When I started Culture Shock Art in 2010, my goal was to explore street art and graffiti in Los Angeles, after I stumbled upon street artist JR’s work completely by accident. The process of discovery through investigating the origins of one of his murals led me to his 2010 TED talk after which I purchased one of his lithographs. That similar sense of curiosity in “finding the wonder in the every day” led me to Shinique Smith. In January when I prepared a list of artists to feature during the February 2016 Artist a Day Challenge, I added Smith to my list after learning that Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will feature her work during their inaugural show “Revolution in the Making” opening in March.
I recently discovered an artists talk that Smith presented on her creative process which fuses graffiti, Japanese calligraphy, text, abstract expressionism and assemblage. Her artistic influences are diverse and include dance, poetry, eastern religions, fashion and music, but what struck me most about Smith is her intention and how it guides her work and her process.
As children we have an innate curiosity and sense of wonder that lead us to magical, serendipitous discoveries. When I think of “pure joy” I think of a laughing child taking delight in exploring the world around them. Over time the light that leads to this delight fades and becomes harder to find, but is never lost. The art of curiosity, of finding joy through learning and exploration allows us tap into that sense of wonder. In Shinique Smith’s art, she transforms distinctly different art forms to create her work- her goal is to create a postive exchange that propels us forward. Smith does not look toward the past, nor does she attempt to right the wrongs of the daily struggles of life in her work. Rather, her art is a form of catharsis that is both transformative and carries universal appeal. During an October, 2015 artist’s perspective talk Smith comments:
“I want to have a more positive ‘moving forward’, transformative exchange and that’s not easy to come by and I think that comes out of an empathy. As much as I am horrified by us and sometimes disheartened and dissillusioned and angry, at the end of the day there is a beatuty in us as a human in the world. Seeing life that way helps me move through it.”
This gave me a stronger appreciation for her work and I cannot think of a better artist to close out the 2016 Artist a Day Challenge.
The artists that I featured this month were varied. Some express themselves through pain, joy, their experience, by observation, remembrance and others through the lens of the injustice they encounter. By exploring black artists across the diaspora from diverse geographic backgrounds, different points in history and different points of view I am reminded that there is so much creativity to experience and explore; it is important to always be curious, ask questions and understand that like a butterfly, beauty comes from challenge.
As I wrap the 2016 installment of an Artist a Day challenge I want to thank everyone who have faithfully joined me in exploring these amazing artists. I welcome you join me over on TONDI (a Culture Shock Art project hosted on Squarespace) in March as I debut my second Virtual Exhibition that explores the history of Disco and House music. Yes, Disco! Researching this exhibition has been an absolute blast and it opened my eyes to a side of Disco that is rarely discussed and is relatively unknown (by commercial standards). The exhibition launches in March, and I will be sure to provide links to the virtual show right here on Culture Shock Art. Until then, be curious, create joy and take delight in exploration!
The “Artist a Day Challenge” celebrates Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and diverse forms of cultural expression across the African diaspora.