InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week 29-year-old artist and educator Alexandria Smith shares.
ELIXHER: How would you describe yourself in three words?
ALEXANDRIA: Passionate, intelligent and talented.
ELIXHER: What’s the biggest misconception people have of you?
ALEXANDRIA: That I’m tough when in actuality I’m very sensitive.
ELIXHER: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
ALEXANDRIA: The biggest challenge I’ve had to face was leaving the financial security of a well-paying teaching job to pursue my second Masters degree (MFA in Painting and Drawing). It’s been a struggle but I overcame it by having a great support system and by believing in myself.
ELIXHER: When did you begin drawing and painting?
ALEXANDRIA: My mother says that I began at the early age of five years old
ELIXHER: What drew you to the craft?
ALEXANDRIA: I enjoy being able to express myself freely.
ELIXHER: What do you enjoy painting/drawing most?
ALEXANDRIA: In terms of subject matter, children, mostly young African-American girls. I also enjoy the physical act of painting and drawing, getting my entire body and mind immersed in it.
ELIXHER: Who or what inspires you?
ALEXANDRIA: Many things inspire me: the children I teach, pop culture, animation, Claymation, North Carolina, books that I read (most recently, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye) memories of my own upbringing in New Rochelle and North Carolina where I spent summers with my grandma and other relatives and current events.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
ALEXANDRIA: The Black queer community runs deep and remains unified. I enjoy being a part of a community that knows who they are and isn’t afraid to share that with the world.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the Black queer community?
ALEXANDRIA: I would like our community to get more involved in bringing about awareness, helping others to understand that we are more than our sexual orientation. We are a very talented community that also needs to do more politically and be right there on the front lines.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Alexandria?
ALEXANDRIA: As an artist, I am currently working on a new body of work that in a short-winded version explores sexual identity through the lens of childhood and is loosely based on The Bluest Eye while getting adjusted to post-grad school life. As an educator, I am currently putting together a non-profit arts education organization that will bring much needed services to the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn. My goal is to launch my organization “ArtWorks” in the summer of 2011.
Check out more of Alexandria’s work here and her upcoming exhibits:
• “Close Conversation” featuring the work of Alexandria Smith and Monique Schubert Curated by Dexter Wimberly May 24 – June 5; Opening Reception: May 26; 6 – 8pm | Broadway Gallery | 473 Broadway 7th floor bet. Broome and Grand St. | New York, NY 10013
• “Process, Product, Ponder” August 25 – September 2; Opening Reception: August 25; 6-8pm Rush Arts Gallery | 526 W 26th St # 311 | New York, NY 10001