April Sunami: 'This is how I protest'
The artist's creative output was inspired by last summer's racial justice protests.
April Sunami, Painter
The pandemic started off rough for the mixed-media artist, with the cancellation of a gallery show at the King Arts Complex in March and a period of creative torpor. Then came the George Floyd protests, and everything changed.
On her initial rut: “I’ve always been a person who prides herself on having a daily, regular, art-making practice, just as normal as eating toast or breathing and drinking coffee. All of that stopped. And here I am just eating chips and watching Netflix and, poof, there goes all of my inspiration, my artistic practice.”
On moving outdoors: Painting murals helped Sunami regain her creativity. She painted several pieces outdoors during and after the racial justice protests, including murals on the barricades in Downtown Columbus, in Clintonville and in Milo-Grogan (a large piece on two walls featuring two Black women with flowing, multicolored hair). “For me as an artist, I felt like this is how I protest. This is how I speak. This is how I express. This is how I pray. This is how I operate. This is how I walk in the world. And this is how I say what I need to say about this moment.”
On the Power Series: Sunami is now working in her studio on several related paintings. They’re all part of what she calls her Power Series, with each featuring empowering images of women. The inspiration for the series really began with a painting Sunami did of her daughter. The painting includes a subdued black and gold background, as well as Swarovski crystals and a collage of 19th century images of the female warriors of Dahomey, a precolonial African kingdom. “It’s something I’ve projected onto my daughter, having that warrior spirit in her. I carry that same aesthetic in the Power Series. ”