D.C.’s second annual By the People arts festival is coming our way. The citywide arts celebration is filling all four quadrants in D.C. with a mixture of international, national and local art. From art barges in the middle of the Potomac to Smithsonian takeovers, it’s going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The festival officially kicks off on Saturday (and goes until June 23), but in order to get you excited for everything to come, we did a little digital correspondence with local artist Victor Ekpuk. Read all about his thoughts on D.C.’s art scene, his interest in symbology and his thoughts on wearable art.
How did you get involved with By the People? What are you creating for the festival?
I was invited by the curator Jessica Stafford Davis to create work for the event. The result is “Eye See You.”
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.
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What attracts you to symbols?
Symbols are imagined abstract forms. The human ability to reduce ideas and concepts to their essence in abstract forms for purpose of communication intrigues me.
How do you convey meaning with them? (Or, is that not the point?)
My works do not always convey direct meanings, if at all. The “writing” in my works may sometimes be embedded by recognizable symbols and sometimes not, depending on the subject matter of the composition. My style generally explores abstraction inspired by the aesthetic philosophy of writing systems that reduce forms to their essence. Rather than read each mark on my canvas as bearing meaning that must be deciphered in order to understand it, perhaps it is better to allow oneself to feel the work and be okay with what it says to you.
Why did you decide to jump into wearable art/fashion? Do you think it changes the experience between the viewer and the artist?
My wearable art is borne out of an idea that art should be liberated from the walls and fixed placements and onto bodies who would not mind wearing them as means of self-expression. 95% of my wearable art are not copies of already existing work; the clothing or scarves are the canvas for which a new art is made. They are also made on demand, so there are not thousands of copies out there. So far it seems quite a lot of people are appreciating having access to my works through wearing them. So, perhaps this changes or adds to the experience of how we appreciate art and the artist.
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Where is your favorite place to create?
I consider artistic creation to be a psychic process, it can occur anywhere at any time. The execution of the creation is where the artist needs a particular space that is suited for the mechanical process of making the work. In general, I like quiet spaces, where I am able to lock the world away. At the moment, my studio in Northeast Washington, D.C., is a great place to create and execute my creations. I think tuning the world out is the key, because while performing my drawings in public spaces with people watching, my requirement is usually that I not be disturbed.
You work in a variety of mediums (drawing/painting/sculpture/fashion), which one is the most satisfying?
For my work, I think drawing is paramount. I think my paintings and sculptures are all extensions of my mark making.
What is your favorite place in the city?
The city is changing so much and so quickly, I feel like I am continuously having to adjust my appreciation. I don’t go out as much as I’d like, but when I do, the D.C. Waterfront is my fav for now.
If you could change anything about the D.C. art community, what would you change?
I would like to see the Smithsonian museums in D.C. engage the local artists more in their programming. It seems like some are trying, but they need to do more. There is a sense of disconnect between museums and art community which they are situated.
Featured Image: This Victor Ekpuk artwork is similar to his site-specific “Eye See You,” which will be on view at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building. Photo by Mabeye Deme