Today we’d like to introduce you to Khalilah Birdsong.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started painting six years ago in my apartment in East Atlanta, just as a way to relieve stress after work. I loved experimenting with different techniques, materials and large-scale formats. About a year into my hobby, I was painting seven-foot canvases in my apartment, and I by chance got noticed. I sold a few large pieces then the art scene started opening to me. I moved into a studio where I began painting more seriously and I started exhibiting my work in galleries in Atlanta, painting commissions and Restoration Hardware Contemporary Art began selling my work around the country. I recently made the jump, left my day job and moved to Maui, Hawaii to focus solely on painting. Since then, the world of art has been opening it’s doors to me, while still exhibiting in galleries in Atlanta and Cincinnati, and painting commissions for clients and corporations on the mainland continental U.S. I recently exhibited in Tokyo, Japan and I’ll be exhibiting in Bologna, Italy in March 2019 and in a biennial in Florence, Italy in October 2019. I also have an exciting opportunity with an organization in London early 2019, which I’m not yet able to disclose.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A certain amount of rejection comes with the territory. Put on your thick skin, keep working and continue applying.
A certain amount of vulnerability comes with the territory. Putting your work out there for other people to see and judge is not easy. Keep your head up and put on a brave face. You can go hide after the opening!
What should we know about your business? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a contemporary abstract painter. I primarily work on canvas but over the last few years, I’ve also been creating installation artwork.
I am interested in survival and resurgence. Distress, weathering is palpable on the canvas, but so is resurgence. I build layers up and then take them away to create a painting that is, ultimately, whole. The process of layering and stripping builds contusions, bumps and raw ridges, but also reveals patches of older, more forgotten colors.
The scale and evidence of physicality of my paintings echo Alfred Leslie, Joan Mitchell, Jean Riopelle and the late abstract paintings of Gerhard Richter. My work differs from many of these early abstract painters in that while many of those artists were tied to references to nature, and a looser freer gesture, this speaks to my own personal gestalt, rather than any movement or school of painting defined by social milieu or a specific time.
I’m proud to have paintings acquired by the City of Atlanta that hang in the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Aquatic Center, and also to have work in President Barack Obama’s private collection, which is being considered for his Presidential Library.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Be courageous and take risks. Go left when everyone else is going right. Be patient, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to be hidden in the background for a time until it’s your turn to shine. During those quiet moments when no one is looking is when you can be focused on listening within and honing your craft.