In 2018 I was challenged by a mentor of mine, to not just call myself a visual artist, but ponder on what type of artist I actually am. I began looking at both my past and more recent works collectively, and the theme of my work was and has consistently been liberty! Based upon that reflection, at the start of 2018, I began calling myself a Liberation Artist.
What is a Liberation Artist? For me, being a Liberation Artist is about creating a space and platform for telling the stories of people who society often marginalizes. My aim is to challenge the consciousness of those who collect art to consider who controls the narrative and what is their intention in providing such a narrative? I aim to to bring a greater awareness to matters of social justice, as well as break social stereotypes.
I am currently a student at the Graduate School of Syracuse University pursuing a degree in Art Therapy and I received a BFA in Illustration from Moore College of Art and Design in 2008.
Although I was born in New York City, I was raised in the southern part of New Jersey. (I am definitely a jersey girl.) The Arts have always been a part of my life. My father and mother are both very talented individuals. My father is a natural musician and professional carpenter, and my mother can work wonders with food–her food has been a source of comfort for many over the years. Prior to the recession of 2008, my parents owned an operated their own Soul Food restaurant.
My earliest influences in the Arts came from being surrounded by the natural creativity of my family. When we were growing up my parents were always working and I was the oldest sibling at home. That meant I had to become a leader to my siblings. This helped when I got to college and eventually pursued a leadership position to help cut costs of my room and board. That position and my time at Moore was significant, as it was at Moore, that I found my voice and vowed to always speak truth.
I remember being in the Dean of Student Life’s office, when another student asked me, “Why are all the people in your art work Black?” I was taken by surprise and not sure what to say, especially because I had just gotten this new RA position and my supervisor, who had just hired me, was right there. As I stood in shock, My supervisor responded, “She’s drawing what’s familiar and close to her.” She said it in such a reassuring tone. Although her answer only touched the surface of my thoughts, I was so thankful for her advocacy in that moment. I learned to speak my truth respectfully, regardless of who was around.
It was a challenge for me to find a job in the arts after graduation. After becoming exhausted with the job search, I went to my other passion, which is working with underprivileged youth. I worked as a counselor and then teacher’s assistant. During that time, I began to experience art as a universal way of communicating. I realized, one of the reasons the youth gravitated to me was because I listened and could connect with them through the Arts.
After a few years I began to miss my own art. As a result, I began to work part time while producing my own works. That’s how EHFCreations came about. EHFCreations has allowed me to work in a way that brings all my passions together within my own business.
How can Art be used in playing a significant role in creating a greater awareness on racism, social stereotypes, and justice? When a person encounters art that centers liberation or my work in particular, I believe these encounters can be catalysts in helping wrestle with one’s own privilege, possible resulting feelings of guilt, and/or even offense. Observers are challenged to look at themselves and consider what part they play in either dismantling or perpetuating racism, injustice, and social stereotypes.
It is both my intention and hope that introspection will not only stimulate but create positive internal change, that overflows into both outward and systemic changes, bringing about equity and justice for all.
Predominantly white institutions now more than ever need to be held accountable, to showcase art that will stir hearts toward systemic change. However, that can only occur when Black Art that is often deemed uncomfortable to digest, is not segregated to being highlighted for just 28 days during a particular month of the year.
I have challenged myself over the years to work on a larger scale and incorporate some color in my art. My newest art piece At the Table (The Last Supper) is my most ambitious undertaking to date, it is the largest piece in my own collection.
In this piece I wanted to pay tribute to all the women who work in plain sight but, because of misogyny and patriarchy, never get recognized. I also wanted to honor and celebrate the Black man. Ironically, I finished “Jesus” at the same time the Derek Chauvin trial (George Floyd) began. I also wanted to show the betrayer, “Judas” from a different perspective. It was very important for me to highlight the inherent artistry that is displayed in the diversity of femininity. I want to remind people, even in the middle of a pandemic and what may feel like chaos and dysfunction, there is still room at the table.
Strange Water was created to bring awareness to the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan. “Equality” is a word that falls off the tongues of many so loosely. A word that carries so much weight and responsibility is seemingly used as a tool for political gain, and self advancement, instead of being used for its actual intent. How as a country can we say we are land of the free- but streams of “Strange Water” flow through the pipes of communities of color?
Some of my artistic influences:
- Beyoncé—In particular her album “Lemonade”
- Mya Angelou—A womyn who not only spoke words of wisdom but displayed strength through her vulnerability! Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
- Salvador Dalí — Although I am no fan of Dali as individual given his sordid life, I must admit I still am intrigued by his technical skill and use of symbolism in his body of surrealist art.
Ebony H. Flag is one of 36 artists from 10 states who’s work is included in Adrift, a national juried exhibition which is on view at Main Street Arts through June 11, 2021.