ILYSM ZINE: No. 15
Interview by Jenna Elizabeth all artwork courtesy of Ke’Chanbria Ball
“Ke’Chanbria’s work resonated with me because it reminded me of unity. In today’s times this is more important than ever before.” -ILYSM4ARTISTS Judge, Aminé
♡: Hi Ke’Chanbria and a warm congratulations to you!! You are an ILYSM first, a runner-up as well as a grant recipient ❤️
KB: Hi Jenna! Thank you, I’m so grateful for this opportunity.
♡: I’d love to dive in by looking back at your artist statement
I was particularly touched by your incorporation of the following quote:
I understand blackness from the inside out. What my goal is, is to allow the world to see the humanity that I know personally to be the truth.
Can you talk about the choice of this quote in relation to your work as an artist?
KB: Of course! Kehinde Wiley is by far one of my favorite artists and I take a lot of inspiration from his work. My work reflects the humanity within blackness that is often unseen or overlooked. I feel like a smile is universal and one of the most humanizing features. I try to incorporate this in most of my work. I also try to depict a softer side of being black, something non-threatening or hard.
♡:That’s chillingly powerful
I’m very fascinated with this connection of the smile, as it relates to humanity. It made me think about your particular background...
In your submission you mentioned studying both Fine Art and Psychology
I love the impact of this combination. I’m curious if there were any breakthroughs that have emerged in your studies - any epiphanies. I feel like both subjects are seeking deeper truths and I feel like both could provide insight to each other on so many levels. How has psychology influenced your art in both studies and practice. But I also feel like art affects ones approach and understanding of psychology as well.
KB: Hahaha! Yesss I love them both. I couldn’t choose between them. I’m a double major. In psychology, I like to focus on how trauma affects the mind. I’m really interested how slavery has affected the minds of African American people and how this trauma is generational. With this I take a different approach on how black people see theirselves because representation matters. Within art history, we are rarely represented and if we are it is high offensive.
I: I’d like to talk about the role of mythology as it relates to art but also history. You discussed breaking conventions as part of your artist statement, can you elaborate more about how your work explores these complexities?
Art is a visual way of rewriting a biased history - there’s a lot to unpack within that
KB: Yes that’s exactly what I’m trying to do! I’m rewriting our stories. Black people laugh and play just as any other race. We’re not criminals and thugs.
The complexities speak to having to work three times as hard for things and not being see as a person. I also love to show different cultures within black people. I feel like it’s safe to say that every black person is black but not each one is African American.
♡: I was reading a piece by Tiana Webb Evans discussing the work of Henry Taylor, “The sheer act of painting- choosing to be a painter- is a revolutionary act and represents an unwavering belief in franchisement and a better America.” I keep thinking about this statement on so many levels... What drew you to painting?
KB: Well when I went to art school I just knew that I was going to be photography major. I’ve always drawn but never really painted. I took my required painting course. Here my professor made us use oil paint because of the richness and quality of it. I fell in love with the materials as soon as I started painting. Painting speaks so much volume to me because my painting is my window and how I see the world.
♡: When you and I spoke on the phone awhile back, you mentioned transitioning to digital painting. I was blown away when you shared about how quickly you learned digital techniques. A lot of artists I’ve been speaking to recently have been adapting their mediums and exploring new realms. What was that transition like for you?
Are you still pursuing photography as well?
KB: Honestly, I’ve always tiptoed around digital painting. It was always something I put off until I actually had to. Once the pandemic hit the USA, I moved back with my parents and didn’t have a place to actually paint. I would try outside but the gnats are so bad in Southwest Georgia. Plus they love the smell of oil paint. I finally just sucked it up and grab my iPad went to work. I love the convenience of digital, no mess but I miss my chunky paint.
Yess, I’ve done a few things here and there with photography but haven’t gotten into it seriously unless I have an idea.
♡: Gnats! That would drive me crazy while trying to work
I know what you mean about holding off on something until you feel real about it conceptually
It’s interesting to see different friends and how they approach creativity and some have to create for the sake of it - I really have to have the idea before giving into something fully
KB: Yes. I’m really a perfectionist. everything has to be just right and my ideas show how I see them!
♡: I’ve been thinking a lot about how art creates this immediate reaction between the creator and observer, that experience is so intimate and different for every person. As I’ve gotten older I see art as a moment to look at things you love and ask why? I’m grateful for those moments of reflection. Which artists helped create that moment for you?
KB: Yes I completely agree. When I visit a museum, always get as close to paintings that security will allow me too. I’m always questioning, how did that line happen? Or what’s that made of. I just have to observe and see.
I have so many. Betye Saar, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry James Marshall. I recently fell in love with Bisa Butler's work. Nothing is painted and everything is made of fabrics.
I’m with you the details are every thing and part of the story - my grandma always looked for the details and instilled that discovery moment for me
Going back to our earlier points about using art to tell stories I’d like discuss the power behind your choice of subjects. What is that process like for you?
KB: Of course! My subjects also mean a lot to me. Often times I know my subjects personally! They’re my family members or friends. I take the photos of the person myself. I choose the photos that’s the their true self. Most often this is in a middle of a laugh. Also sometimes, I just see a beautiful black person and just HAVE to paint them.
♡: Love the idea of capturing true selves
KB: That’s my goal! I want the viewer to see black people as who they are.
♡: As a student, I’m curious how you feel entering the art world now?
KB: At first, I was really scared and terrified! Where I’m from many people don’t see art as a career path and more so as a hobby. This experience has really made me hopeful and wanting to dive in head first! Thank you for this 💜
♡: Fear has a way of prioritizing a lot of things organically - on so many levels. It can be overwhelming but at the same time it makes us confront change. If I’m scared it makes me realize how much I care. Your hope is inspiring to me
And makes me think about what you said about endurance
Showing people in your art exhibiting acts of endurance
KB: Thank you that means a lot!
♡: Art inheritantly is a business of value - not only what we value culturally and aesthetically but the art world literally created its own currency by deciding what something is worth monetarily, the role of the curator as a guiding force in history- who gets museum space, lectures, promotion... Lately I’ve been examining ways of dismantling the system - in terms of confronting biases and which artists get to benefit from the system. Has your school addressed this at all?
KB: Yes! My professor are very adamant about make your statement and mean it. They address the issues and curate shows that galleries wouldn’t normally consider. Recently, curated an international show of student work since the pandemic happened. Addressing the privacy of being at home vs the public of the exhibition.
Here’s a link to it if you’re interested! It has about 100+ works in it
♡: Thank you for sharing
Seeing online communities build together right now is giving me hope - seeing that crossover of activism and creativity is incredible to watch unfold. Grateful for these communities continue to engage and provoke...
ILYSM likes to connect activism with creatives - are there any organizations you would like share with our audience?
KB: I’m happy to see this too! I’ve been connecting more now than I’ve ever have! I don’t have any activism groups to share with you all right now!
♡: What’s next for you? Are there any pieces you are working on?
KB: I have a digital piece I’m working on right now. I miss painting so much! I actually just stretched a canvas earlier today! I’m working on setting up a small place in my home to paint.
♡: That’s great! Important to honor that and make that space for yourself
KB: Yes! I can’t stay away from it too long. I miss the mess!
♡: How can our readers support you? Where can they see your work?
KB: I’m working on setting up an online portfolio. For now, I just post the majority of my work on my Instagram...
♡: What’s inspiring you right now? What are three recommendations our readers can look into to inspire them at home (articles, books, recipes, podcasts, crafts, movies etc)?
KB: To open up Pride Month, I watched Moonlight for the first time. It was so refreshing seeing a gay black man in the hood, because I’m pretty sure that they’re a lot of black men struggling with their sexuality. The entire movie is just so beautiful and raw. I’m so glad that it was made.
♡: Barry Jenkins did a beautiful job, that film made me just surrender to the screen
KB: One of my favorite short stories of all time is Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. I think everyone should read this. it was so relevant back then and still relevant this day especially during times like this.
Currently, I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I stan her. She writes about her life so poetically. It’s so nice to hear about the life of a successful black woman.
♡: I have a Michelle tote made up of images of magazine covers. To date I’ve gotten more compliments on the bag than anything else! ❤️
KB: That’s so neat!!
♡: Ke’Chanbria thank you for your time today I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your process. Excited to see your upcoming pieces! Please keep me posted about ways we can continue to support
KB: Thank you for the experience, it has been amazing! Love you guys for this! 💖
Ke’Chanbria Ball resides in Albany, Georgia. She is a student at Georgia Southwestern State University, pursuing a degree in Fine Arts and Psychology. Her work questions the notion of what it means to be a person of color and humanizes the experiences.