Liberian-American visual artist Nora Musu’s current solo exhibition, ‘Mah Rhythm’ is an exploration of ‘organic multiculturalism that transcends boundaries’.
The collection features pieces which echo Ms Musu’s dedication and passion to her cultural heritage.
We caught up with the award-winning artist to learn more about her influences and the inspiration behind the collection.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by elements in nature — especially the human form. I don’t always know how to explain my art in words, but I know what the feeling is and that’s what I strive to communicate to and connect with my audience. I want to create a certain type of work that represents the essence of me. My art imparts the essence of my most inner self…therapy…movement…fluidity… With this understanding, the process of applying my mediums is as important as the art itself. Often, my paintings and structural work mimic weathered surfaces that result in moments of beauty. I enjoy seeing these chemical changes after applying the medium. It’s not static, because the energy transfer process itself is not stable and continues to change/evolve with its surroundings.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I have always been an artist. There was no conscious decision to become one. However, I could say I was introduced as an artist 10 years ago at my first successful opening at Roots Gallery and culture center in Columbus, Ohio.
A lot of your work incorporates acrylic polymers and iron/copper particles. How do you select/find the material for your art? and is there a reason why you choose this particular medium?
It was a happy accident to stumble across this medium! I found that this blend of materials beautifully depicts the red dirt and the beaten metal surfaces that I recreate in my work.
‘Mah Rhythm’ is your latest collection of pieces. Can you describe the process and inspiration behind the collection?
“Mah Rhythm” is a play on words and a title from one of my previous pieces. In the piece “mah rhythms” is depicted the mask of the Dan (Mah) people. Hence, the word “mah”. The phrase has since taken on a more directional, rather than a descriptive, meaning – especially the direction that I am going in as an artist. Right now, I find myself exploring the rhythmic additions of cobalt and blues and their connections to water and air elements. I have been particularly inspired by the indigos and natural colorings found in many ancient South American and African cave etchings. It feels very familiar and peaceful and I hope to reinterpret and represent that same energy.
You were born in Wisconsin and were raised partly in Liberia and the UK. Would you say these places have any influence on your style of work?
Yes, we are all a compilation of our experiences. My time at home in Liberia and at school in England left an indelible mark on who I have become. At Abbots Bromley School in Staffordshire, I was lucky enough to be exposed to all aspects of art. At the University of Liberia, I had the good fortune to be influenced by one of the best Liberian artists, Cietta David Mensah.
What is the most challenging part about being a mixed media artist?
Sometimes the end result is unpredictable; however, that same aspect of unpredictability results in beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces.
Are there any artists that inspire you?
Yes! Of course, Liberian artist and my mentor Cietta Mensah, encaustic pieces, and Fitz Massaquoi who creates oil acrylic contemporary paintings. Also, my maternal uncle Nugent Frances Cooper who uses rather unconventional methods in his work and Bai T. Moore with his work in intrinsic wood carvings.
What are your other interests besides art?
The concept of rhythm and movement follows me in all of my passions. I especially love music and dance from the American Black experience, especially jazz. I also enjoy gardening and plants.
What advice would you give to new artists just starting out?
Put time into your work and listen to yourself. Define yourself as an artist — do not let others tell you who you are.
I would love to thank Steph Harmon from DW World Media and Nora Musu for making this interview possible.
Interview by H. Esi