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“People of color have to live with the burden of past and present discriminations and injustices every day,” says artist Kohshin Finley. “The subjects I paint have only become stronger because of this burden, and have not become weakened by it.”
Finley’s contemporary portraiture was submitted to Artists Magazine’s Annual Art Competition. The raw power of his stark, emotional art paints a light on racial discrimination in the U.S.
From Conversations to Powerful Portraiture
As far as he can remember, Finley has been creating art. “Both of my parents had careers in fashion design,” he says, “so they always supported my creativity. I really caught on to painting when I was at Otis College of Art and Design and have been painting ever since.”
His art draws in conversations about the lives of people of color in the U.S., and how having certain experiences can play across a person’s face, in his or her demeanor. “My current visual art aesthetic revolves around the story I tell of people of color living in America today,” explains Finley.
His process involves sitting with his subjects and talking to them about being a minority. “We talk about being brown and black in America. I photograph them so that I can capture the feeling in the moment of them walking me through their experiences,” says Finley.
He continues, “From there, I begin the drawing and start the painting. Each person’s story is unique to [him or her], and I really try my best to capture them in a certain way to honor them.”
It’s important to Finley that his subjects are depicted not as depressed or defeated, but powerful and aware. “I aim to make people feel a sense of connectivity with others going through life just to trying to get by, and feel strength from seeing people doing it,” says Finley.
“The subjects of my paintings are friends and family of mine,” he adds, “So I aim to capture them in moments of awareness, strength and resilience, in hopes of inspiring others.”
He recalls the time he painted a friend he’d lost contact with. “We hadn’t seen each [other] some time, and connected with each other over recent events in the news,” he says. “When the idea of painting her came up it did so very organically.”
The conversations they shared at Finley’s studio really inspired him to make the painting, It Only Made Me Stronger. “Funmi has a real presence about her, and a fearlessness to match,” states Finley. “It was important to me to capture this and tell her story.”
Begin with Trust
The artist’s aesthetic is always changing, but his constant is also his advice for other artists. “Trust the process,” he explains. “Creating takes time, and once I allowed patience into my practice, the whole world opened up.”