Come check out this month's art gallery with works from @thatrebelitch!
Titled, 'Insterstice: Between Magic and Reality', Le'Ecia Farmer's exhibit explores various mediums of art from textile to painting. Read their artist statement and interview below, and come see the exhibit for free all month!
'During an acceptance speech in 2016, actor Jesse Williams states “just because we’re magic - does not mean we’re not real.” For Black folks, although we exist in creative and innovative ways, the value of our lives is not always honored. Insterstice takes on a celebratory tone, applauding our shape shifting selves as we adapt and maneuver often hostile narratives and manipulated accounts of history. The space is dark, yet warm - haunting, yet safe and sacred. The exhibit brings in multiple mediums (paintings, textiles, film) to explore themes of loss, adaption, captivity, and freedom.'
Can you tell us the story behind your name, the Rebel Itch?
"That Rebel Itch" comes from a short poem I wrote in 2013. "I've got that rebel itch / the kind that spreads like wildfire / until it meets the sea."
The name has grown since then to envelope even more meaning, for me. It's about not catering to mainstream art and design, but it's also about centering and highlighting aspects of Black culture that get undervalued or even criminalized. For example, I love working with bandanas as a material. By itself, the bandana has a beautiful pattern with a rich and complex history, but on a Black (especially masculine) body - it instantly becomes criminalized. Anything we do or touch or that is associated with us as Black people, may pose a threat. I just want to add my own sliver of an effort to surround our expression in joy and celebration in spite of the fear and potential conflict that arises when we choose to thrive.
Your artist statement is deeply personal and celebratory of life’s complexities and its demand for adaptations, rather than limiting it to the positive and more superficial. Can you elaborate on any experiences you’re willing to share that have contributed to this perspective?
Yes, a lot of my work is inspired by adaption and resiliency. I think it's the aspect of hope that lights a fire for me personally to keep pushing, and I want to help spread the fire while still honoring that we have been through a lot. Some of the inspiration is personal. Growing up in a place that would rather we didn't exist, and still seeing my family celebrate life and express themselves is a strong foundation. Inspiration also comes from the same idea in the broader sense - Black folk communicating through quilts when using their voices or bodies may have gotten them killed, or by doing things in plain sight - singing and dancing but masked in layers and codes to protect our joy and expression. My art is not definite or complete, though. Sometimes we are brutalized or reduced down until we die and no one tells our story or the stories that are constructed say we were nothing. Some of us - our trauma has not bloomed into a beautiful flower to carry the weight of our bodies. Some of us are not thriving. Some of us are not surviving. I try to create with a lens of hope, but sometimes the deep wounds, or all the stories and the history that we know is there but has been destroyed or lost, keeps me searching or longing instead. I create out of those feelings too, and in those cases, hope is not always the most appropriate answer.
This exhibit showcases a multitude of mediums, from textile to painting, and your Instagram also features series after series of different mediums that you work with as well. Where did your interest initially begin and how has it grown into what it is today?
My dad was an artist. I have special memories of him taking me and my sister to art stores or workshops. He often held his own too. I remember him making all of us, including our cousins, write down our signature, and then he proceeded to talk about each one as if he were critiquing the greatest works in an art museum. We laugh about it now, but moments like that affirmed for me that what I put out into the world has value, which is a huge seed to sow into a little Black child. My mother is also an artist. Her tool - her hands. Her medium - hair and lives. They were my first understanding of art. In high school and college, I explored many mediums and was very drawn to textiles and media. When my dad passed away in 2014, I dove into painting like some dive into journaling when they experience loss. Some of my paintings, I still have a hard time talking about or explaining because they come from a place of trying to navigate loss. My desire to explore with textiles and clothing may have been passed down from seeing my mother create work with her hands. Sometimes, I feel strongly called towards that medium and I don't completely understand why, but it gives me much joy. I've briefly struggled with the capitalist thought that I should only have one medium, that me bouncing between several is too confusing and not marketable. I go where my head and heart lead me now.
Who are your some of your inspirations at the moment?
My current inspirations include Yagazie Emezi - her photography work is stunning, her sibling Akwaeke Emezi - their book Freshwater was so inspiring and mind opening, Yaa Gyasi - her book Homegoing was intense and beautiful, and Aboubakar Fofana - his textile work and social commentary is on point and deeply important.
How can we follow your work?
Currently, you can follow my work on IG through @thatrebelitch
Also, don’t forget to attend Le’Ecia Farmer’s artist reception August 15th, from 7-9pm in the gallery!