As we celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, Luxe spotlights six artisans whose works explore Black experiences and encourage reflection. From a Los Angeles painter’s reimagination of colonization to an Atlanta creative’s analysis of the resiliency of Black Americans, these thought-provoking pieces aim to inspire and inform.
Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Umar Rashid aims to challenge how the past is remembered through a colorful reinterpretation of historical events that shines a spotlight on marginalized voices. “What we know as history is a small fraction of what really took place because we get this sanitized version by our conquerors,” notes Rashid, whose lively yet gripping pieces strive to inspire change. “Ultimately,” he says, “what I want is to see a different future.”
Combining painting principles with elements of embroidery, Atlanta fiber artist Adana Tillman weaves in the stories of her peers into her colorful, modern quilt portraits. “Young black people are so multifaceted, and I really want to show that,” she says. “This work is really about incorporating my community, and what I’ve seen and experienced.”
California multidisciplinary artist Lava Thomas is dedicated to casting light on the stories of overshadowed figures—from Civil Rights protestors to victims of racist shootings. Through detailed sketches and symbolic installations, the memories of her subjects come to life in a more tangible way. “I feel like I’m a conduit for what they want the world to know,” she confesses. “It almost feels like a collaboration.”
For Atlanta mixed-media artist Michi Meko, the artistic process almost always starts with a search for materials. From trashed treasures found in Black communities to maritime objects like compasses, Meko uses these reclaimed riches to explore the history of many Black Americans. “I [think] about their migrations,” Meko says, “this idea of being able to read the sky and know which way your freedom is.”
Marrying abstract forms with realistic images, Denver creative Ron Hicks uses his art to call for empathy. Expressing vulnerability through facial expression or composition, Hicks hopes the human connection behind his pieces forces viewers to open their hearts to exploring different perspectives. “Everyone has a view. The only thing you can do is hope for a response,” he says.
Denver painter Rochelle Johnson’s uplifting works spotlight the unseen. Whether exploring themes of gentrification or even Black female bodies (“We can be considered vulnerable, innocent, beautiful and all the other stuff that everybody else is considered,” she says), Johnson approaches the sometimes complex topics from an optimistic point of view.