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A Drawing Giant
Fempire 02 Aug 2016

A Drawing Giant
Studio Artist and Part-Time College Professor, Brooklyn

Brooklyn based Nigerian artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze is taking the world by storm with her wildly imaginative, galactic drawings. Exhibiting in New York, Johannesburg, Miami, London and Lagos, she is indeed a worldly and otherworldly creature. TheArtGorgeous talks to her about her earthbound essentials, including her sketch book, lip balm, yoga, healthy food and Prince oozing through her headphones, as well as her refined tastes for vintage clothing, Isabel Marant, and uniquely crafted specialty paper.
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Ruby in the studio
My ideal working outfit looks like…
A spin off the “jeans and a tee” classic. But I love fabric and textures too much not to play with it! So I might do a straight leg trouser made out of hand printed fabric, or a floral print cropped trouser + a bright green lace tee or a knitted tee with chiffon wings (one of my faves)! I’m also a sucker for double denim… so something like high waist wide leg jeans and a spaghetti strap denim tank. I need to be able to move around easily so comfort with style is important.
Heels or flats… Which brand or style…
A bit of both, but in my heart I’ll always default to heels. I absolutely love shoes so I’ve invested a lot of consideration, time and money in building a collection of shoes I find timeless and funky (and getting rid of ones that I’m no longer inspired by). I have only two pair of flat leather sandals, and all my other “flats” probably have some amount of height to them!
If I span my shoes, I notice there are a lot of variations of the mule silhouette…and also chunky heels or platforms. I also can’t get enough of a good heeled ankle boot – I recently added an ecru pair by Isabel Marant that I absolutely love. I gravitate towards texture and color…from the classics like metallic leather, patent leather or suede to a bit more experimental like raffia, to spongy sculptural tubing, to jellies combined with an espadrille heel. I’m very open to shoes that initially draw me in because they’re peculiar in some way. Even ugly! But if I love them, I’ll wear them. That’s my rule.
My favourite art-related blog/app is…
I wish I had one, but honestly I’m not a very tech-savvy person. I can’t keep up!
The last thing I bought and loved was…
A vintage ruby, sapphire and emerald ring. I got it at a market in London and it caught my eye instantly. Also a pair of clear (with a peach tint) prescription glasses.
Most ridiculous thing I ever bought…
I’ve bought many ridiculous things in my life! Where’s the fun otherwise?! As it relates to art, I once bought a pair of roller-skates I’d planned to wear to an opening! I ended up not, but I enjoyed the months when I was rolling around the studio to ‘practice’! On a slightly more serious, but still semi ridiculous note, two years ago I stumbled on a roll of paper in the “as-is” bin of an art store. It was an unwrapped, damaged roll of 250g, 100% cotton paper measuring 80 inches tall by 20 yards (approximately 2 x 18 meters). I had zero idea what I would do with it…or even how I would get it to my studio. It was a proper gamble, but I was fascinated about the possibilities. It ended up ushering in a new chapter of my studio practice. One that I am most grateful for!
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The garden palace and the folly of innocence | 2014 | Pencil, ink, pigment, enamel, photo transfers, spray paint | 6’8″ x 6’10”
My necessary extravagance is…
Art wise, I’m very particular (and perhaps snobby) about paper. There’s a specialty paper shop in New York that has an amazing collection of hand and machine made papers from all over the world- it’s where I got the above-mentioned roll. I can easily spend an hour in there just soaking in all the glory and then indulging in some paper extravagance!
Style wise, I’m always an advocate for original and unique garments when possible. Over the years, I’ve commissioned my mother and some friends, to sew pieces for me for openings. I think it’s really amazing to hand pick the fabrics, design a piece and watch it come to life, especially for you.
On a random note, I’m also a big fan of small batch, handmade and if applicable organic products (from pinch pots by my favorite ceramicist Love Sarah Rene to one woman cosmetic companies and homemade jams). Also, exceptionally delicious food (doesn’t matter if it’s street food, a meal cooked at home, or a top star restaurant), sparkling wines for no reason, and most things sequined or metallic gold!
I’m very blessed to have access to a lot of things I like and want. It’s not even always a money thing, extravagance doesn’t have to be costly…
Three things/products I always need to have in my purse…
Some natural lip balm, my sketchbook + thin nibbed pen, and a pair of headphones because you never know when you’ll need music.
My ultimate beauty secret after long working hours…
Yikes, I don’t have any! Um, a shower?! During the long day, I’m constantly drinking water- the original beauty secret!
My favourite merge of the art- and fashion world…
I’ll have to say concept fashion spaces, like Opening Ceremony in New York, that feel part art gallery and part clothing store. A friend of mine introduced me to OC some years ago, and periodically I’ll make a trip just to see what the designers they feature have come up with. It’s a really exciting middle space.
My most admired art world influencer…
I’m going to have to venture out of the visual art world I participate in, and say Prince. I didn’t grow up listening to him, but as an adult came to, above all else, respect the cross-genre, cross-generational, cross-racial contributions he made to world music. I don’t know how many musicians can say they weren’t in some way influenced by his music, sound and overall being. It’s rare that someone can have that kind of creative reach, throughout their entire life and beyond. His legacy is pretty much immortalized and the greatest part, is that he did all of it, by being true to himself, by doing what he felt no matter how different or experimental it was.
In the art world currently I find most exciting that…
People are talking about contemporary art coming from artists of African descent. It’s a conversation that has many obstacles to clear, because the visibility has been both severely lacking and, when present, is very dated and pigeon-holing. But it’s a time of possibility and I hope real curatorial effort is made to spark new and exciting dialogues.
Art makes me…
Feel alive. I know it’s perhaps the corny answer, but it’s the truth. I’ve been an artist as long as I can remember, and I do it for the love. I wake up every day and am excited to have the opportunity to do something that brings me joy.
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Ruby in the opening of A Constellation at The Studio Museum of Harlem
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally…
I’m turned on by dope humans! Dope for me includes, all sorts of characteristics: being genuinely kind, exceptionally brave and fearless, maintaining the curiosity of a child, impacting social change on any scale, demonstrating loyalty in friendship and love, and perhaps the most consistent dope measure, is just being fully present and true to who you are. When I see those qualities in others, it makes me beam. Like, I get recharged by seeing the light and fire in humanity…especially given the current state of affairs. I intentionally try to surround myself with such people. But I also enjoy the moments when I encounter them in passing.
I love a good conversation. I love looking people in the eyes and not paying attention to cell phones. I love dinner parties with strangers. I’m an introvert and I don’t thrive in a crowd, but I’m turned on by talking sincerely to people one on one…and hearing their stories, and digging into their secret corners and connecting as humans.
I’m also turned on by beauty. Beautiful spaces, beautiful objects, beautiful art. I would to build my life around this…that everything near me is beautiful in its own way.
And lastly, I’ll say I’m turned on by strength and wellness. I’m an athlete, I like the feeling I get when I’m lifting weights or running. Meditation, yoga, good food, movement, it all makes me happy.
The most arty city is…
Oh there are so many, but for very different reasons. There are the obvious ones of course: like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London and Berlin – all of which I love, except for LA! Also in the U.S., smaller cities like Philadelphia (where my family planted after relocating from the U.K), really have a carved out and flourishing art scene. Outside of the U.S. and Europe, there are many emerging surprises. In Africa, the ones I personally know are Lagos and Port-Harcourt in Nigeria, Johannesburg, South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya. I’m sure there are many more similar artsy treasures in South America and Asia.
Artist(s) we should have on our watchlist is/are…
So many! Some of my faves are Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Billie Zangewa and Yashua Klos.
Photo credit: Vanessa Bartlett @thevanessabartlett, Robin Cembalest @rcembalest
Instagram: @ruby_onyinyechi_amanze
Website: www.rubyamanze.com

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