Creative Catalysts with Oneika Russell | 30 Days Unchained : Day 2 Friday 11 January, 2013

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30 Days Unchained/#30unchained | Day: 2 – 1/11/13 | Inspiration:  Oneika Russell If you’re like me, you like visually pleasing art that would like nice hanging on a wall. Yet, many modern and conceptual aren’t creating to please you. Kara Walker’s silhouettes of an infant being stabbed and characters eating poop, for example, weren’t created […]

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30 Days Unchained/#30unchained | Day: 2 – 1/11/13 | Inspiration:  Oneika Russell

If you’re like me, you like visually pleasing art that would like nice hanging on a wall. Yet, many modern and conceptual aren’t creating to please you. Kara Walker’s silhouettes of an infant being stabbed and characters eating poop, for example, weren’t created for “hang appeal.” Still, I respect Walker’s vision for continuing discussions of American slavery that we are so often encouraged to forget. Sometimes when a work of art is not pretty in its presentation, it’s all the more beautiful in it’s purpose; that’s what this interview with artist and blogger Oneika Russell of Art: Jamaica helped me appreciate. Originally from Jamaica, she is currently studying animation in Contemporary Art at Kyoto Seika University, Japan. She has also worked with the PBS Art:21 partnership program. Oneika tells Live Unchained: “Contemporary artists internationally have often proven themselves some of the greatest catalysts of [social] change…and critical thought. This shows that art is no longer for quiet enjoyment in a salon, but can really generate new ways of thinking and open discussions.” For today’s #30unchained challenge we’d like you to consider what Oneika shares about the power of artists to create new ideas.

Oneika Russell

Challenge (Find, Create or Remix an image that answers the question): What important discussion would you like to see art open up?

Share your image(s) on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and be sure to tag @liveunchained and use the hashtag #30unchained so we can shout you out! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to keep up with the latest #30unchained news.

Some people think of contemporary art as being inaccessible or difficult for a broad audience to understand and appreciate. Do you think there are common misunderstandings about contemporary art and artists?

That’s a good question. Jamaican collector culture, in general, tends to shy away from contemporary art unless it ticks certain specific boxes reflective of more traditional ideas about art. That is partly because of the legacy of gentrification, but there are a handful of new collectors of contemporary Jamaican art that see it as a kind of innovation and document of the way we think about culture and changing society.

At times it can be inaccessible if you seek to perceive it in the traditional way of looking at a lovely picture or how close that picture resembles its subject–but I don’t think it ends there. Contemporary artists internationally have often proven themselves some of the greatest catalysts of political movements, social change, technological innovation and critical thought. This shows that art is no longer for quiet enjoyment in a salon, but can really generate new ways of thinking and open discussions.

For example, see this piece by GA Gardner featured in one of Oneika’s blog posts.

“Black Faced” by GA Gardner

Would you say your heritage influences your artistic aesthetic or work, in general?

In terms of aesthetics and actual imagery, I feel free to take ideas from anywhere and any genre but my ideas I would say are Caribbean. I can’t help liking the look of U.S. children’s animation, Victorian Painting, Singaporean Natural History drawings, Hong Kong Cinema so I use it all in my work, but keep the ideas close to home.

“Victorian Lady” by Oneika Russell

“Spirit Moves”, from A Natural History series by Oneika Russell

What does living unchained mean to you?

An unchained life would involve travel to expand the mind, new ambitions and challenges to push your limits and abilities. And, a relentless pursuit of those things that make you happy.

Since our last interview with Oneika, she has begun developing “A Natural History” series to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s 2012 National Biennial as part of her post-grad thesis project. View the original interview with Oneika in full here.

30 Days Unchained/#30unchained is an interactive creative countdown to the Live Unchained Anniversary Celebration. Everyday for 30 days, we’ll share some of our most popular interviews with Live Unchained featured artists. They include women creatives of various disciplines from across the African diaspora. Her creative journey will be the inspiration for your challenge. To participate simply respond to the challenge question with images (not words). Share it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and be sure to tag @liveunchained so we can shout you out – it’s that simple. Learn more about 30 Days Unchained, including rules and prizes here. Get your daily challenge from Thursday, January 10th through the day of the big bash on Friday, February 8th at www.liveunchained.com.

Written by Kathryn Buford
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