Interview with Delisha McKinney

self portrait

1. What are your first memories of creating art? 

I have memories as far back as being unborn. I can remember how I got my finger prints lol… from finger painting on the walls of my mother’s womb… and then carrying that same behavior to her apartment walls.

2. How has your work evolved over the years? Are there certain elements or intentions that have remained constant for you during your creative process?

I’ve evolved as a person and my work has been a reflection of that. My creative aesthetic is the same, but the subject matter has become profound with purpose. The blue bear, Hero, has remained a constant for me; representing resilience.

“Chicago 1996”

3. Many artists have certain rituals that they go through as they begin to work. It could be setting the mood with music, having tea, meditation, lighting, etc. Do you have any rituals connected to your art-making or things that help you get in the headspace to create? What are those things and how much do you rely on them to help you feel satisfied with your work?

Tea time is VERY important to my creative process. Good tea, lol. Strawberry matcha for breakfast, English breakfast for lunch, and a nice herbal tea for the evenings; as I sit quietly and look out a window. I love the process it takes to make a cup from loose tea and different components. It’s spiritual even. Keeps one grounded to the concept of time and quality.

“Cousins at Grandma’s House”

4. Your work often includes child-like references and imagery. This makes your work feel relatable as we all remember our childhood and often can connect to one another regarding this common ground, whether the memories are positive or negative. What is it about that theme that influences you and how much does it relate to your life? As a mother, has this theme become more personal for you?

I sympathize with children. I wonder how confusing and hard it is on them to grow up in a world that doesn’t value their best interests. I also wonder what kind of world it would be if adults had that chance, when they were children, to be free. Being a mother has made that subject more personal for me, because I know that all they really want, is to be loved. Not beat, or abused, neglected, screamed at, shamed… just nurtured.

“Strange Bee”

5. You have a solo exhibition coming up in March. There is so much to reflect on in what is happening in the world just over the past year. Do you feel this new body of work reflects your feelings and thoughts on that?  If yes, how does it? As an artist, do you feel compelled to respond to current events or moods in your work?

I feel I’ve put all our problems into one box and categorized it as trauma. Plain and simple. Everyone is hurting from the decisions of our past, whether it happened 1,000 years ago, or yesterday. I don’t understand how we all live together just to make each other feel small. It’s stifling. So I create works to combat that.

6. What is this new body of work about and how does it differ from previous work? 

The old work is my previous work, disguised as new work.

7. Some artists choose to embrace all reactions to their work, as artwork can mean different things to different people, while some artists are very intentional with how they want their work to be perceived. How important is it to you that viewers see your intentions behind the work? What are those intentions?

I feel as though my intentions are pretty straightforward, and I don’t mind if a person’s interpretation of my work are different from my own (art is therapy). Maybe they can see things I sometimes can’t. I believe my work is more about getting the viewer to feel something.

“Blue Zulu”

8. Your artwork seems to be getting more attention lately. Do you feel that you are on a trajectory towards continued recognition for your work? Does this at all affect the work you decide to create or how you share your work?

Yes! I want a long artistic career! I’ve had my entire life to think about what kind of mark I would like to leave, and I’ve been documenting it all along the way; a personal library of ideas, sketches, color-ways, and written stories; at my disposal. However, making it all make sense is another task. Sometimes I have to fill in the blanks in my sketch books but they guide me towards what’s next to create.

9. Who or what inspires you as you begin to sketch out your ideas?

Musicians inspire me! Fashion designers as well. I’m fascinated by the process in which they start an entire album, or create a full fashion line. I definitely take those processes into consideration when sketching.

10. What is next for Delisha McKinney?

A lot! lol The Creativity never ends.

“The Never Ends” solo exhibition by Delisha McKinney runs March 12th – April 10th, 2021 at Elephant Room Gallery in Chicago. The exhibition opens online and by viewing appointment only. For more details, visit the gallery’s website: www.elephantroomgallery.com

Published by Kimberly Leja Atwood

Kimberly Leja Atwood is co-owner and curator at Elephant Room Gallery in Chicago, established in 2009. Born and raised in the Chicago area, Kimberly received her BFA in Photography & Video from the University of Illinois in 2006. Seeing fellow artists struggle to find opportunities to exhibit their work locally and gain recognition inspired Kimberly to create an art space that was accessible to under-represented, new and emerging artists. She aims to bring more exposure to these artists and grow the relationships between artists, collectors and the community.

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