Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Throughout history, many have tried to limit what is considered mainstream art— often putting the emphasis on European art.
But “art has no box,” said Angie Willcutt, a Lexington artist and member of the LGBTQ* community.
Embracing her colorful personality, queerness and outlook on art, Willcutt said she wants to diminish the structured themes created by European art.
“Native American and black art desperately needs more representation within art history,” Willcutt said. “Being underrepresented can lead to feeling uninspired or unmotivated when creating, which is why I like to look at what other minority artists are doing.”
She said she doesn’t want any other artists to feel “like they have to conform when making art or think that their art has to have a certain look,” she said.
Brianna Armstrong, who will graduate December 2020 with a major in art studio with a minor in psychology, is a minority artist who also understands the struggles of being underrepresented in art.
“Showcasing minorities in a different light and highlighting those who are underrepresented is what provides the representation needed in the art world,” Armstrong said. “I try to stay self-motivated and to create pieces that aren’t usually seen, to be a representation for others.”
Willcutt’s love for artistry is rooted in her father’s guitar shop and appreciation for Chicago artist Peyton Stewart’s music.
The guitar shop motivated her “passion for the arts,” and she said plays music when she feels strong emotions.
Her childhood, in general, continues to influence her art, including her jewelry making. Willcutt said her parents have a house full of toys and charms that she loves to explore.
“I like to keep a childlike essence when I create art to prevent from being as serious as the world may intend us to be,” she said. “I never want to lose sight of this essence or the freedom of creating art.”
But sometimes she does, which can lead to her feeling uninspired or unmotivated.
“I at least make art once a week or look at what other artists are doing to get motivated or feel validated when making art,” Willcutt said.
She also benefits from the support she gets from her partner, Cory Baker.
“Cory is a great support system,” Willcutt said. “We enjoy making art together.”
Willcutt also carries a journal with her for when inspiration strikes, so she can “doodle, write or draw anywhere and everywhere.”
In the future, Willcutt hopes to own a cat café and art shop. For now, she showcases her art on the first Saturday of every month at High on Art & Coffee and shares her creations on her Instagram account, @angiewillcutt.
Armstrong, who won first place at the SA/VS Art Exhibition when she was a freshman and was selected as a senior to have studio space in SA/VS, said she has liked art since she “came out of the womb.”
She said the strong black women she was raised by— her mother and grandmother—motivate her to pursue art.
“I’m so grateful to have a family that supports me and my craft,” she said. “My mother is who pushes me to remain focused, and my Nana is my main reason for even going into art,” she said.
When she started at the School of Art and Visual Studies in 2016, many of her early pieces revolved around her grandmother and were dedicated to her.
Armstrong said she wants to use her art to empower women and black people. She uses themes of politics, feminism and sexuality when creating art, often uniting fabrics, synthetic hair, old blankets and personal clothing.
“Turn nothing into something is my motto for making art,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong has frequently created fiber art, thanks to the influence of SA/VS professor Crystal Gregory.
“Crystal has been there to support me, uplift me and provide different art techniques,” Armstrong said. “Without her, I never would have discovered one of my art inspirations, Faith Ringgold, nor be the artist I am today.”
In addition to SA/VS faculty, Armstrong finds motivation from the SA/VS building itself.
“The SA/VS building motivates me when I’m creating art,” she said. “I get very focused.
“I should pay rent here,” Armstrong joked.
Armstrong also tries to include elements of hope, self-reflection and growth in her work.
“There is always hope or a new door to be opened, so I want people to remember that when they see my pieces,” she said.
Her art uplifts herself, too.
“Art is therapeutic, it is uplifting and helps me through my rough patches,” Armstrong said. “After all, you got this far for a reason.”
Armstrong can be found on Instagram at @l.ilmama.