Sasha-Loriene is a Washington, DC-based artist and storyteller focused on self-discovery and truth telling through her artwork. She is also the Founder of BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT (BGWP), a safe space for Black women and girls to see representation in the arts.BGWP is a platform that magnifies the stories of Black women artists in order to normalize Black women in the global arts market and show actual Black girls who paint that the arts is a viable career path. Their global online directory provides visibility for Black women painters who have stories to tell and a dedicated art practice while supporting Black girl, teen, & student painters in their artistic pursuits.
What inspired you to create this as a safe space for artists to express themselves?
Growing up, I didn’t have many examples of successful artists that I related to – specifically, artists who looked like me, Black women artists. In not seeing myself in the art world during my formative years, I ultimately did not pursue the arts until adulthood, when I could no longer wear a mask or live a life opposite of my creative beliefs and the artist I dreamt of being as a child. After years of living in inauthenticity, I finally realized – I was not the problem, the lack of equitable representation and diversity within the arts as a whole is the problem. So on September 4, 2017, I decided I was going to be the change I wanted to see and created BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT. It grew like wildfire evolved into something bigger than myself soon after.
Now, I get to create opportunities that not only tell our stories but include our stories in larger dialogues – and that excites me! I’ve made many connections and relationships with other artists from around the globe solely by exchanging stories. In doing so, I also get to add more joy and support to actual Black girl painters that I didn’t have as a young girl through our Awards Fund. Each month, we give away $100 e-gift cards to an art store for supplies to two girls between the ages 6-18 and each Spring and Fall semester, we give away academic scholarships to two students between the ages of 17-21 currently enrolled at least part-time in a visual arts program! These are the opportunities that I would have loved to have as a young girl/college student. It’s even better that it’s 100% supported by BGWP Members and Donors! Running a business while maintaining my own artist practice is hard, but these are the moments that truly make it worth it all in the end!
Aside from purchasing their art, how else can readers support black women artists, painters and creators:
Giving Black women artists opportunities to tell and magnify their stories. Historically, Black women artists have been left out of many narratives in both modern and contemporary arts, leaving few references and depictions for the following generations. Far too long has the arts world been dominated by the westernized male perspective and lacked diversity or representation. It’s essential now more than ever that we share the art and stories of Black women artists so that generations after us can know that they belong in the spaces we’ve traveled and beyond.
My mission with BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT has always been to create a visual representation of Black women artists with sustainable art practices and careers so that the next Black girl who paints can say “she did it, so I know it can be done” instead of “I don’t belong there, so let me stick to what I know.” I’ve always been on the eccentric side of life and there were so many things I didn’t do as a child because I didn’t see anyone that looked like me or felt like I belonged in the places I wanted to go. Black women are not reflected much in art history, arts education, arts administration, or the global arts market as professional artists. My goal is to help normalize Black women in the arts. That’s why my mantra is “when we see ourselves, we believe in ourselves, and inspire others to do so, as well.” It starts from young.
Tell us about the current virtual exhibition.
Femininity Defined is our first online group exhibition examining divine femininity independent of the woman’s body. This exhibition challenges the western framing of femininity with the absence of bodily identifiers or beauty standards. 29 Black women artists are free to explore Divine Femininity through various forms of visual storytelling while the audience is invited to think outside the box in how they conceptualize in their own everyday lives. Exhibition is on view from July 1 – August 8, 2021.
I originally came up with the concept in 2018 as I started coming into myself as a woman and artist. I wanted to create artwork that told a story, challenges the viewer, and invokes introspective, not just paint a pretty picture. So I challenged myself to paint my interpretation of femininity without using the woman’s body, what I feel as opposed to what I see, as we all have divine feminine and masculine energy. Fast forward 3 years later, I am championing and celebrating 29 Black women artists as they do so as well, challenging the larger dialogue of what femininity is, who gets to define it, and how. I get to help share their stories.
What is next for the “Black Girls Who Paint” brand and how can readers connect with you online?
We have so much in store for the remainder of the year and beyond. After our online exhibition, we’re having an open enrollment period for our new members and celebrating our 4 year anniversary with a fundraising campaign. We’re also building our arts incubator, Mahyue Studios, dedicated to artist development, inner child work, and transmedia storytelling. Readers can stay connected by checking out our websites (www.blackgirlswhopaint & www.mahyuestudios.com), following our Instagram, and subscribing to our email newsletter.
Featured Image courtesy of Sasha-Loriene