Interviews. Artist Imani Shanklin Roberts Talks ‘An Ode to Her’ and Representations of Black Women.

Imani Shanklin Roberts, Black Contemporary Artists, Black Woman Artists
(“Full Bellied Laughter – Maya”)

Imani Shanklin Roberts is an artist and educator, originally from Washington, D.C., who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

She recently unveiled her latest works at The Freeman Space in Brooklyn, in a one day pop-show titled “An Ode To Her”. The collection of works celebrated the “beauty, vibrancy, and infinite layers of the African-American woman.”

Imani Shanklin Roberts, Black Contemporary Artists, Black Woman Artists
(Exhibition view from “An Ode To Her” at The Freeman Space in Brooklyn, NY.)

SUPER.selected.: Congratulations on your recent pop-up show in Brooklyn, “An Ode To Her.”  Can you tell us a bit about your motivation behind the exhibition and the meaning of it’s title?

Imani Shanklin Roberts: Thank you! The purpose of the exhibition was to essentially introduce myself to NYC as a resident artist. I have exhibited in Washington, DC and have tapped into a small market there but to exhibit in New York, the city where art thrives in all forms, is truly a blessing. The show, An Ode to Her, was a gesture to put forth my chosen artistic language and my chosen artistic inspirations–African American Women. I aim to showcase women from various age groups that possess diverse aesthetics in a light that they should be expressed and celebrated. Expressions of beauty, power and courage are embedded in my subjects and translated into my work.

SS: Much of your work features representations of women; do you consider yourself a feminist or womanist?

ISR: I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to any particular faction. I definitely align myself with an Afro-feminist point of view from my mother’s influence and teachings but I just appreciate and glorify African American woman because I think we are remarkable. If that makes me a feminist than I’ll Beyoncé that. Unfortunately, there have been such harsh associations with the black woman both historically and within present day media that it has been my aim to put forth competitive imagery that says otherwise. Imagery that incites that we are so much more than hypersexual, scorned, single and least likely to be married on a dating website analysis.

Imani Shanklin Roberts, Black Contemporary Artists, Black Woman Artists
(“An Ode To Her”)

SS: Are there any notable women or notable women artists who inspire you?

ISR: My mother and sister are both the root of my success and inspire me daily to be a better woman and person. Artistically, I love Mickalene Thomas and draw a lot of inspiration from how she uses patterns and positions her figures.

SS: Do you feel that there is a universal or common thread in your work that speaks to the experiences of all black women or that all black women can relate to?

No, I don’t think any particular experience, image, or idea speaks for everyone within any given race. I am intentional about saying that I am exploring themes that are personally relevant and putting forth images that are representative of my journey within my work. Women of all races and creeds have connected with my work and for that I believe in the ideas that we all have common experiences. However, I won’t proclaim that I am the voice for many.

SS:Are there any cultures that inspire or influence your works?

ISR: It may be somewhat obvious, but the African American culture influences my work. I find it remarkable that we have created our culture from scratch. We have produced so much although our “history” lives in the context of oppression. I also use Ankara cloth a lot to lift images of to our powerful ancestry and natural being.

SS:Can you tell us a bit about your background in Education?  What level are the students you work with and what courses do you teach or have taught?

ISR:I am a recent BFA/ MS Art Education student from Pratt Institute and have primarily worked with high school students since I’ve graduated. Both of my parents are educators so I feel that it’s natural for me to be a facilitator in some capacity. I am currently teaching global history using hip-hop pedagogy and arts integration.

SS:What do you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t creating or teaching?
ISR:Dancing, eating, laughing and being in love with love in all forms are my favorite pastimes.

SS: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with readers?

ISR: I am working towards an exciting show that will take place in August of 2015. Until then I plan to be accessible in any way that I can artistically.

Imani Shanklin Roberts, Black Contemporary Artists, Black Woman Artists
(Exhibition view from “An Ode To Her” at The Freeman Space in Brooklyn, NY.)

Follow Artist Imani Shanklin Roberts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Prints of her work are available for purchase on Etsy.