Artist and educator Kiayani Douglas’s work was recently featured at Pulp Gallery in Holyoke. The exhibit, “The Educated N-G-R,” explores race and identity through art.
In addition to teaching art, Douglas has spent the last several years exploring these topics through portrait work across different mediums.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman sat down with Douglas to learn about the meaning behind her most recent work, and her experience as Black artist in western New England.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Artist and educator Kiayani Douglas recently had her exhibit, The Educated N-G-R, featured at Pulp Gallery in Holyoke.
In addition to teaching art, Douglas has spent the last several years exploring race and identity through portrait work across different mediums.
Connecting Point‘s Ross Lippman sat down with Douglas to learn about the meaning behind her most recent work and her experience as a Black artist in western New England.
Kiayani Douglas, Artist & Educator: I make time, like, by any means necessary, I make time. So, even if I do feel like, ‘oh my goodness, I don’t have enough time,” I make the time.
My name is Kiayani Douglas, and I’m an interdisciplinary artist and educator. And I make portrait work in multiple mediums.
I’m really intrigued with portrait work — I’ve always been — and I’ve just found myself in the last couple of years just really kind of unpacking what that looks like for myself. So, the range of portraits that I do are very different, but they all collectively come together with one single theme of colors and mission.
The name of this exhibit is “The Educated N-G-R,” and it’s a play off of words. N-G-R, it derives from ancient Egyptian, which means goddess. And so, if you kind of add a couple of other letters in, you will come up with another meaning for N-G-R. And so, I kind of want it to draw people into the initial conversation as to what N-G-R even means.
This exhibit is part of a larger body of work that I have that is called “Black Identity Enthusiasts.” And that body of work consists of 10 miniseries that are influenced heavily by Emory Douglas’ work for the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and what they advocated for: equal education, the end to capitalism, end to police brutality, a whole bunch of different things for social issues.
And I took each of those points and dissected it and made a body of work from it. In the gallery, there’s a smaller portrait of Angela Davis that I drew with pen and ink. And, for me, she’s just such a strong, iconic image when I think of the Black Panther Party. And so, it’s just something I’ve been kind of playing with.
Archived Recording of Angela Davis: They say that freedom is a constant struggle. Oh Lord, we’ve struggled so long, we must be free.
Kiayani Douglas: I don’t know. There’s just something about this image that I think engages people, too, in a deeper conversation, and I’ve just been playing with variations of it. I made wood prints of this piece that I carved a couple of months ago, and I left a lot of the details out so I can make variations of them. So, they’re all slightly different. I
‘ve mentioned before to other people, it’s very interesting and very special, this place, Springfield area and the Holyoke area. All the artists tend to know and want to genuinely support each other. If it’s not telling them about an opportunity, it’s saying, “did you apply to this?” and they collectively following your work via social media, it’s just like a little family that you didn’t ask for, but it’s so much wanted.