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Artist Diaries: Who Am I?

There are so many things that go into becoming an artist. Although, the main thing that's been plaguing my mind lately is "Who am I?"

Me photographed at Black in Mayberry's "Art Against Racism" Exhibition, next to my painting "Sisterly Love"

I thought I had that all figured out. I thought that my creating vulnerable artwork, exploring the depths of my emotions and the way I was seeing the world was enough because I was "Opening the conversation." But over time, as I have met seasoned artists, faced so much trial and error, and spoken with my professors I have learned that I have to guide that conversation that I am opening.


Why Did I Even Start Painting?

The "Why's" and the "How's" are so blurry to me these days. I just know that when I was younger I struggled with seeing my features as beautiful, and my peers didn't help.

I was never regarded as someone beautiful or even pretty. I was just Nia with the big butt. That was the only thing that seemed to be desirable of me. Even seeing television, paintings, and media. The Black women who received praise for their faces had slim noses medium-sized lips and perfect skin. I didn't have any of that. All of my features are strong.

So when I began to paint myself I was trying to make a statement of my own features being regarded as the standard of beauty. I had a certain understanding that these paintings of White women were statements of beauty, so why not paint myself in that same way?

And even beyond that, I have always been painfully sensitive and painfully bold. I have always felt deeply and there was also a point in my life where I was so bold and loud, but deep inside I was hurting. So I made my work bright and vibrant while exploring my depression through the use of symbolism.

It had got to a point where people were telling me that they saw themselves in my own self-portraits so I figured that was it. That was my mission and that was where the journey of what I represent stops. I thought that my painting to make people feel, to make them see themselves in me, and to create a space for empathy was enough.

But for where I wanted to go, as time went on, I realized that it wasn't enough.

And realizing that turned into a snowball that ended with me wondering who I am. As a woman, as a 20-something-year-old, and as an artist. Who am I? And what do I want to represent? What do I want to say?

And I'm stuck between not knowing and having so many messages to share.

Pieces of Me

I am a Black woman who was made fun of for being weird and "not that cute." I grew up in Compton up until I was seven, and the rest of my teenage life was spent in Columbus Ohio (with the exception of my year in New Jersey). I was in love with some boy every year since I was five. I'm always asking "why." I grew up not poor, but far from rich, more so like lower middle class. I have family members who spent time in prison. I was sexualized for having curves since I was young. I have seen police brutality. And even with all of these experiences, I don't shy away from it. I'd like to think that these things, shaped my artistic practice and why I see so many issues I want to confront through my work.

And even when analyzing my interests... I like anime. I like Reality Television. I like raunchy female rap, just like I like pop girlie songs. I can be just as corny as I am sarcastic. I like history. I like pop culture. I like psychology... the list goes on and on when it comes to my likes, experiences, and my past. Some things make sense, some things surprise people. It's just so much to me.

Still, I lied about those things depending on who I was around. I was always different for different people. Only giving people pieces of me because I thought they wouldn't accept all of me. All of my stories, all of my differences. But the truth was, I just didn't accept me. So I hid pieces based on what I thought they'd like.

And I feel like this bled into my artistic practice. My work isn't very cohesive because I have all these parts of me I have yet to blend. It is just pieces compiled into a story that is mine, but nothing is holding them together...

I just need to find that string.

So now I am at this point where I am trying my best to take those pieces apart and be whole again. To be all of me at all times.

So I Ask Again, Who Am I?

I can truthfully say I don't know who I am. I just know who I want to be. And in ways, I feel me being okay with not knowing, and knowing I am in such a transitional space is enough.

I want to learn how to truly love, and give and take in a healthy way. I want to know what a true community is. I want to learn more and know more about the topics that resonate with me.

I often catch myself not knowing what else to say once I make a powerful statement. It's like I have a thesis with no essay a lot of the time.

So although I still have no idea of who I am. I know who I want to be. And I want to be someone who reads and knows what she stands for and stands for all of it. I want to make statements that go beyond a surface-level conversation. I want to be able to fully articulate what I think and feel. I want to be whole. I want to be all of myself and represent all of myself.

And most of all, I want my artwork to mirror that, and guide the many conversations I intend to be the pillar of.

I just have to find the string to connect everything.

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