I found another magical, rare and divine Artist – on Instagram of course. And his name is Shabazz Larkin. This king creates Art from a place that the world cannot touch – his inner child. Understanding the great importance and responsibility of Artistry, it is clear that Larkin uses his artistic gifts to reflect a God consciousness as opposed to merely collecting a check for his work. He creates from the perspective of “the marginalized” and he is very in tune and “Woke” as they say. Allowing his Art to be his activism, Larkin’s Art is not to be confused with an excuse to participate in pompous conspicuous consumption; for there is a message connected to every stroke he paints ,and that message is about one of my favorite topics: LOVE ❤️. Check out Larkin’s Art and the interview below in order to fully appreciate the purposeful Art this light being creates.
♥️HoC: Describe your background. What was your childhood like?
💜SL: I was raised by a Jamaican mother from Kingston and an American Navy Sailor from Gary, Indiana. He wasn’t home much, so I did dumb shit likewriting on the walls when my parents were not looking. I got my ass beat a lot. I could never hit my kids the way my parents hit me — it was child abuse — but I loved them too much to call the cops on them. I’m glad I didn’t – my parents are alright. But it was that kind of traumatic freedom that probably made me an artist.
♥️HoC: Who are you? What is your purpose on the planet?
💜SL: My purpose, as a part of the human race on earth, is to paint portraits of the heart and mind of God. I do that through my Art and my activism. (By the way, good art is activism – to me)!
♥️HoC: What inspired you to be a visual Artist?
💜SL: I was 5 years old, sitting under the steps, drawing smiley faces. My mom said, “that’s a great smiley face – you are an artist.” I agreed. And that was that. True story.
Nowadays, I like to paint that portrait of God I was referring to through stories and images of people that have been forgotten and marginalized.
♥️HoC: What role does authenticity play in your work?
💜SL: There is no role for authenticity in good art.
Good art borrows from ideas, stories, experiences and struggles of many kinds of people together. To truly be authentic is to create art in a silo, for oneself to oneself. But that kind of work is not of interest to me.
I fell in love with Kehinde Wiley by looking at his paintings because of a dialogue it was having with my culture. But when I looked closer, I realized he’s ripping off old Renaissance photos. This made me love him even more because he was borrowing from common imagery to tell a deeper story. Genius! (but not so authentic I guess).
The only authenticity I worry about in my art is, does it come from a child trying to make beautiful things or does it come from a grown man trying to make a check. Working from your inner-child is the only goal in making art.
♥️HoC: How do you define Art? What role does Art play in the evolution of you as a human being?
💜SL: Art is a message delivered to people through an undetectable hypnotic experience. I am the hypnotist and my message is about love.
Love yourself. Love your community. Love your limitations. Love your identity. Love the process. Love your family. = Love God.
♥️HoC: How do you define success in life?
Success is playing with my kids anytime I want and making my wife so happy she feels free to fart little tiny farts at fancy parties.
💜SL: I used to make the kind of money that most people would dream for, working at big advertising agencies in NYC. But I didn’t get enough time to see my kids or my wife or my own reflection – so I left it all and I switched to freelance to be an artist. And now the target for success has shifted.
Success isn’t defined by money, but that’s easier to say once you’ve experienced having a lot of it and spend most of your time stressing and trying to figure out how to keep it. I’m poor now, but I’m free. Maybe too free.
♥️HoC: What Artists inspire you the most now and why?
💜SL: Toyin Ojih Odutola is very much an inspiration. Look her up and say her name right. She doesn’t like to be abbreviated. I found out the hard way.
I cried when I first saw Kehinde Wiley’s Willem van Heythuysen. I’d never seen my baggy pants and timberland boots like royalty. I’d never seen myself in a painting – period.
My work is also heavily influenced by Keith Haring and Barbara Kruger’s use of type – a hangover from my work as an advertising Creative Director.
I’m inspired by Tank, from Tank and the Bangers. She is a singer and poet and rapper that is so free and so very black that her spirit jumps off the stage and into your identity. All the artists I follow are like that.
♥️HoC: What advice can you give aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs?
💜SL: I woke up one morning and I felt God say, “Be Prolific.” And I think that’s God’s message to all the artists. Because if we are put on earth as artists, then we are the people responsible for reminding the world of beauty. And that’s a big job in a world – dead-set on being so ugly.
Besides, we get caught up in the idea of our art so much, we don’t create anything. It’s better to create a lot of bad ideas in order to produce a few good ideas than to think of a bunch of great ideas and only execute a few mediocre ones.
♥️HoC: What is love and how does it shape your life?
💜SL: Love is at the center of my life, work and purpose.
But Love is an overused word. It has lost its gravity. As artists, we should be creating new words and discovering new expressions of our commitment to progress.
Actually, I think a good description of my interests as an artists, would be, “articulating what love is.” The common picture that ad campaigns and hollywood movies would like us to believe is that love is: not seeing color, holding hands and singing Kumbaya.
When in actuality – love is more like embracing the whole diaspora of colors in the human race, holding burdens and singing protest songs to overthrow oppressive governments.
♥️HoC: What is the meaning of life?
💜SL: The meaning of life is to produce life itself. This is why the human species (and all other species for that matter) has no business talking about, thinking about or worrying about death. It is counter to our very purpose.
But I like to think of our lives, the collective life of humanity, as a painting in God’s studio. Life is a Basquiat painting, where the errors just make it more beautiful.
♥️HoC: What should we expect next from you?
💜SL: I’m working on a project called “God Speaks.” I’m writing these notes about God all over Nashville. It’s a new project so I won’t talk too much about it except to say – I’m pondering the ownership and relevance of God, who has widely been seen as a figure that spoke thousands of years ago, but not so much today. Does God still speak? What does God talk about in a generation of Cardi B’s and Donald Trump’s and Black Girl Magic. Follow the project at instagram.com/godspeaksproject
♥️HoC: What is the heART of cool to you?
The heart of cool is a flag that sits on a moon that orbits you and only you. That only you can see. And no one will believe that it is there. And so you have to do whatever you do, to help yourself remember that it is still there. The flag on that moon has an image of who you are. Not your face. Not your shoes. Not your swag. It’s just you – and that’s the heART of cool.
♥️HoC: What is the inspiration behind your work?
💜SL: The work that I enjoy most, is inspired by celebrating the uncelebrated.
I have a portrait series called Black Magic, where I paint ordinary images of black people under an extraordinary light.
At one point, I was doing this series of robust-sized woman. I painted them like chocolate angels, floating on clouds. Black women would come to me in tears about how powerful it is to see themselves in these paintings, being celebrated for a body-type that is often shunned. It’s stories like this that makes me want to keep painting the underseen images and telling the under told stories.
♥️HoC: What are the top three lessons that you learned from being on the planet earth so far?
💜SL: If you’re thinking about killing yourself, don’t. Just go do the opposite of whatever is trapping you for a day or a month or a year. Do whatever you have to, to stay alive. This is how I save myself from my recurring suicidal thoughts (that I’m not supposed to talk about for some reason). This is how I became an artist. I was suppressing it for so long. It came banging on my door. I thought it said to hurl myself down the stairs until I turned to it and realized it was a child in me asking to be free. I just decided to listen to him instead. Don’t blame circumstances or people (including yourself) for your feelings – even when it really is someone else’s fault. You don’t control your feelings – feelings happen to you. Our responsibility is what we do next, after the feelings.
Enjoy what you are working for. On a weekly basis – I take a day off. No email. No calls. Nothing I don’t want to do. There is no point to working so hard that we can’t enjoy what we are working for.
♥️HoC: If there is anything that you would like to share that our questions did not cover, please feel free to share with us here.
💜SL: I still work as a freelance creative director – being an artist doesn’t pay the bills yet. YET! But I’ve been documenting my journey to being an artist on my instagram page. I spend two hours a day meeting the people that follow this journey – and I’m making friends in real life. (I’m so late to this social game i didn’t know you can make real friends on instagram.)
Please follow me, and be my friend too: instagram.com/shabazzlarkin