Artist Stories-Laolu Senbanjo

Many artists inspire me. I decided to highlight some of them in my Studio Notes in an ongoing series called Artist Stories.

I have been listening to TED talks lately while I have been in the studio. I listened to such an inspiring one this past weekend. I listened to it 3 times and kept pausing it to rehear what Laolu Senbanjo was saying.

His first powerful statement is...

"Every artist has name. And every artist has a story. "

Laolu Senbanjo in TED talk "The Sacred Art of the Ori"

I provided the link to the TED talk because you are going to want to see his art as well as hear him speak.

"The Sacred Art of the Ori"

He starts at the beginning, how he saw the world as a child. He thought his grandmother was born with the intricate tattoos she had on her body. These tattoos made a huge impact on him as a budding artist and would show up in a different form later on in his life. His way of thinking was to see art everywhere around him. He saw patterns and designs in the marble floor of his house as a child. He realized other people did not always see the same thing he saw.

When he became an adult, he became frustrated with the injustice he saw working as a lawyer in human rights. So he turned to his art as an outlet. Eventually he moved from Nigeria to New York City to pursue his desire to be a working artist but he had no connections in the art world.  So he started painting on clothes, shoes, guitars. He said people were so proud to wear their stories. He customized his art to the actual person wearing the art. Then he saw someone post a photo of themselves in front of his art on Instagram and the idea came to him of painting on bodies. He says it is like art in motion.

He works in the sacred art of Ori which he says means your soul, your instincts and essence. He thinks when you tap into your ori, you can move mountains. His art is about being who you truly are, bringing forth your true sense of power from within. Powerful.

Then Beyoncé sent him an email saying she wanted to use his art in her videos for Lemonade. He did. And his life changed.

He still uses his art for social justice just like he did as a lawyer but in a different way.

At the end of the talk, he shows his body art on two friends. He put his fears on the back and his hopes on the front of the two friends he painted for this TED talk. He hopes that people see African art not as one thing from one place and one people but a wealth of individuals all with their own unique story.

He ends with...

"Every piece of art has a story and every artist has a name."

As an artist it got me thinking about what do I stand for. He stands for freedom and justice and honoring the Divinity in each of us.

This is the beauty of creative expression. No one makes Art in the same unique way that anyone else does. Several artists may have the same goals and stand for similar things. Senbanjo's unique expression is what makes this so powerful. His artistic expression comes from a place of meaning and emotion. As I said in earlier post two weeks ago, I am learning that art is about emotion.

So what do I stand for...I stand for love and connection to people and places. My art stems from how I've always seen the world. I have always seen the natural world in a kind of geometric form breaking the individual elements like trees, mountains and lakes into geometric forms.

I still have a piece of art I made in high school experimenting with a palette knife and acrylic paint. It actually looks like the art I make today using fabric emphasizing horizontal lines and geometric patterns of color on the horizon.

As an an adult, I found quilting where you sew pieces of fabric in geometric shapes to one another. This format of sewing fabric together allows me to use a format that adheres to what I see, geometric forms. I made the process my own to fit my needs.

I don't make quilts for a bed but art for your walls to inspire others to honor the beauty of the natural world.

The driving factor in your own art is how you see the world. In this TED talk Senbanjo talks about how he sees the world with geometric shapes and patterns all around him. It made me realize how I see the natural around me in geometric shapes as well.

You never know what you are going to find out about yourself when you learn about someone else.

He is the subject of this New York Times article as well: A Nigerian Artist Who
Uses the Skin as His Canvas