Featured September KCAI BSU Artist:
Senior | Major: Painting
Nehemiah Cisneros is a senior in the painting department at Kansas City Art Institute. Nehemiah returned to college after taking a decade off from school where he previously studied illustration at Art Center College of Design, during gap in between colleges, Cisneros pursued the career of a freelance illustrator, bouncing between various clothing and skateboard companies. The shift between brands and clients forced Cisneros to re-examine his own identity as an artist, and in 2017 he decided to seek the discipline that he believed came with completing his BFA degree. Since re-enrolling at KCAI, Cisneros has been making studio work revolving around his life experiences and the inspirations gained from his fellow artist community at KCAI.
My paintings bring to life exaggerated expressions of humanity through cartoon satires. I explore the socio/political relationship between authority and people of color. I often focus on how laws and criminality affect our communities. I examine the imagery and history of cultural stereotypes that I have been subject to being branded as, which at times have endangered my freedom and my life. My works unleash grotesquely exaggerated renderings of authority figures and icons. I juxtapose imagery such as hooded warrior gang members decapitating a mutated American bald eagle. My paintings also mock the criminal justice system that has failed to serve Black and Mexican people. I portray images of courtroom judges as blindfolded babies frolicking in a bowl of wine. My personal experience of growing up in south-central Los Angeles informs my views of mainstream culture and how it continues to fail our community. My practice also explores the figure through erotic portrayals of nude bodies transforming into fantastic creatures and imagery that highlights the fetishized worldview news media consumers have become addicted to seeing.
Instagram | @nehemiahcisneros
Website | nehemiahcisneros.com
Recent Publication Feature | ADF Magazine; Race, History, and Identity: Introducing Two Young Black Artists
Featured August KCAI BSU Artist:
Sophomore | Major: Painting
Kevin Hopkins is a teenage artist born in Beaufort, South Carolina. However, because of his father’s service in the United States military, he lived in Texas and Germany for most of his childhood. After returning to South Carolina with his mother and siblings, Hopkins developed a passion for fine arts, which led to his acceptance into the Kansas City Art Institute, a four-year college of fine arts and design in Kansas City, Missouri. While in school, Hopkins has focused his studies on contemporary art, including painting, drawing, ceramics, and printmaking to create representational images concerning the black community. He was recognized nationally as a 2018 YoungArts finalist, among other awards, such as the KCAI President’s Cabinet Scholarship.
Adversity is unavoidable when navigating life as a Black-American in America. Racial profiling, police brutality, prejudice, micro-aggressions, physical violence, etc. are all hardships that prove to be especially lethal for the Black community. Though various factors contribute to the hindrance of equality, there are many more hopeful, empowering concepts to illustrate. To convey the authentic black experience, my current and past work explore anecdotes about socio-economic struggles, the recent protests about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the emotional awareness of the Black community.
Though I was young, I recognized that barriers were meant to keep Black Americans inferior to the majority. Growing up without much left me envious as a child, even as a young adult. Not too long ago, I shared a small home with seven other family members. In that home, I shared an air mattress with my mother and little brother. For privacy, I sat in the bathroom, watching movies, drawing, or sitting in contemplation. Centuries of systematic racism ensures that much black youth have to fight harder to achieve the same comforts as the majority. For a significant part of my childhood, I wanted to see the Black community win, a Black-American in a position of power, a Black instructor, or a Black person represented in the museums I enjoyed exploring. As a maturing artist, I realized that it was well within my power to introduce more artwork into the gallery scene that depicts my community's reality. In light of the recent protests, it is abundantly clear that racism still exists and that Black-Americans still lack representation in the media and many facets of entertainment and arts. I place my peers of the Black Lowcountry to visually subvert the notion that fine art is just for White-Americans.
The protests following the death George Floyd-though tragic- has sparked a surge of oppressed voices to call for justice. This objection of injustice has revealed the Black community's unity and determination-our desire for change. I represent Black-Americans in my work with optimism to reflect the Black community's hope for an equal America, an obligation I imposed upon myself to honor the movement.
Instagram | @beebro_irl
Website | https://www.seesaltexhibition.com/
WE HAVE OUR SEAT, NOW WHAT?
Third Annual KCAI BSU: Black History Month Exhibition
Hosted by the Leedy Foundation
February 7 - March 28, 2020
Izsys Archer | Nehemiah Cisneros | Kevin Hopkins | Charles Jones | Isaac Lee
Bella Martinez | André Melchor | Abigail Oyesam | Mirose Song | Jada Patterson
Jinblossom Plati | Aleah Washington | London Williams
In his 1963 speech,” A Talk to Teachers,”, James Baldwin explains, “the paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” In the talk, Baldwin brings attention to the paradoxical nature of American education and its damaging effects on African Americans. He argues that American education is designed "to perpetuate the aims of the society,” but that “the obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it - at no matter what risk.”
The theme of the show, “We Have our Seat, Now What?” is deeply informed by Baldwin’s speech and seeks to further the conversation on the paradox of American education, its oppressive roots, and racist past. As we take up space in institutions initially not made for people of color and become conscious of our positions, we ask, “We have our seat, now what?” This theme is a way for us to consider how to step into our power, and determine how our future will look, on our terms. This exhibition explores the aims of society and the ways in which Black and Brown students continue to navigate both educational and societal institutions today.