Category: art

Artist Spotlight: Gianni Lee

Gianni Lee is a visual artist, fashion designer, music producer and international DJ who started gaining popularity through the viral success of his mixtapes as well as his streetwear brand Babylon Cartel. Lee uses painting as a language to tell the story of a people fighting for their home and their existence and his canvas and color choices are a platform for him to express inner-feelings on issues he can’t put into words. He tells stories that speak about social issues in America and abroad and we had the chance to honor him and his work in 2019 at Art Basel. We caught up with him recently to discuss more of his background and beliefs so check it out. 

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

I don’t think I could limit myself to words. Words are hard for me. I’ve always had trouble and that’s why I relied so heavily on imagery and color to get my point across. If I could describe myself in hues I would say aqua blue, matte black and cherry red.

When you hear Black Excellence, what or who comes to mind?

Me, you and anyone else Black who wants something out of this world but also wants to give something tangible back to this world while they are living on it. It’s no special look, walk or talk to me. It’s just real Black people living their truest and best selves, free from discrimination and judgement.

The traumatizing experience of a Black man being wrongfully accused of a crime is unfortunately common in the U.S. How has this inspired your work and advocacy?

Let me first say that I think Criminal Justice Reform is needed and is imperative in this country. I can’t stress that enough. The continued policing of Black bodies in America is a problem and must be addressed. It’s a revolving door of bullying and I always feel slightly pressured with the responsibility of addressing it in my work as a black man. The past, the present and the future of it. We need to know what was, and we need to openly discuss and plan what CAN be. Generational trauma is real and we are dealing with it everyday, that same trauma inspires my work. It’s a direct line to our ancestors that I’m speaking through and I’m only the vessel.  

What brings you satisfaction in your work?

My satisfaction is always the finished product and the reactions of people when they first see it. I’m competitive with myself so I always want to push my limits and do something better than the previous piece. I’m in this constant battle with my future and past selves to see who can bang out the most iconic painting. It’s like a weird time travel fringe art film. I probably wouldn’t watch it because it would suck.

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Tell us about how you got started in the arts.

I got started the day my Mother enrolled me in this special education arts kindergarten called Moonstone. We learned everything through the arts as a foundation. I remember I got into a fight at school and my punishment was to draw exactly what I did wrong and present that drawing to the class followed by an apology. Shit was wild in Kindergarten.

What’s your most unforgettable professional memory?

I can’t really think of any, but I don’t like getting paid for projects late. The times that I did, it made me feel like I was at the bottom of the totem pole and my presence and contributions didn’t truly matter because this said company is not paying me on time.

Black Excellence means celebrating every and any Black experience. What experiences should we shine more light?

All things in the African Diaspora. All cultures, religions, customs and communities that never see press or the light of day. All of these things have been stripped from the history books and under-reported. If only we know the extent of our heritage and just how powerful we were then and are currently. It all starts with education and we need to know who we were to sculpt who we can become.

What can we look forward to from you in 2020?

More projects, more exhibitions. This year I told myself I would open up more and show just how dynamic I can be as a creative. I have a solo show coming soon, I’ve been preparing and painting for it and I can’t wait to display that new body of work because it means a lot to me.

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Photos: Aaron Ramey, Jade Lilly

Check out Gianni’s latest collaboration with Levi’s right here and stay tuned for more details on his solo show coming soon. 

Tumblr’s 8th Annual Basel Brunch with Brightline honoring Gianni Lee. Photos: Jocko Graves/BFA

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paddle8:

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Photographer, Terence “Terry” Patrick O’Neill CBE has passed away at the age of 81.

Known for his beautiful photographs of celebrities & fashion, Terry’s range was truly undeniable. He will most certainly be missed.

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paddle8:

Faces of Chicago Complexcon through the film roll of Thomas Gavin in photographer’s portfolio for @paddle8

geyashvecova:

Design graphics Geya Shvecova (Holographic Liquid_200119)

artruby:

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter, Chromo Sapiens, at the Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Pride Spotlight: Ramzy Masri

In celebration of Pride Month, we’re spotlighting some fantastic LGBTQ+ creators who inspire with their work and actions. Here’s a unicorn artist, graphic designer, and creative director Ramzy Masri (pictured below). He makes the world better by seeing it through color, beauty, and yes, some of the most magical digital rainbows. Here’s more about Ramzy and his extraordinary visual world.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a time to pause and reflect on how far the LGBTQ+ community has come and the work still to be done. This year with World Pride and Stonewall 50 there’s a lot to celebrate, though with the Straight Pride controversy and violence against trans women of color like Layleen Polanco its clear there’s still work to be done.

At its best, Pride is an outstretched hand: an open invitation to build community, to strengthen our chosen families and the bonds that we’ve formed as members of an oppressed community. It’s a time to organize, celebrate and appreciate the things that make us unique and different.

How can we continue to support the LGBTQ+ community?

This is a great question. My motto is “Every Day is Pride March” — mainly because we have to show up every day for ourselves and advocate for those who have less privilege, visibility and rights. There’s so much diversity in our community, from cis gay men to bisexuals, trans men and intersexed people, each with their own stories. We can all help to prioritize those stories and tell them during the rest of the year — not just during June. We’re a vulnerable community that experiences discrimination, hate and violence and we need allies who can bring our fight into the spotlight.

What are some concrete things folks can do to continue to support the LGBTQ+ community? Volunteer with LGBTQ+ organizations like SAGE, GLSEN, The Trevor Project, GSA, PFLAG, local shelters for LGBTQ+ homeless youth, retirement communities for LGBTQ+ elders. Advocate, volunteer or donate for politicians who champion our rights. Condemn and protest those who don’t. Support trans folks top or bottom surgeries — there are plenty of gofundme pages set up just for this cause. Go with a friend when they get tested. Help support people who might not have health insurance but have chronic illnesses or AIDS-related disease. Be present for LGBTQ+ youth, connect them to resources that may help them, fight for them when other adults don’t understand them. Use your voice, your love, your patience and your privilege for good, year round.

How did your love for rainbows commence?

It probably started with Lisa Frank. I’m non-binary so I’ve always wanted to express my femininity, but in grade school in the late 90s it wasn’t socially acceptable. Lisa Frank was like a window into another world and I coveted it. I’ve grown up to love what rainbows represent, specifically in the context of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m inspired by Gilbert Baker (who designed the very first pride flag) and in my way I’m trying to continue his legacy.

Do you ever translate your dreams into your work?

People often say my work is dreamy but unfortunately I don’t usually remember my own dreams! Dream clairvoyance runs in my family so I wish I could! I definitely daydream though, and my Instagram shows how I look at the world when I’m spacing out 👽

What’s the weirdest source of inspiration for you?

90’s toys! I guess it’s not that weird that I’m inspired by them but a lot of them were super weird. Like the rainbow koosh balls? And those tiny naked troll dolls with gems in their belly buttons? Furbies! My Little Pony! Slinkies! Those weird liquid tubes with the glitter in them! I don’t know what was in the water in the 90’s but it was a really awesome time to be a kid.

What makes you the happiest?

I’m happiest when I see people living their most authentic, weirdest, most insane, least-socially-acceptable selves. That’s what I hope my work does for people. It’s an invitation to connect to your inner child and discover a more vibrant tomorrow, one that honors the rainbow of gender and sexual expression.