Oil Painter & Muralist: Dizzy @sheisdizzy
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
Dizzy is an oil painter and muralist. Her work is centered around the concept of understanding death and the vulnerability of the woman’s body.
In what moment were you first aware of your artistic ability?
Dizzy: I was always painting and writing on my mom’s walls when I was younger...and getting in trouble for it. I was always writing on anything...It was like I had something special. I would manipulate images starting around age seven. My older brother is an artist. I would take his drawings and make my own pictures.
How was the journey of embracing your creativity?
Dizzy: Everything I was doing was creative. I was always over the top in class group projects. I enjoyed creative projects and would always make things look perfect. My craftsmanship on point. I would make it the most colorful thing and make sure everything I make is overstepping the boundaries. People would ask me to do their projects. I started doing commission work during high school and getting paid to do art.
What purpose does your artistic expression serve for you?
Dizzy: A therapeutic purpose. It helps with my depression and dealing with struggles and different things I was going through in life. I make use of this outlet and at the same time create and outlet for other people as well. I make myself feel better. and make that piece make others feel better. It's a psychological and therapeutic purpose. Making people feel better. Changing others perspective.
What mediums do you naturally gravitate towards?
Dizzy: Towards whatever is in my hands. I love oil painting… I love oil and all the mediums that can coincide with that. Sculpting. Clays molding. Casting. Oil painting is my favorite of all time. I use turpentine and linsys oil to thin out colors. So the colors don’t come out as opaque. I typically use thicker paints, glazes, and different types of gloss mediums. Oil paint matches my artwork mainly because of the depth. Everything in my work is consistent. Meaning from picture to paint. Oil adds a new era of substance and meaning to each piece. I worked with acrylics for four years and did the same type of work. But not with the same meaning. When I switched to oil the whole conception changed.
What does your creative process entail?
Dizzy: I write a lot. I write a lot of lists. Most artists have sketchbooks and do an entire sketch before the actual piece. But I like to make a lot of lists and compile a story and find elements that match up the meaning and give viewers something to go back and research. I get the info and reference material I want. Then go shoot the physical subject matter. Full on set design. Have photoshoot. Together with the photographer and model we create the proper aesthetic to tell the story. The model has something to do with the story. It becomes an all inclusive piece. Photographer has a say in lighting. I receive the final image, then paint. Build my piece. Go into the exhibition process. All my paintings stem from photos.
What made you want to do portraits
Dizzy: It’s a study: a lot of the work I’ve been doing has been more atmospheric and landscape based. They all have something to do with the atmosphere.
What message do you hope to relay to your audience?
Dizzy: The message that not everything in life is as bad as it seems. Every piece has something to do with death or decomposition. It’s one of the worst feelings a person can go through. I want to do my best to change the perspective on death and to not look at bad the things in life. To create a balance between chaos and peace. If we find a balance between the two everything won’t be as bad…
How do viewers typically respond to your art?
Dizzy: I get a lot of mixed reviews. Recently a lot more positivity than critiques. Before I was trying to round out my statement. People commented and said it looked like voodoo rituals or witchcraft rituals. How can I change the discussion of my work? Dive more into the decomposition of the subject without putting an obvious emphasis on death, instead create chaos. Now people say it speaks to them in a different type of way. Makes them feel something. The goal is to make you feel something. I love the negative comments.
Can you tell me about your upcoming work?
Dizzy: My upcoming painting is a headturner. It’s a self portrait. It’s my first time painting in blurry/out of focus. It goes with the ‘Catch me in the A’ theme. I show what speaks to us personally as artists of Atlanta and something that speaks to the people of Atlanta. I hope to finish it by this week. It’s due April 1st. I need to put a layer of resin on and add scratch marks to make a layer.
How does it feel to be in these exhibitions?
Dizzy: Its cool. These are my friends and we all constantly work and support each others success. Those are the people who are a part of the list. I was personally contacted by curator. She wants me to bring the piece of DJ Speakerfoxx ...She called me the day of the deadline.
Can you tell me about a significant moment in your artistic career?
Dizzy: When I was twenty years old I was part of an auction for the Jazz Festival in Atlanta. I was part of the student section of the auction. It was a large lineup of well known artists. The people who ran High Museum, Cocacola. I was next to world renowned artists and business owners as a student. At the time, I went to school at Clark Atlanta University. I did the live portion of the auction. It was a huge lawn full of people. Older people. I was really nervous. It was a real art auction with thousands of people. I was displaying a painting of an albino girl. There were different words that made up her hair like a textured afro. Different words that people say to black girls. It sold for $800. The winner of the painting was a guy who bought two buildings at Clark Atlanta University. Ware Building was built in his honor. The piece is hanging in the building after he purchased it. And I sold out all the pieces that I had in the silent auction. I got to keep all the money. It was supposed to go towards tuition… it was $3500 check for my artwork. I went back the next year. That's when I really got my name out there. I had just moved back to Atlanta from Alabama. I was previously studying psychology.
Then I worked as art teacher and was doing murals. At Clark I was working with professors on a professional basis...and was calling Fahamu Pecou while he taught for a semester at Spelman. My professor from Clark Atlanta sent me to take classes there. So I can get exposure. They shutdown the arts program at Spelman. I studied under Pecou and was there to make my work better. We started working together a little more once I graduated. He pushed me and encouraged me to be an artist. That’s when I did women’s history murals around Atlanta.
Did one series based on women loving herself. A picture of a girl hugging and kissing her hair. And I did that 3 or 4 times in different hair salons.
Can you tell me about your shift from psychology to the path of art?
Dizzy: When I started psychology I was studying art as well...I went into college with a bad attitude because I wanted to be an artist. I saw a man who was getting paid to be an artist and saw him get flyed out. I love the brain more than the actually study of psychology. I was avoiding psychology by taking art classes.
In what ways is your art directly related to you and your life versus the world and society?
Dizzy: It relates to me because it helps me in the way to change me perspective and look at life in a different light. As years go by and I grows as an artist it gives me the opportunity to grow towards an artistic nature. And by providing growth to the general public as well.
Sometimes I can get stressed out with paintings. Stress of shows and exhibitions. I still have positive energy these days, but it's still a job. It's a happy medium. I guess I found me personal balance between peace and chaos.
Are there periods of time in Black History that inspire your work?
Dizzy: To a degree. Not necessarily the more prominent times or pivotal times people know about. I use black women as a subject matter. My art shows how low they were on a hierarchical scale. Women are already low. And on top of that being black?? It’s like why are we even here? And how this translates to life/work thing. You can’t vote. You can’t drive a car. Negative stigmas placed on us. I incorporate empowerment into my paintings. Put a lot of themes of brutality. The gritty side of what it was like to be black in that time.
In a sense, can your art rewrite history?
Dizzy: Thats a huge question. Yes. Mainly because my faith says so. I feel that the way I go about doing my work...because I’m looking to change perspective and not necessarily change a person. If you change the way people think you can change the world. In art you don’t have to be the speaker or leader. In art you can visually make it happen and change the conversation.
How does being a Black Woman Artist living in Atlanta feel? And in what ways do you receive support from the community?
Dizzy: It feels very...At first it was fun. Having to grind to be at a place you really want to be and get you name out there is awesome. I had been doing it for five years. As far as in the art game, there are not a lot of black women putting their work out. I end up being put into shows with a lot of men and doing collaboration with men.
Why is there not as many women?
Dizzy: Don’t know genuinely. It’s not that women lack the technical skill. It's disheartening. I have no idea what it is or why its like that. I hope to see more in future
How does your art add to the contemporary Black Arts movement?
Dizzy: I think it adds a totally different style and different feeling. Compared to everything that’s being seen right now in galleries. They all tell a story and are very in depth conceptually. And physically. Not sure how to answer that question. I fit into contemporary art world without necessarily wanting to. My work has been matched with a lot of masters who are here in Atlanta when it comes to technical work. It was never my goal to see myself fit into the contemporary scene.
Can you comment on the Black Woman Experience and how it is expressed through the arts.
Dizzy: The black woman experience for me is ….its awesome. It’s very interesting. I pull inspiration from everywhere. When it comes to celebrating being a black woman. Just on day to day. The negative side of it is the catcalling. People not taking you seriously because you are a black woman. I deal with it. It gets under my skin at times. I Incorporate that into my work through live models. Models have something to do with each piece. 9 times out of 10 they probably have the same struggle: not getting accepted as a black woman. It gets incorporated into the piece. Then it relates to other black women as well. That helps me personally. Maybe I’m not being ostracized. Only some people treat us that way. A lot of these negative reactions that happen from other people towards black women is not just what I’m experiencing alone. Aa platform to express that openly and connect with others.
Would you say that there are now more ways for Black Women artists to find mentorship, display their work, and gain community in Atlanta and can you share how?
Dizzy: I think so. Especially now than when I first started out in Atlanta. It seemed harder before. Five years ago it seemed harder to get recognized. Just on a business level. That has definitely changed over the year. Now I do business with my boyfriend. Men who are trying to get business and get commission would shake my boyfriend’s hand. Now I handle more work. I find myself able to make more change with the permission to do so. Without people looking like why is she speaking. Now people fall back and give women the opportunity. As far as mentorship. It is hard to find period. You can stumble upon it. Someone who wants to take you under their wing. Some people don’t know who to talk to. Other people don't let people in the way. Women are doing it on business side, but I want to see more in the art game.
How does your identity influence your artwork
in terms of race, gender and sexuality
Dizzy: My work is based on black women that puts my identity into the whole thing. I’ve never been comfortable in myself. Never really up for discussion to use herself. Random drawings may look like me or has some type of element of myself. I only paint women. I love the female physical makeup. It adds a more deeper meaning to my painting. It started off as a way to help myself. And identity naturally plays a part as I started to get to know myself more.
All of the women I paint are nude. I do photo shoots for body paintings. Took the same models from photos into painting. Create an atmosphere. It all depends on the comfort of the model. Sometimes the model might not be as comfortable.
Nudity in art…
Dizzy: My purpose is it display vulnerability. Women is the subject of peace in the painting. The fact that she’s nude: she is her own. She’s in a place she would rather be left alone. Its for someone to ask her why is she nude? It’s not for “full on” sexuality. She might look depressed in the picture. It’s to make the human body actually human. Especially a woman’s body. Generalizes the painting a lot more too. I generally don’t put her face in it. Really just her body. Differences in body type. Race. Complexion. It’s relatable like, “Oh she looks like me!”
In what ways does your work relate to social justice?
Dizzy: Changing perspectives. That in itself is my hand in the social justice realm. For me to switch up how art is being done. More of a general thought. A general idea that everybody has. It helps everybody relate to each other. I don't like to speak about a lot of social issues that go on. It’s interesting but stressful. How earth is depleting. Nature. Our hand in nature. Our hand in nature just ruining everything. Nature as atmospheric inspiration. I don't like to get too into it because it brings a lot of conversation I don’t want to get into. I feel like my work speaks for itself. I try to stay away from social justice.
Have you ever experienced discrimination against your race or gender?
Dizzy: Yeah. More so when I was in Alabama. And I was studying psychology. Went to a HBCU school in a predominantly white city. And having to go to public places opened me up to a lot of what was going on there. People don’t speak to me at work. Try to speak to someone else. I’ve been looked over for simple things. Mainly because I’m black. And here in Atlanta it was not much about being black but more about being a woman. Many men would look over me or provocatively speak to me. Almost as if I’m only good enough to be hit on told what to do. I had to assert my position as a woman and as an artist to really get that respect.
How can black women artists defy stereotypes
Dizzy: The best way to defy the stereotype is to become the stereotype or portray the stereotype as confident as you can. Like if you laugh at yourself no one else can laugh at you. By completely embracing the stereotypes it will change the ways people think about black women. Accept stereotypes. Don't take negativity
Are there any current social or political events that have evoked emotions for you, how do they make you feel?
Dizzy: The presidency. Every other thing ultimately has something to do with the presidency. This is the first time as a young person, being told in school how voting for the president or dealing with anything politically directly affects you at the end of the day. How did they let this guy in here?? Why is it that every other day they are talking about taking him down? But I don’t specifically make art about it. I was taking a social justice course and Trump just got elected during midterms. We started making work about propaganda. It became too much. A lot of bad things were happening. Having to continuously come back to Trump in presidency… I stopped watching the news. When people ask me about things that have been going on I have no idea. It's so heartbreaking and depressing he got into office.
In what ways do you use your voice or platform to speak up against current events in the media?
Dizzy: Art...throw everything into my work. I hate speaking.
How do you think artists can expand their work and receive proper recognition for their talent?
Dizzy: Working hard and as hard as you possibly can. And just realizing that just because you might receive a lot of love and positivity...doesn't mean you're the best thing and doesn't mean you can stop or put yourself at a creative plateau. Even though you get recognized the work is not finished. Humble yourself. Though you are getting better you are still not the best. People can't take criticism well. Continue to stay humble.
What pieces of advice can you give to aspiring Black Women artists?
Dizzy: Stick to your guns. Doesn't matter if you're wrong or right. Stick to your word. Allows people to see who you are as a person and respect you as a human being. Don't let people treat you bad. Always continue to be confident in everything that you do and everything you produce., people will see you as a creative intellectual individual don't take any nonsense from anybody, any gallery, or any company because you are a black woman because they will definitely try it.
What kind of future do you see for the Black Arts movement?
I see a really successful future if the black arts movement would stop doing so much typical black artwork. The African art and the namaste art. It dumbs down the large spectrum of possibilities, I don't do black art but I’m a black artist. But people look at the art they wont say its black art until they see her...stick to technical scale and stay consistent. And change the scene. Otherwise it will get watered down and only be in African shops and incense stores.
Transcript by Samiyah Malik.