Melissa Kalfayan Artist’s Statement: In recent years racial tensions have arisen to the surface of the American psyche, due in large part to the high profile murders Michael Brown and others. However racial violence has forever been entwined with our nation’s history. The genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans being just two examples.
Yet the United States and the world at large has adopted African culture and artistic traditions. Almost all forms of American music have a basis in African musical traditions (Rock, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Rap, etc.). The fashion industry year after year appropriates styles from other cultures.
With all of my work I hope to communicate strong visceral emotion. Whether that be happiness, passion, or despair. My hope is that viewers, in particular those who do not belong to a minority group, may be able to experience the terror and marginalization that is enacted upon us by a society ingrained with systemic racism.
Lauren Mills, The Artologist, is a 15 year old, female artist with a degenerative eye condition called Nystagmus. This visual disability causes her eyes to shift from left to right continuously. This degenerative disease, over time, has rendered her legally blind. Lauren had not received any formal visual arts training, until 2014, where she was given the distinct honor, after a rigorous selection of youth from 35+ countries, to study at Interlochen Arts Academy Visual Arts Program.
In 2011, Lauren merged her art and her business mindset. She developed her own company, Artologi, and started a life long journey of art-trepreneuship. In 2013, her artistic dreams began to materialize even more, as she was fortunate enough to her her artwork exhibited in museums, such as the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, MI, along with participation in a live painting performance with local professional artists.
Her story is being used as a teaching resource for Kaplan Inc., the Smithsonian TweenTribune and another teaching entity in Nigeria, Africa for the purpose of dispelling bullying and appreciating the beauty of being different and loving one’s self.