Nina Chanel Abney paints vibrant multicultural murals with disjointed narratives that confuse and delight. With a bold palette and bolder sense of humor, Abney creates bizarre scenarios that add a hint of perversity to each piece, resulting in a mashup of celebrity and literary references.
Abney's scenes are full of bizarre costumes and undecipherable symbols, and even her characters' faces resist familiarity, looking more masklike than natural. The images are forceful, viewers can sense a political passion but cannot quite decipher the "moral," similarly they buzz with both masculine and feminine energy. To make sense of her work, we asked Nina some questions:
HP: Can you describe how you found your visual language?
NA: I think it kinda found me. I work very intuitively, so my visual language is a combination of the different things I'm interested in as well as whatever happens in the moment that I am creating a painting. And I feel like my visual language is, and will continue to constantly change as times goes on. I am always trying new things, and editing out different elements in my work.
HP: Would you call your work narrative driven? Is there a message or more of an experiment/experience?
NA: I think my earlier work was more narrative driven, in which I focus on one particular story or experience, but I've become more interested in mixing disjointed narratives and abstraction, and finding interesting ways to obscure any possible story that can be assumed when viewing my work. So I don't necessarily aim to send out a particular message, rather I want the work to provoke the viewer come up with their own message, or answer some of their own questions surrounding the different subjects that I touch in my work.
HP: To what extent is your work personal/autobiographical? Do you think all artwork is autobiographical in some way?
NA: I do think that all artwork is personal/autobigraphical in the sense that it's a reflection of the artist's thoughts. I treat the canvas like a journal in that it's a place where I can release any concerns, emotions, and just the different thoughts swirling around in my head in general.
HP: That kind of alludes to what I was going to ask you about all the diverse ground you cover in your work (religion, politics, sex). Would you say that in your head they are all on an equal playing ground?
NA: Definitely. There's so much information that comes at an individual during the course of a day. In one day, I may read the paper, get on the internet and browse through YouTube, my Facebook timeline, look at Twitter, watch the news, watch Bravo, VH1, read gossip blogs, listen to music, and do this all while talking on the phone and texting, so it's impossible for me not to cover a multitude of topics. I'm living in an age of information overload.
HP: What's a work of art that inspires you?
Take a look at Abney's wild worlds below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.