Aliyah Mickens

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Aliyah Mickens

About the Artist

Aliyah Mickens is an African-American portrait artist who works with acrylic, oil paint, textiles, and other materials. She uses painting to tell a narrative about her own experiences and deconstructs and explores fragmented realities about preconceptions and race that she believes will better enlighten and further prove how unique and assorted people’s lives are despite their skin color. This is not Aliyah fleeing the culture and history that comes with being brown, but rather embracing the facts and using them to not be separated from others. Aliyah was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she developed her love of art at a young age but didn’t pursue it seriously until she moved to Texas in 2019 to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Painting at Texas State University.

About Artist’s Work:

My collection consists of self-portraits or representations of myself in my home. My house was chosen since it is the only place where one can completely be themselves. This series is really about me, and it’s also about recognizing and analyzing the various categories I’ve been assigned to. Individuals are typically lumped into one of several categories or roles in society. It’s no secret that certain groups of people share a number of characteristics. Due to my brown skin, I am always grouped with other black folks. However, skin is merely a hue, and beneath it is a diverse range of civilizations, ethnicities, races, and tales. A brown girl from Chicago is not the same as a brown boy from Africa, nor is a brown girl from Texas the same as an Oregon-born brown girl. I’m also lumped in with other big ladies or overweight people, which comes with its own set of preconceptions and mental strains. Another one of my categories is being a part of the PCOS community, which is made up of women who have an excess of testosterone and experience symptoms including hair growth, weight gain, acne, and even personality swings. With Four Corners, I’ll show you my everyday challenges and mundane life. This series is about ME since it’s the only true narrative I’ve ever heard. The intention of this collection is to focus on my domestic surroundings in order to show how we are at our most authentic and unique when we are at home… If these walls could talk, they would be experts in everything you know, according to an old adage, but its origin is unknown, and it is usually used as a warning. Four Corners utilizes my life experiences to question, analyze, and rewrite the physical and mental image of who a person is, independent of preconceived

Chantal Lesley

Chantal Lesley

Artist Bio

As a half-German, half-Peruvian woman who grew up on a Mexican-American border town, feeling stretched between four cultures has led to a strong interest in issues of identity in my work. My work always stems from my own personal experiences, and I often turn the camera towards myself to combat the frustrations I feel about my body image, being an unmarried woman, and even the color of my skin. In my work, I feel compelled to tell the story of what it means to be a modern millennial woman.

Artist Statement

This project started in the middle of a Texas summer. While cleaning out my family’s garage, I found a letter from my grandfather to my mother. I moved from the hot garage to the comfort of my cool room to inspect the letter further. It was dated 1989, a year after I was born, and a time where the only method of communication for my parents and my grandparents was through scheduled phone calls, letters, and packages filled with photos or VHS video recordings. My father and mother were born and raised in their respective countries of Germany and Peru. They immigrated to the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost tip of South Texas, and a portion of northern Tamaulipas, Mexico.

I, along with my siblings, are first-generation multicultural Americans. It has been hard to feel a sense of belonging or acceptance anywhere. I often question what makes up one’s identity, and when several cultures are involved, is there one that dominates above the rest, or can they all live within someone harmoniously? Growing up, it was not uncommon to hear things like “You wouldn’t understand because you’re not Mexican” or “I forgot you were Peruvian” from both close friends and family members, leading to a feeling of being othered by my communities. These feelings have led me to question my understanding of place, my sense of personal identity, and even the impressions of my memories. This project is a metaphor for the in-between– discovering a mental space that I have constructed while delving into my family’s past.

I have created a visual narrative that reflects the loss of ethnic roots, exploring the isolation and confusion felt from multiple cultures. This project consists of photographs constructed from my memories and life events. I rely on symbolism to relate to my cultures and combine them to find a new meaning representing my experience. The color red is consistent throughout my project. It is the only color that brings all four cultures together through their flags and a complex color that holds many meanings, from love and passion to anger and religious fervor. I use my family archives to explore my family’s history throughout several generations and make sense of myself.

What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?

To me, Gaze is a bit of a loaded word. I automatically think of it as a template that I’m supposed to follow in order to be accepted into society, and how that template is impossible for me to actually succumb to. From my skin color to my weight, I will never fit the typical gaze, and in my work, I regain power and agency by turning the colonial gaze upon itself. In my most recent work, En Medio de la Nostalgia, I question what makes up one’s identity, and when several cultures are involved, is there one that dominates above the rest, or can they all live within someone harmoniously? By creating a visual narrative that reflects the loss of ethnic roots and exploring the isolation and confusion felt from multiple cultures, this project is a metaphor for the in-between– discovering a mental space that I have constructed while delving into my family’s past.