The Center’s program ArtsBridge – Powered by Toyota works to engage the West Dallas community through the arts. Part of that involved the Wild West Mural Fest. The Center commissioned a talented local artist, Desireé Vaniecia to create her work, “Black Beauty is an Act of Resistance” which addresses themes of social equity and racial justice. Desireé is Dallas native whose work has been widely exhibited in North Texas. We spoke with her about her approach to her work and the mural she did for the Center.
Tell us a bit about your studio practice and what you try to achieve through your work.
What I try to achieve through my work is telling a story. I love reading and looking at art and finding out the stories behind them. I want to tell a story that’s embedded into what I’ve experienced as a child growing up, and that resonates with other people because it pulls back the curtain. It removes the barrier. The art is a reflection of who I am, but you can see it for yourself. I love people being able to see themselves in my artwork, or see themselves in the stories I want to tell.
I typically have a story I want to tell. I go back to old diary posts and develop a sketch or an idea, and from there it becomes a painting.
How have recent events influenced your approach to Black Beauty is an Act of Resistance?
I had a switch in my brain with this mural. When I first started out, I was in a place of euphoria. I was excited, happy, but still skeptical about how things would turn out. But, we prevail. Things happen and they keep happening, but we’re pushing forward and there are people behind us and there are people backing us in order to make this world better and just.
And then there was a switch. No, that’s not the case. There are still people to support you and push you forward and bring the issues forward. We want change, but you don’t see that higher up. It’s very frustrating, and it felt like people were trying to snuff out what we wanted to change or change the meaning of what we wanted to see in the world and what we wanted justice to be.
I want this to be a piece about resistance, and black beauty is an act of resistance. It is a sign of change. It is a sign that I will not go quietly into the night. I was definitely inspired by the French Revolution. I love those paintings so that stood out to me. The lower class wanted change, and it wasn’t happening. I’m not saying violence is key, but I want it to be a reminder that this isn’t going anywhere. Our thoughts and our minds will not change.
How are viewers responding to your mural?
There have been different versions of what they see in it. Some people see something that is beautiful and stands out. Some people say “I identify with this. I see myself in this.” And then there are others who have questions like “why is there a white rose? Why did you choose these colors? Where is the smoke coming from?” It’s cool to see because everyone has a different reaction. It’s great to see people who say “I saw this, and I saw this curly hair on her, and I said _that is me._”
More of Desireé’s work can be found at www.desireevaniecia.com. She has a solo show on view at Conduit Gallery in the Design District from December 5 – January 10.
She is a contemporary painter who lives and works in Dallas. She is a teacher at J.L. Long Middle School in East Dallas. Raised in a matriarchal home, her work pays homage to her family and their legacy. Her distinctive personal style challenges a stereotype of black women constructed by society and the media.
Here’s a recent article about her: https://artandseek.org/2020/10/15/artist-and-teacher-desiree-vaniecia-is-bent-on-success/