When it comes to artistic talent, sometimes living in New York City makes me feel like I’m a kid in a candy shop. Today’s featured artist is Kito Mbiango and while he currently lives in the Big Apple, he has traveled all around the world. His work reflects many of these travels and what draws me in the most is his clever use of color. See below for the full interview.
Kito, how did you find your way into the art world?
I never really sought out art, but art world found its way to me, for since my childhood, I spent time with my grandmother who traveled often to Japan to study her passion for ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. I also learned some techniques from my aunt Rose, a painting teacher who produced exquisitely feminine oil paintings. This exposure led me to develop a deep appreciation for beauty and gave me the freedom to explore and experiment with different tools and textures of my own. I initially took to photography but after almost 10 years as a professional photographer, turned to painting and mixed media to produce the images that previously lived only in my imagination.
Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?
I was born in Belgium but my father is from Congo. My parents were one of the first interracial couples at a time when the US was in the throes of the civil rights movement. My mixed heritage and the bloody history of the Congo weigh heavily on my mind and drive me to create works that remind us at the most visceral level of our shared humanity. I have vivid childhood memories of living in Congo and through my work seek to reconcile cultures by demonstrating our collective yearning for transcendence. Traveling for me is like moving through one of my works – only through my work, I can travel across the world in a dreamlike state, across cultures and through time and memory.
What is the inspiration behind many of your pieces?
Feminine energy is often the driving force behind my pieces – some of my female muses bear silent witness to the exploitation of natural resources, the loss of innocence and native culture but more often than not, the feminine form in my work reflects a deep understanding of our collective consciousness, of motherhood and earth. In my mind, artists give us souvenirs we can consume, provide us glimpses of the other and in turn, show us reflections of ourselves.
Can you explain your choices in mediums and materials?
Photographs are my favourite choice of medium because of my background as a photographer. I like to think that photographs can capture a person’s soul as the philosopher Henri Bergson surmised. I like to tell stories with images and combine them with symbols that call to mind our ancestral origins. I’ve developed my own technique of transferring images on canvas, wood and other materials as this process calls to mind the techniques of tribal tattoos.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back; a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin
What is your favorite destination and why?
I love anywhere I can immerse myself in a local culture and go unnoticed – most recently I would say it’s Brazil as my experience allowed me to commune with locals in the Bohemian heights of Santa Theresa to the dizzying energy of the children dancing in the favelas.
What inspires you most as an artist?
Music inspires me most as an artist and I listen to and deconstruct music obsessively in my mind as I work – everything from Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations to electronic musicians such as Nosaj Thing whose mathematical patterns make their way into some of my works…
What are your three favorite places in New York City?
A little restaurant in the West Village called “La buvette” because it reminds me of the cosy places I love in Europe, The Brooklyn museum because of its African and Egyptian collection and Central Park where the trees provide solace from the frenetic energy of the city.