gal-dem in conversation with artist Rahm
04 Jun 2016
This young artist is making movements not only in his home of New York City, but worldwide. With his Instagram account reaching the thousands, and endless artistic collaborations lined up, the future is certainly colourful for Rahm.
At only 20 years old, his talents reach beyond visual arts. Not only recognised for his alienesque profiles, Rahm has created a reputation for himself as an advocate for change. He’s at the forefront of NYC’s growing black arts movement and is determined to project the black beauty that is all too often overlooked in mainstream media.
gal-dem caught up with Rahm to chat about his experience as a black artist, the much discussed hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and just what Afrofuturism means to him.
Historically, we aren’t given enough credit or recognition, and there hasn’t been enough room for more than a few tokens to exist at a time.
gal-dem: So first of all – tell us a bit about Rahm.
Rahm: Rahm is short for Rahmeik, my name. I’m a 20 year old artist based in Manhattan but originally from Syracuse, NY. I’m currently in my 3rd year interdisciplinary design major at Parsons studying Fine Art and Photography.
You’ve already established your own distinctive style – there’s a striking use of contrasting colours and line in your profiles. What are your inspirations behind that?
I’ve always been interested in the way colours can work together to complement each other. I think some of my earliest inspirations have to be things like the way my mom dressed my brother and I growing up, my Grandma’s house, and of course my favourite cartoons and technology.
So, what do you aim to communicate with your work?
I’m always more interested in what others feel the work is communicating.
One person once commented on a photo of my painting about how it looked like layers of the best acid trip they’ve never been on, or something like that. It was awesome to hear and I always consider that when working now.
I can see where they’re coming from!
Scrolling through your Instagram feed, it’s hard not to notice that you mainly use black people as your muses. It’s refreshing to see the diversity of black beauty represented. What’s the general reception been like to that choice?
I’ve only ever painted people of colour. I don’t think I will ever not for as long as our voices aren’t the primary ones telling our stories from all facets of the black identity, and not just what we’re shown throughout the lens of hetero white supremacy.
I’ve had nothing but great reception so far; the people who support me recognize the need for us to be reminded of how beautiful and important we are across all mediums and media.
Absolutely, it’s amazing that younger generations are growing up at a time where the black voice is becoming more and more prominent. They’re exposed to a world where it’s becoming the norm to see coloured people working within creative industries that would otherwise once have been denied to them.
Have you personally been labelled a black artist and do you accept it?
I don’t know if I have been labelled that yet but I do not mind accepting that label.
So, how do you feel the art world receives black artists like yourself?
Historically, we aren’t given enough credit or recognition, and there hasn’t been enough room for more than a few tokens to exist at a time. I see it changing a bit because of the internet and communities we’re building as black artists and artists of colour. We’re creating our own safe spaces and I think pretty soon the world will have no choice but to at least acknowledge them.
Yes, people of colour are increasingly gaining representation across various platforms, utilising social media to expose their work and expression. Your Instagram following is testament to that; how do you feel social media has helped your work get recognised?
It’s helped me land some really great opportunities and networks. But I’m also glad that I get recognized by all aspiring artists and kids from all over the world who come across my work and feel encouraged and inspired enough to create for themselves because that’s what the internet was for me growing up. I feel like it’s only right that I can continue to contribute back to it.
Yes, it’s wicked that you’re also giving back to the wider community – it should be a give and take world. You’re part of the arts collective Glunyc – tell us about that.
Yes! We’re a growing arts foundation combining, creating and providing (in any way we possibly can) for young artists nationwide. Our mission in short is to help other young artists get their work recognised.
You recently had a show with them, 4 CORNERS – how was it?
It was a really successful night! We’re hoping to extend this show and push it further since everyone loved it so much – it was a really great experience.
We see you’ve been busy recently! You also featured in the second annual Afrofuturism conference #BlackisViral. Afrofuturism has been labelled “a narrative for liberation” – how do you feel that technology has helped project the black voice?
I think it’s helped tremendously, and I’m really proud to be a part of this year’s conference. Like I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been able to create safe spaces online where our voices can be heard, and I’m glad to see that there is a reflection of this in our conferences, shows and exhibitions – where we can come together and perpetuate these ideas and start these dialogues around art, gender, sexuality, etc and the future of it all.
The conference covered fervent issues to the black community like the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and the “Commodification of black image in the media”. What do you feel about these issues?
I didn’t really follow the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. I never even watch the Oscars anyways. I don’t really care about receiving validation from white audiences.
So, who would you say are currently making waves in respective of propagating and encouraging a black dialectic?
Solange, Amandla Stenberg, Rian Phin, Darius Moreno, Leomie Anderson, Ajak Deng, Jamilla Okubo, Shadeé Reneé, Gerald Lovell, Sydney Vernon, Juliana Huxtable, Eden Seifu, The Street Etiquette team, Brandon Stanciell, Kyemah McEntyre, Elyse Fox, Ben Biayenda, and honestly so many more!!
Finally, what can we expect from you in the future?
Much more work so stay tuned!
Catch Rahm’s work on Instagram @rahm