A: Where are you currently based?
Chidinma: Oil painter and graphic artist based in Maryland, USA
A native of Maryland born in Washington D.C., raised by parents of Nigerian descent.
A: Who are your primary artistic influences?
Chidinma: Currently, my top three artistic influences would have to be Frida Kahlo, Kehinde Wiley, and Margaret Bowland.
A: Do you have a favorite painter and or painting?
Chidinma: Frida Kahlo because of the symbolic meaning behind her paintings. As a fellow portrait artist, Frida uses claustrophobic backgrounds, which pushes the image out to towards the viewer. The figure is the focal point in her self-portraits, much like my work. Women in the 21st Century can learn from Frida. She refused to content herself with the role of women during the 1930’s and 40’s. One of my favorite works from her is “The Two Fridas.”
A: What made you decide to pursue a life in the art?
Chidinma: That’s a very interesting question and oddly enough I’ve never asked myself that. I’ve always had love for the arts since I was a little girl but never thought, when I grow up I would want to be an artist. In college, I finally found something that helped me express myself without having to speak and have the message live forever. Being an artist has helped me express that cross-cultural dialogue of being born in America and being raised by Nigerian parents in America. Art can change the way we think about culture and ourselves and becoming an artist has helped me express that cross cultural experience.
A: Did you consider any other career paths?
Chidinma: Honestly, I did consider several different career paths for different reasons while in college. I considered going into the medical field, like a doctor or nurse because of the guaranteed stability that both those professions provide. Where they equate success to how much money you make instead of ones calling in life. To do this would be simply to fit into the societal expectations of women like myself but I choose to follow my path. We equate success with wealth and status. Numerous times throughout my college career, I would call my parents and tell them I don’t know if I should pursue being a graphic artist or being a painter because of what my peers were doing. My choosing to become an artist has taken a lot of courage, handwork, discipline, faith and belief in myself and thankfully I have not looked back ever since.
A: In the last five years, what has been your favorite piece of artwork that you have created and why?
Chidinma: I don’t have a favorite piece from the past five years. I enjoy all my work equally. The one piece that has been the biggest social experiment would have to be “One Drop”. The focal point here again is feminine beauty and what constitutes blackness. This piece is number one of eight. The piece is entitled “One Drop” primarily because it is difficult to determine the ethnicity this young woman represents. It is evident that she has that 1% of black in her. With her intense gaze, her head wrap is a more passionate exploration of culture, portraiture. My ultimate goal is to shift our focus on whom the woman is rather than what her hair looks like, facial structure and complexion. What she looks like and the texture of her hair should no longer be used to define a woman. The goal is to shift focus from what she is mixed with and how diluted her blackness is, how “black” he or she is.
As a matter fact while working on the painting titled “One Drop”, was one of the reasons I stopped wearing weave for a while to test my own perception of beauty.
A: How would you describe your painting style?
Chidinma: My painting style is currently a fusion of Contemporary black art, illustration and portraiture. My portraits are based on photographs taken of women, flowers, and random objects and of myself. Focusing on beauty and the critical portrayal of femininity as it pertains to the view of black and brown young women today. My work focuses on what my century brings to the ideas of race, femininity, and sexual allure. I want my work to change the cliché narratives in the portraits of black women in the arts. Let us create a new narrative.
Initially, my portraits were based on the culture of hair and it’s significance it has in African American culture. Using bold African fabric as head wraps to disguise what the figures hair look like; the viewer is then forced to focus on the woman’s natural and physical beauty. In the past we used Colorism to discriminate against each other as blacks and today hair has become another way to divide and discriminate ourselves as a people. Currently, my work focuses on hair and its significance in black culture but has evolved into beauty and what I feel it means to be beautiful. My goal is to redefine the definition of blackness in the Diaspora, by using color, design elements to transcend physical material reality. The expressionistic sunflowers are not naturalistic but used to represent society & mood. The fleshy, peachy color in each skin tone gives more positive feeling and the continuous use of the color green symbolizes growth and nature. With Africa as my main inspiration I fuse colors, textures, organic shapes and traditional techniques to create images that are fresh, iconic, expressive and diverse.
A: Based on your life experiences thus far, what advice would you give to an up and coming painter?
Chidinma: I don’t know if I’m in position at this time of my career to give advice. I would say to believe in yourself and most importantly don’t get discouraged by people who do not believe in you and your vision dreams or ideas. You will experience fear from time to time, but even at that do it afraid.
Choosing to be an artist, compared to any other profession in this world takes a lot of guts and courage and if you’re not ready to sacrifice in order to create then it’s not for you.
Trust yourself, your work, your ideas and your vision always, regardless of what any other artist is doing or what any gallery says they are looking for.
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I am a fan of Chidinma’s art and I am truly honored to have her on my blog. Thank you Chidinma for this interview and thank you for sharing your beautiful art with us!
I hope you enjoyed getting to know this amazing artist! Thank you for reading & God bless 🙂