Pittsburgh’s Folks of the Calendar year 2023: Visible Art

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CP Photo: Mars Johnson

Artist Mikael Owunna

How do you promise that your artwork will not likely be ignored? Putting it on billboards along just one of Pittsburgh’s busiest routes is a person way. Not that Mikael Owunna, a queer Nigerian-Swedish American multimedia artist, requirements to normally vacation resort to these ways, as his putting experimental prints very easily attract viewers in. 

His function focuses fewer on selling himself, on the other hand, and a lot more on making noticeable the Black knowledge in Pittsburgh and outside of. A past Pittsburgh Metropolis Paper short article stories that Infinite Essence: Celestial Liberation, the 2021 venture that posted Owunna’s amazing photographs together Route 28 and other parts, served as a response to “negative stereotypes and pervasive images of Black dying depicted in the media.”

His operate has, above the yrs, expanded past the galleries and into jobs that instantly aid community artists. This 12 months, he co-launched Rainbow Serpent, a nonprofit business explained as advancing the tradition, therapeutic, and empowerment of the Black LGBTQ local community. He also serves as the recent president of the City of Pittsburgh Public Artwork and Civic Design and style Commission.

“One of the huge transformations for me has been actually obtaining the option to get the job done collaboratively with other Black LGBTQ artists and thinking about how to make infrastructure for Black queer artists, technologists, and healers in the metropolis and the region at massive,” Owunna tells Town Paper

These collaborations have led to much more visible initiatives, like installations generated with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and The Andy Warhol Museum. Owunna, whose very own creative apply seeks to revive endangered information programs based mostly around a “queer African fantasy of development,” thinks these community art initiatives, done collectively by Rainbow Serpent, “multipl[y] the effect of any individual’s do the job.”

Owunna reveals that, for 2024, Rainbow Serpent will carry on its do the job with the debut of a group exhibition at the Pittsburgh Glass Middle featuring 16 sculptures that bring “little-known queer African deities into a present-day context.”

Owunna suggests that, as a native Pittsburgher who grew up in Highland Park, he has recognized the city investing extra in Black artists. However, he notes that a whole lot of operate even now demands to be performed in get to retain and support this community, and hopes to contribute substantially to those efforts.

“Long expression, when I am absent as an person, what is the legacy that I have still left behind?” he claims.

Maria Lewis

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