Thursday, March 19, 2009

Art Whino Artist Imani Brown Interviewed by the

The average Washingtonian-Urbanite sees examples of “Urban Art” daily. In a city where abstract sculptures occupy front lawns and political burners (graffiti) grace the third stories of “low rise buildings,” urban art is right in front of our eyes. But in the hustle and bustle of our day, we seldom get a chance to look at the person next to us. If we did, we may notice that Urban Art is even closer than we think,

Imani K. Brown is one of the newest and brightest artists dealing with the medium of “mobile urban art.” As a photographer, established tattoo artist, and lead designer for Artistic Sole Custom Kicks, Brown works everyday to take art from the traditional canvas to the hands and feet of her community; literally.

A native Washingtonian and a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, Brown’s influences range from French-feminine artist Fafi to political artist Aniekan Udofia. “Art all comes back to communication. {for example} Hip-Hop was formed because young people had a voice that needed to be heard.” Artists are part of a culture with a story to be heard, said Brown. “Urban Art was born from Hip-Hop.”

Brown, like most urban Artists, grew up with an appreciation of sneakers. An appreciation heavily influenced the music. Thanks to songs like, Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” and lyrics from MC Lyte,” we chit and we chat about this and that, from sneakers to hats,” sneakers quickly became an icon of Hip-Hop culture. Though Hip-Hop has since evolved, Hip-Hop’s obsession with the “freshest kicks” has not diminished. Brown’s art takes that obsession to another level, customizable.

While working as a tattoo apprentice in 2006, Brown decided that she needed to find a new medium to communicate. “Carrying canvases back and forth to the shop was too much and I needed something small if I wanted to work inside the shop,” said Brown.

Brown was later inspired by a travelling urban art exhibit, Sneaker Pimps, to paint the “soles” of Hip-Hop. By using one of Hip-Hop’s icons, she now communicates a world of expression with the “movement” of feet. Three years after the first brush to sole, she is now “artistically destroying s#@t in a city near you,” at an unprecedented pace. At around $220 a pair, these uniquely designed kicks have beenfeatured in publications and shows from DC to Australia. In addition, she manages to imprint her body art on around a hundred people a month, at Pinz-N-Needlez Tattoo.

Now, with the help of a small team of devoted artisans, including her “muse” and “propaganda” manager Jarmel Dixon, she is quickly becoming a “pretty big deal,” in the Urban Art world. From trunk shows at Crystal Couture in Crystal City, VA to her upcoming solo exhibit at City of Ink in Atlanta, Brown is making her mark and telling the story of urban culture to the masses.

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