This week LTTS interviews Elilou, a Brooklyn-based black creative, on her powerful artworks inspired by the beauty and vulnerability of blackness and nature. You can see Elilou’s work in our exhibition Intertwine our Branches here, and follow her on Instagram @she.who.paints
You have very recently started making amazing pieces of art. Why did you start your painting practice?
Creating has always been a meditative form of expression for me. Growing up, I have always had an interest in fantasy and sci-fi. I would spend hours conjuring up new worlds and sketching out ideas, but I never had the time to fully dedicate myself to the beauty that is art. With our world being forced to stand still, I started painting in March in order to find catharsis for daily stressors.
Taurus. The Flowers Sigh Your Name
You use amazing colours, plants, and nature in your paintings. How does the environment inspire your artwork?
I’ve always been intrigued by nature and spent a lot of my time as a kid climbing trees, getting lost in fields wild of flowers, and spending time at lakesides. There’s so much that we can learn from watching how Mother Nature continues to grow regardless of her environment. I would like to think that we as humans can learn a lot from that kind of persistence, and so, that is what inspired me to paint.
There’s so much that we can learn from watching how Mother Nature continues to grow regardless of her environment.
Has this relationship changed in relation to the pandemic and the visibility of racial, social, and environmental injustices?
2020 has truly been a year and that’s putting it mildly. I realized early on in my artistic ventures that painting (like many other mediums) shapes how we view the world and ourselves. As a black artist who is getting my start during a time of incredible social upheaval, I wanted to portray blackness in my work because I realized just how powerful seeing our beauty and vulnerabilities on canvas could be. I wanted to demonstrate that strength, resilience, and humanity have more than one face. I incorporated nature into my work because nature defies all odds and we as people have continued to endure and overcome despite getting doors and windows shut in our face.
As a black artist who is getting my start during a time of incredible social upheaval, I wanted to portray blackness in my work because I realized just how powerful seeing our beauty and vulnerabilities on canvas could be.
The Garden Is The Only Way Through
How can we actively use art to be anti-racist in our environmental activism?
I think that it’s incredibly important to stop relying on suffering to get a message across. Using people of color’s trauma as a means to invoke a feeling in others only serves to retraumatize us and desensitize others to our pain. I’ve seen so many videos of people dying, of people struggling and fighting and after a while, you become numb to it all. I don’t want that, that is not the proper way to perform activist service for marginalized people.
The only way to be anti-racist as a person with privilege is to take our message and use your privilege to advocate for us. Your voices ring so much louder when ours fall on deaf ears. Protect activists, show others just how multi-faceted we are, and promote our humanity. It’s imperative not to use people of color as a library of resources to educate you on the struggle or plight of people of color. Use your art to demonstrate something other than suffering and continue to create platforms like this for us to feel safe enough to create despite our own pains.
The only way to be anti-racist as a person with privilege is to take our message and use your privilege to advocate for us.
These Fields Are Going To Devour You
You are currently developing your Grow or Perish art series, what is the inspiration behind this project?
I started the Grow or Perish Project as a means to showcase black beauty despite our struggle. I wanted to demonstrate that no matter how thick the garden gets, how hard the pain becomes to bear, we can always grow. For me, it was important to highlight the need to embrace change and to show how we can flourish despite adversity.
I wanted to demonstrate that no matter how thick the garden gets, how hard the pain becomes to bear, we can always grow.
Interviewed by Mattie O'Callaghan, Events and Outreach Lead