"Art has an amazing way of working itself into times of struggle to remind people to stand together. Art allows for a reevaluation into the world and can calm people by connecting all of us together."
Khari Turner is an American artist that is living and working in New York City. His work in one word, powerful. Full of descriptive energy that binds current culture with the underpinning Black History in America. There is an undeniable strength in the work that says so much about the artist. We are so excited to see what else is there to come.
We had the chance to talk to Khari about his work, inspirations, and the importance of art now more than ever. This is one artist to watch.
What’s your earliest memory in art?
My earliest memory is of my grandfather drawing for me. As a child I had this generic airplane and jets poster showing me all the examples of different airplanes. I used to go to my grandparents’ room and ask my grandpa to draw one and then after he did, I would try my best to copy the plane he drew. I can’t remember what age that was, but it had to be around 4th or 5th grade.
What lead you to people as a subject matter in your work?
People are so interesting to me. I originally started trying to recreate the appearance of people because the artist I looked up to in high school, when I started thinking that traditional forms of art making were more interesting to me than digital forms, were Chuck Close and Kehinde Wiley. That has changed over time but I never lost my interest in human figure and form.
What elements are important to you when working on a piece?
The most important element is this clash of history and present energy. My work focuses on energy within mark making, brush strokes, and general composition to talk about overcoming trials and tribulations through black features. Black History in American has been a fight and continues to be a fight, but the hardships of passed ancestors have created the life I live now. This is also a direct relationship to my life now. I grew up getting bullied, in poverty, and in a racially divided city, but I am here now doing what I love because of this mess I grew in.
How important is being vulnerable in the creative process?
Being vulnerable and being an artist go hand in hand. As an artist I will spend the most meaningful time with my work more than anyone ever will. Even if someone buys one of my pieces, they buy it as it is, where it has gone through so many changes and lived so many lives with me that the buyer of a piece can never see. That is being vulnerable. I don’t think when I’m working, I need my subconscious to take a lot of control during the process, because my most vulnerable self is the self I don’t acknowledge.
Who are some other artists that you admire?
I admire a lot of people now. I really look often at people working now around my age and a couple people working on Instagram. I’m really interested in artist on Instagram and artist who have always been establish but have Instagram now. Some of the people that inspire me now are Deborah Roberts, Zoe Charlton, Andrew Salgado, Ryan Hewett, Amani Lewis, Rebecca Stern, and Ronald Jackson.
If you could ask any other artist, dead or alive, one question, who would it be and what would you ask?
I would want to ask Tupac Shakur what his dreams of the revolution would be and how his ideals and poetry would shape those ideas. I feel like people don’t know much about his poetry.
What was the last thing you saw that inspired you to create?
I see things constantly, almost every day, the one right now is a pile of stems from some grapes I just ate without any of the grapes still attached anymore sitting on my desk.
What would you like to accomplish with your art?
I don’t know yet. I’m really focused on making the work right now and learning what the work is doing for me. I want to be great; I want to end up in places because I earn my spot to be around such great artist.
How do you think art can help in getting us through times like this? Why is it more important than ever that we help the art community get through these times?
Art has an amazing way of working itself into times of struggle to remind people to stand together. Art allows for a reevaluation into the world and can calm people by connecting all of us together. I feel like it’s important now to help the art community because these artist are not separate from the community, these are the same people who work at grocery stores, are volunteer workers, work with the less fortunate, run wellness centers, put on programming for their respective neighborhoods, and are large parts of the community along with the arts community.
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