Shikeith is our first returning resident at Bunker Projects. I have an even longer history with him since we went to Art school together at Penn State University. We didn't know it at the time but we were asking each other questions that would set the stage for a dynamic working friendship that has not stopped since. It's been really exciting to watch him grow over the years and be a part of his evolution into a focused, passionate artist and advocate. Since he finished his last residency with us two years ago his work has found national exposure through various media channels including NPR's All Things Considered and included in an article by famed art critic Jerry Saltz in his article for New York Magazine titled, How Identity Politics Conquered the Art World.
Shikeith's experimental documentary film, #BlackMenDream, was created while in residence at Bunker and has been critically acclaimed and spread widely into the hearts and minds of both national and international audiences ready to discover and reflect on art work made about pressing issues surrounding black male identity. The work is currently on view at the Seattle Art Museum and forthcoming at the Muzeum Wspolczesne Wroclaw. This time around (as we sometimes say) Shikeith has been experimenting with new materials like ceramic and glass. In addition to his constant practice of film and photography he also worked on special projects at The Pittsburgh Glass Center just down the avenue!
The following is an interview of questions/topics posed by our collaborator Chamese Bennett & Bunker Director, Jessica Rommelt in relation to Shikeith's most recent work:
What are some of your major influences?
My work is primarily influenced by biographical experiences. However, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Pier Pasolini, KiKi Smith, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon and Renee Cox are artists, writers, and theorists who I would I identify as the foundation and predecessors of the work I am creating today.
Current projects? Favorite project?
#Blackmendream , is a social practice project of mine that is expanding into something really beautiful. I am really pushing myself to make sure it continues to manifests in the way I have long envisioned. I am also working on a building a market for emerging black artists ( www.emergingblackart.com )
Favorite quote recently?
“The colonized man is an envious man” - Frantz Fanon
How would you like to look back on your body of work in the future?
I hope to feel that I created all that I could to allow the creatives who I proceed to continue keeping the dream alive. I think that is something most artists hope to accomplish.
What kind of narratives are you interested in?
There are a plethora of experiences that are invisible, never realized through art. Those untold stories, and histories interest me the most. Of what we have - I tend the enjoy the historical, biographical, and experimental.
What pivotal moments do you remember shaping you as a person and as an artist?
Everyday something new happens that motivates my practice, and makes me feel like I am becoming the person I hope to be. My first residency with Bunker Projects in 2014 comes to mind as the moment my life began to shift towards the direction it is in now. That initial support from Bunker Projects, The Heinz Endowments, and The Pittsburgh Foundation changed the trajectory of my life as a creative.
What’s a great piece of advice you have received and how would you add to it?
“Don’t please people. Agitate them” , from my friend Jessica Rommelt. This piece of advice changed the way I digested the very public backlash, my work received from the community I most wanted to engage. It made me understand how significant it was to have your work debated, and questioned.
How did you become interested in art as a career?
It’s kind of an explainable thing, since I was a kid, art has always been an instinctual part of who I am. Honestly, art feels more like my destiny than a career. However, realizing this has not been without challenge, and took many years of self-discovery to come to terms with art being apart of my survival.
What are you most excited about for your studies at Yale?
Possibility is always attractive, and that is what excites me the most. I get butterflies thinking about all the work I could create, the instructors, peers - it is truly an overwhelming feeling to see your hard work pay off.
What does success mean for you?
Success means destiny fulfilled.