By Sophie Cannon GLOBE CORRESPONDENT JUNE 28, 2018
For 25-year old Naijah Garrett of Jamaica Plain, artistic representation has multiple meanings. Garrett (her artist name is Naijah Nine) focuses primarily on women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community in her art. Not only is each post on her Instagram account @naijahnine something to behold, the entire feed tells a story, as some squares morph into others to create a digital mural. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design grad took a few minutes out of her day to chat about her community and efforts to make it a more inclusive and beautiful place.
Q: Your feed features primarily cartoons of women of color. Why did you choose that as your main focus?
A: I focus on women of color because, as a woman of color myself, I always have had a big focus on representation, and for woman of color, specifically black women, creating our own images and projecting more of a variety and highlighting our beauty in different ways is something I find very aesthetically pleasing.
Q: Can you talk about why it’s important to feature people of color and women in artwork?
A: I find it very important. In my experience going to art school and seeing the general art world, there tends to be much more of a focus on European features and European beauty and showing a lot of feminine energy of specifically white bodies. I feel like sometimes when I see art of women of color, it would be more scientific, verses showing that same kind of light. I want to challenge that and bring more variety.
Q: Scrolling through your feed, many of the squares fit together and tell a story of process or show collections. How did you decide to feature your art that way?
A: When people came to my page, I wanted it to be curated as a whole so that they could see the art work together. I like the idea of being able to post more than in just a gridded way, because I feel when you are going through all of it, it pops out more and brings a whole kind of feel to my page that looks nicer than just having static image after static image. I like to think of my page as a whole.
Q: How do you decide which in-process and finished pieces to post on your account?
A: I actually don’t post most of my work. I post most of my digital work, because that is a little easier and more lighthearted for me to create. I look at what I’ve posted before and look at what I’m working on now and see if it will fit. Sometimes it’s by aesthetic, and I’ll just plan and strategize about half-way through a piece when I want to post it.
Q: What medium do you use in your work?
A: Most of the work is all digital and I use an iPad Pro and an Apple pencil to do those. If you scroll down, there are a few mixed media, so first hand painted and then made digitally and then back to handpainted.
Q: Your bio says you are working on a new gentrification project. What is that about?
A: I’m creating a series of six-foot paintings — I have five right now — tackling the effects of gentrification on the queer and POC communities in Boston. I hope to finish that soon. It’s more centered on the subject and all of them are people who I know who are in the queer, trans, and POC community. A lot of them donated their bodies to my project, so it’s really focusing on the effects of gentrification and how a lot of these neighborhoods and buildings are built on the hard work of people of color and queer and trans people and how the way it’s been done has been a sort of an act of violence, if you will. It’s a very abstract representation of that.
Q: Can you describe your personal style in three words?
A: Experimental, colorful, introspective.
Sophie Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @the_grandCannon