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As a multi-disciplinary artist, Shabazz Larkin discusses his journey to finding his passion and purpose for creating art that celebrates black culture and spirituality.
Known for his use of bold typography and color, Shabazz Larkin, an artist and writer based in Nashville, TN, uses art as a medium for self-expression and storytelling. In whatever medium he chooses, he aims to create work that keeps the stories of Black culture and spirituality alive.
In this episode of Tell the Story with R.H. Boyd, Monique Gooch, editor at R.H. Boyd, sits down with Larkin to talk about the importance of finding a true voice and purpose as an artist. Together they’ll explore the process of making art from an authentic place and the value of preserving the Black narrative.
Larkin, fresh out of grad school, had a dream to work for incredible global companies and clients. He began his career as a Creative Director in the advertising industry. In that role, he worked with notable brands such as Pepsi, Nike, Microsoft and Google.
Eventually, Larkin was faced with the infamous “what now?” question. While he reassessed his aspirations, he was reminded of his childhood interest in illustration. And after witnessing a colleague and mentor transition from the advertising industry to the art world, Shabazz pursued a new dream of becoming an artist.
“I quit my job. I started making films. I started just trying to figure out what my medium would be. How will I tell stories? What does it mean to be an artist?”
Larkin began to develop his own artistic voice, drawing inspiration from various artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley. He admired the beauty and the power that was evident in their artwork, specifically Kerry James Marshall, and how he exclusively created portraits of Black individuals.
While Larkin continued to discover his art style and voice, he noticed how difficult it can be for creatives to remain authentic and not become a carbon copy of what they see online. Larkin’s advice: know who you cater to and represent them confidently. For him, his art represents “Black men and women who have been marginalized, socialized and colonized”.
Although Larkin is not opposed to the idea of being inspired by someone else’s art, he encouraged creatives to add their own spin until they are able to develop their own style and voice.
“And so for me, I think that authenticity is very important and also the journey of every artist. You have to figure out: what is your authentic voice? What do you actually have to say? And why is it important?”
Today, he and his wife have started an art company called Larkin Art and Co which features a variety of works including prints, books, products and toys that inspire joy and promote learning through play.
Larkin admits that the work he is doing has no definitive medium, but no matter what he creates, he aims to preserve the stories, culture, and spirituality of the Black community.
“If we don't tell our stories, who will keep them, right? So our stories are very important. They help us to become stronger. They help us to become more in love with who we are, or in love with where we came from. And that just makes us stronger.”