3 Questions Digital Series

Kesha Bruce

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Kesha Bruce, who speaks about her creative process and artwork at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Abuja, Nigeria.

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Full Transcript

My name is Kesha Bruce and I am an artist, primarily I work in painting.  My work sits somewhere on the border of painting,  sculpture, and fiber arts.  I like to mix those three together and I do that in various ways.  I come from a family of storytellers and when I am working, I am letting myself be guided by stories or ideas or recollections or memories or dreams that come to me as I’m working. You know, my way of working is completely intuitive and then from there the stories kind of unfold, I let the painting happen and let it go where it leads and I kind of, I feel like I am being led, and just following and allowing the work to flow through me.  I have my stories, but one of the things Iove about showing the work is the paintings, the pieces of the paintings and symbols, or the colors, the way I combine them, it brings out other people’s stories as well, and the beautiful thing is the way that when you look at a painting, it can bring out your own stories and you can start to have your own memories, based on someone else’s completely, you know a work that is not necessarily about your life at all. And I think that’s kind of the beauty of art in general, is the way that it can help people forge connections and understand, and so for me, that’s one of the joys of being able to show my work and have my work be out in the public.

I learned the ripping and the dyeing and the kind of piecing together, I just, I taught myself,  I wanted the tactile elements that come with working with fiber and fabric, and so I just did it. And I kind of learned, I fumbled my way through it, and then you know I was lucky to meet people along the way that were like, why don’t you try it this way?  I never thought I would be working with fiber, and now it’s almost the absolute center of my practice.  And my work is very much influenced by quilt making in fact, now my personal temperament is not one that I can cut and patch and sew in that way, but I do piece together pieces in a very similar fashion.  I have always loved the quilt makers of Gees Bend, and fabric making and quilt making, again a rich craft embedded in the African Diaspora, specifically in the African American craft making.  I am definitely drawn to that work, I am not sure how I was exposed to it but when I saw that work it just made sense to me and I actually was a very late bloomer, I didn’t start in art or come to art making until I was in high school, but I just loved making things with my hands so it went from jewelry, to drawing, to painting and what I loved about it was the freedom. That inside of this space, inside of this thing that I was creating, that there was complete liberation, that I didn’t have to be dictated by anyone else’s ideas or thoughts or rules about how I should be, or how I should be in the world, but inside of the art making process, I was free.  You know, there is something embedded in me that it’s about the call, the call to liberation, black liberation, freedom, which is really about the opportunity to just be yourself and express yourself, and I found that in art making.

You know, the thing that I think I wish people understood about the work is that the life of the person being the work, the physical labor, the emotional labor that that has been invested into the work by the person, the artist.  I think that a lot of people think that artists have this life that is all about fun and you can make whatever you want and you don’t have any limitations and that’s actually not the truth.  Trying to make, what I essentially do is trying to make work that is a spiritual imperative, but then I also have real life bills (laughing).  So you are constantly on this, you know, a tug of war teeter totter thing that’s like, I just want to make the work, and I don’t want to think about the commercial side of it or the money, because this is really about me expressing my interior but then also the balance that it takes to then say, you know what, I have to be able to sustain this, sustain this practice, or I am not going to be able to continue to make work. So I just wish people would keep that in mind when they’re looking at work in a gallery or a museum?  They think about supporting the arts, it’s not just about the production of the work, it’s really about supporting the culture makers. The people that are really out in the world creating these things that help us reflect upon our own lives.