Pratt BFA Communications Design Thesis

Sarah N. Kanu Illustration

Being Black, Making Art

Black Lives Matter
Book Design
Fine Art
Social Advocacy
Social Media

David Driskell says that “We as black artists have not had the luxury of just being artists.” 

Being Black, Making Art puts this statement - packed in this intersection of race, creativity, nuance, and self-/determination - and the personal revelations I experienced over the year into practice. Going in three creative directions to build on my portfolio and tackle what it means to be a Black illustrator in the United States.

The first direction was linocut printmaking. I adore this process as it allows me to conceptualize complex situations in gritty but clear black and white imagery. The two prints I made speak on being a Black creator experiencing an influx of attention amidst the murder of our community members.

The next direction was adding to my collage work. Answering the question of being Black and making art, not in content but context. That the act of creating need not be hellbent on articulating a political or cultural stance to represent me and my Blackness. The original intent was spontaneity as a reclamation form. And though the process I use to create collages is intuitive, the content became intentionally about representing Black joy and nature. Reflecting on how my family almost lost our home over the Summer of 2020 during COVID-19, and coming to realize that having space to be outside, having space period, is historically stolen from Black folks.

My collages then turned into a book and became not only a tribute to the whole idea of Black joy in connection to the land but a direct memorialization of my home and a reckoning with its temporality - either as a result of time or the violent economic realities of this nation.

Culminating these thoughts into the final direction - an event bringing my work as a student leader and organizer into conversation with art-making. I hosted a panel focused on uplifting Black student creators, providing space for community building, and questioning what creating art means to us.

Google Doc