “Painting the Figure Now” at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art hosted by Poets & Artist in early 2019.

Arielle Wilkins

Arielle Wilkins is a New York-based graphic designer who was raised in the heart of Texas. Inspired by her father’s performing arts background, she quickly immersed herself in music and naturally visual arts.

Color, creativity and black pride intertwine in the magical mystery ride that is within Arielle’s art. She effortlessly notes the evolution of the portrait painting tradition and makes anyone who views her pieces smile. Her characters exist in a world more bold and colorful than our own. Where natural hair in complex realities roams free and strong yet relaxed/confident/ personas come to the forefront. Arielle’s work is meant to prompt a wide spectrum of untapped exposure and celebration of black culture. The evolution of the modern woman and man, curls and bountiful afros on deck.

Jaime Aylish Scott

Hi there! My name's Jaime, and I am currently studying for a Digital Animation and VFX degree at AUT in New Zealand. 

This series is called Culture Clash and is focused on the merging of art history and the modern day. I wanted to imagine these famous painters of art history and how they might portray our celebrities and how people from these different time periods would embrace technology, such as cellphones, plastic surgery, social media and selfies. 
My passion lies in traditional digital sketching and painting, but to be honest, I like to dabble in a little bit of everything from photography, filming, fashion, and character design to writing, dancing and music. 

If it's creative, I'm probably interested and dabbling in it.

Tavin Joel Davis

Tavin Davis is an emerging contemporary artist currently living in Bozeman Montana. His work is exhibiting internationally, in galleries and museums alike. Davis's work is frequently featured in print and digital publications and as such has recently been gaining the interest of the wider public. Davis's work focuses on the critique and reflection of the social issues and reality seen within contemporary U.S. culture. His vast array of subject matter attempts to confront his viewers with the specific aim of provoking reflective thought and conversation on the topics he chooses to present. 

The work is an investigation that comments on and critiques socio-political topics found within contemporary U.S. culture. The attempt and intention of these subversive works is to provoke conversation, thought, and shock. Confronting viewers with challenging subject matter, which is loaded with reflection, accountability, and questions, these works act as tools that cut through vales and reveal what may be hiding behind them. Begging for honesty, truth, and critical thought, the work creates a dialog and as such may provoke within its viewers a conscious or unconscious shift in perception. If even one critical question can be acknowledged through the image by its viewer, then the image has served within the spectrum of its utility, and as such, has served within the utility of art.


When did you decide to become an artist? Tell us a little bit about your creative journey so far.

I honestly wasn't sure I wanted to be involved with any kind of art until I was about 17. I grew up in the blue-collar state of Montana and because of that, I had never thought art to be a serious practice. I had been interested on a surface level in philosophy for a long time and once I found out philosophy and art were one in the same, it was game on. I had this realization when I had first started college and immediately dropped from the business program I was in and moved over to the art department. Since then, it has been everything I both did and couldn't have possibly expected.  

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What inspires the imagery in your work? When did you start incorporating political interests into your paintings? 

I would like to say that much of my imagery is inspired by pop culture, pop culture attitudes, and the reality of contemporary U.S. culture. It is sort of a reaction to Pop Art and Pop culture and really is attempting to bring a sense of reality and accountability to the surface. I started to bring this political interest into my practice around 2016. I had found huge inspirations from that of Andres Serrano and decided to start bringing that side of thinking into the mix of things. This lead to a work of mine I've entitled "Dirty Cloth" and has pushed me forward to further investigating the social fabric of contemporary U.S. culture.

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What is an important aspect of your work that you want the viewer to be aware of? 

I am constantly hoping that the viewer takes a moment to not just visually explore the work but ask critical questions about the concept and subject matter presented. Questions regarding the juxtaposition of objects in space, the background textures, the titles, and most importantly to ask questions about the concepts. All aspects are full of intention and meaning and are begging for a chance to open up. My paintings tend to be more direct and assertive in their efforts to communicate but may installation and sculptural works are a bit more subtle and because of that I think really asking questions of the concept, subjects, and titles are most the most critical things I would hope a viewer to be aware of. 

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Share your thoughts on art and activism. What do you think creatives need to contribute more of to help create change in our society? 

I think art and activism can certainly mix. I would probably say that a large job of art is to bring a sense of reflection to the table. Reflecting directly and reacting to the reality of society. Art has had its hands in the realm of social activism for a long time and it certainly can have an effect on culture. Because of this, I think creatives should make use of their talents to reflect life and bring these reflections to the eyes of the public in a way that takes these subjects out of the bland context of the every day and presents it through a fresh lens.

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Describe a typical day in the studio. How does each piece come together?

The studio is a bit of an intense space both mentally and physically. Much of my time is spent thinking about the work of future works to come. Talking myself into or out of ideas and wrestling with decisions to make or not to make. To carry on or not to carry on with an idea. A lot of pacing happens. There is a hallway in my studio that has a worn line down its wood flooring simply from pacing back and forth so often. I find thinking to be easier when I am talking to myself and moving. Movement generates thought for me and I think forces my brain to shift from stagnant to productive. Kind of like a car or something like that. Working when it is moving and resting when it is not. Yeah, definitely something like that.

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Name a few of your favorite artists and influences. 

My major influences have been Marcel Duchamp, Martin Creed, Andres Serrano, Banksy, Andy Warhol, and most certainly John Baldessari. The artists really working in a conceptualist sort of way have always been inspirational to me. I think conceptual art is the purest form of art because it has less formal attributes to abide by and typically tends to lend itself to the mercy of the idea at hand instead of the making of a well-crafted painting or sculpture. It has a way of involving the mind and not just the eyes that has a very appealing touch to me. 


What do you have in the works this year?

This year is messy. I am preparing for solo exhibitions around the U.S., preparing for a group exhibition in Cuba in May, painting 4 commissioned murals for my college Montana State University, and trying my best to keep up with my school work. With all of this going on, making is definitely still in the front seat but does take more effort to stay focused and motivated. I guess the biggest thing for this year is going to be trying to expand outwards as much as I possibly can and to get my work in front of a wider audience via exhibitions.

Booshra Mastour 

Booshra is a self-taught artist. Born in Casablanca in 1974, she grew up in Belgium, where her parents introduced her to painting when she was a small child. It is in this medium she always works. Rooted in two cultures, Booshra spent her childhood between the nuns who ran her catholic school and the mosque.

A liminal figure on the periphery of culture haunts her African portraits. The amalgamation of culture is apparent in the portraiture with which her style has become synonymous. Booshra’s Humanism is informed by her observation of cultural Misanthropy. Witnessing the social and religious conditioning has forced her to investigate the notion of Culture and Identity and the strong connection we as humans retain to primitive, or arguably wordless cultures.
“How do these people exist, cut off from our so-called advanced civilization, from our societal programming, our ‘indispensable’ technology? What lies at the bottom of their hearts, their souls? Are they content? Are they happy?” 

She packs her brushes, and she sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her to Asia, Africa and Oceania. In these (isolated) backwaters, she experiments with new techniques while developing her unique and iconic style. Working with local ingredients and natural pigments, she creates organic textures, which she lays on whatever support she can acquire in the vicinity. 

The magic in ritual and connection to nature reveals a wealth of spiritualism lost on the Modern man. The profound connection these cultures have towards the earth and its life-forces celebrates the magic and mystery of the Unspoken. The moment just before though becomes word and the infinity of possibility is timelessly preserved. 

While on her travels, her work remains relatively small. When she finally puts an end to these journeys, her paintings take on monumental dimensions. Almost as if she needed to further broaden her horizon. The narrative is no longer stifled by size but embraces space, as well as colour, to depict these timeless portraits. This shift coincides with the appearance of her first large scale Prussian and Cobalt blue African portraits. 

Throughout her monumental paintings, Booshra expresses her deep fascination with the human condition. She explores two main subjects: the gaze of human being, and the vast beauty of imperfection. She works on scars and scarifications. Jumping between the tribal and the modern, she contemplates the very humanness and the beauty of fallibility that we all experience as human. There is a contemplative almost philosophical aura about her portraits. They seem to be capturing the silence before any words are spoken. When something is spoken in words, it formalises and concretises the multitude of thought-chaos that remains in the few moment before the words are spoken. This limbic stillness seems to be on the lips of her subjects as they struggle to formulate and manifest in words the chaos and ambiguity of thought. Her aim is to convey the ancestral bond that ties us all together, the emotions that are spoken by and revealed through the eyes. The artist’s monumental portraits are etched in layers of texture and 3D sculpture. They stare back at you staring at their tribal souls and modern scars. 

Her aim is to convey the ancestral bond that ties us all together, the emotions that are spoken by and revealed through the eyes. “The universal truth of our shared origin(s) cannot remain hidden. There is no shying away from our underlying wisdom or savagery. There is no denial.” 

Peter Adamyan 

Peter Adamyan is a self-taught artist based in Oakland, CA. His work explores humanity’s lost connection with the natural world. He explores how brand identity has replaced cultural identity and what has changed and remained the same between contemporary society and early human civilizations. Creating a new iconography, based on the refuse of rampant modern day consumerism, Adamyan wishes to make us question what makes us human, and what do we really need to feel human. 

These are paintings for a lack of a better word as they incorporate found wood, and materials reflective of the subject matter, from VHS and cassette tapes to spray cans, water bottles and even the soles of shoes. The raw materials in these works are transformed from the waste of a throw away society, creating decorative motifs intended to elevate them from their former lives as garbage into an object of beauty. 

These paintings of shamans, goddesses, chiefs and others are a gateway into a society rising up from the garbage of modern man. They beg many questions of the viewer. What does it mean to be human? To be civilized? To be a steward of the planet we rely on for our own survival? What is it that we truly hold sacred, and why? 

Anastasia Tumanova

Anastasia Tumanova creates drawings and paintings of women that reflect her inner monologues about femininity and identity. Tumanova creates images that show women displaying a full range of being: confident yet vulnerable, strong yet gentle, nurturing yet lustful. Drawing upon the feminist movement, folk art, Taoism, vintage illustration, and art history, Tumanova imbues her illustrations with a sense of spirituality, myth, and timelessness. Tumanova explores herself through these works, embracing her entire being in the process. She hopes that by sharing this work, she will extend that growth, empowerment, and healing to other women.

Interview: Daisy Patton

From Los Angeles, California, Daisy Patton moved back and forth between Oklahoma and California during her childhood. She spent much of her early years reading adventure and detective tales, history and art history books, and ghost stories. Patton’s practice is focused on history, memory, and social commentary stemming from this youth soaked in such specific cultural landscapes. Her work explores the meaning and social conventions of families, little discussed or hidden histories, and what it is to be a person living in our contemporary world. One such series is "Forgetting is so long," reviewed in "Art LTD" and "Hyperallergic," as well as featured in "The Jealous Curator," "Fresh Paint Magazine," "Backroom Caracas," and "Artistic Moods." 

Currently residing in Aurora, Colorado, Patton has a BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Oklahoma with minors in History and Art History and an Honors degree. Her MFA is from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University, a multi-disciplinary program. Patton received the Montague Travel Grant for research in Dresden, Germany, and she was also awarded a position as an exchange student at the University of Hertfordshire, UK while an undergraduate. Patton has completed artist residencies at RedLine Contemporary Arts Center in Denver, Eastside International in Los Angeles, and Anythink Libraries in Colorado; she will be an artist in residence at MASS MoCA in March 2017. Exhibiting in solo and group shows nationally, K Contemporary represents Patton in Denver.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Were you always interested in being an artist?

I was born in Los Angeles and spent my childhood split between California and Oklahoma, leaving LA at age 9. My mom was going to community college while in LA, and I attended her art history class and saw some of those famous paintings I'd learned about through frequent visits to LACMA and other museums. As a young child, I'd wanted to be an artist, paleontologist, farmer, and an Egyptologist, although by the time I was 13, I'd decided to become a historian since I thought it would be impossible to live as an artist. I learned to paint and draw almost entirely self-taught, copying Old Master works, magazine photographs, and animal images. Once in undergrad, I quickly realized you can't make it as a history professor either, so I went into art full time. 

When did you first start using family photographs in your work? What initially inspired your current series?

I've been using family photographs as inspiration since 2012, when I started the painting series A Reconstructed Family Reunion. Previously, I had a sound art series called I'm Perfectly Fine Without You, where children of absent fathers talked about their memories and experiences. It's an experience I share, never having met my father, but I knew I couldn't contribute an interview to the series since I knew what I'd be asking myself. A couple of years later, I started Reconstructed, painting my family photographs realistically onto panel and inserted a father's presence into them as a way of imagining an alternate timeline where he was present in my life. I had my grandmother's photographs (I'm named after her), knowing I wanted to do something with them. So a little over three years ago, I tried using these images as references to paint more expressively, but those didn't work at all—I couldn't even finish a painting! I went to a vintage shop in Denver and saw a box full of old abandoned photographs. After picking a few that I fell in love with, I did some research to figure out how to mount prints to panels. That's how Forgetting is so long came to be—they instantly worked in a way that felt like alchemy. Reconstructed was such restrictive painting, which is not my personal preference, and Forgetting is far closer to how I prefer to work. I should note that while I started as a painter, after an extensive painting block I switched into photography for several years and have a substantial knowledge of printing and photo history; this has certainly influenced how I now approach painting in general. 

Describe a typical day in the studio.

I tend to be a workaholic—I go into studio every single day, unless I'm gone for a trip or seeing other art. I'll paint in studio for anywhere from 2 to 5 hours on average, though sometimes much longer if I have a deadline! Short, intense bursts of painting are my preference since I'm very focused when working. Then I go home, eat dinner, and work on other series that aren't painting, research, or administrative tasks. I'm a night owl, staying up until 3am regularly. 

Has social media presented new opportunities for your art? Tell us about your experience with sharing your work online. 

I think so! First, social media has created a community where artists from all over can connect and meet through their art. Artists I absolutely love like Anna Valdez, Hayley Quentin, Erika Hess, Matt Best and more I've met online—and sometimes in person now too. I started a professional account on Twitter and was initially resistant to Instagram, but now I'd say that IG is my main social media platform. I'm pretty open about showing paintings in process. I actually hate talking about work in progress in a critique format since I know where I'm going, but I like being able to see how a piece has grown or shifted over the time. There's also the painting geek in me that loves to see how other painters work, so I feel like sharing means opening that conversation. I think we have our own recipes and methods of painting, so even seeing something in process doesn't necessarily mean you're giving away your secrets—if anything, for some, I'm even more amazed by what they do!

What has been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you so far?

Being an artist is so much of your whole person that not doing it is viscerally painful, like cutting a piece of yourself away. My life experience working administrative and other jobs have made me a better artist and person, but you can tell you're on the right path when things open up in ways you couldn't imagine possible. Additionally, so much of art-making are new or different forms of communication. You're a storyteller hoping to connect with others, which I think is unique to artists. And then there's dealing with uncertainty—I never thought I'd be the kind of person that would be able to handle not having a rigid plan, but learning that flexibility in thinking has been so crucial. You're meant to keep growing and being an artist is part of that; I always try to make plans or do things that make me uncomfortable so I avoid being safe or fixed in place. There's a value to that I think many underestimate, regardless of field. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside of painting?

As I mentioned, when I was younger I thought I'd be a history professor to pay the bills. I still love reading and researching, and a lot of that feeds into my work in various ways. I hate to say that my whole life is caught up in art-making...but taking time off or "vacations" are my nightmares! I do have certain genres of non-fiction reading that aren't necessarily art-related that I dive into when I have time: human arrogance in cold environments (a more specific human v nature), biology and botany, murderers in history (it's like ghost tours: it's all history backgrounds with a sprinkling of the macabre!), etc. I love traveling when I can and seeking out unusual museums or events, such as a dolls and miniatures museum.

Name a few influences or artists that inspire you. 

So many: Marlene Dumas, Ellen Gallagher, John Singer Sargent, Sophie Calle, Doris Salcedo, Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, Thomas Gainsborough, Christian Boltanski, Nick Cave, Claire Tabouret, Nan Goldin, Robert Frank, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Amy Sherald, Georges de La Tour, writer Rebecca Solnit, Mark Rothko, Lu Cong, Thomas Lawrence, William Morris, Jenny Holzer...I think it's important as artists to keep looking at art and figuring out how you can situate yourself within the context of art history and the moment in history you're inhabiting. 

What are you currently reading or watching?

I'm reading Rebecca Solnit's newest book, The Mother of All Questions, a sort of follow up to Men Explain Things to Me. She's the author that coined "mansplaining," though I've read her for several years since she writes about art, history, memory, landscape, environmentalism, political activism, and hope. Her ability to recontextualize what we think we know and lyrical writing are some of the reasons I'd have to say she's my favorite author. 

Tell us about upcoming events and projects we should be on the lookout for. 

I'm finishing up two paintings that will be part of a group show called Cross Pollination at 516 Arts in Albuquerque, NM that will run August 19-November 11. Also, I'm excited and honored to be going to Anderson Ranch for a residency this fall, where I'll be working on more large pieces and some other series on reproductive rights. My schedule has been pretty packed for the last yearish, so I'm looking forward to some time to just paint for myself rather than a specific show...though I'm planning on another solo in 2018 that I'll be making work for.