We had the good fortune of connecting with Devin Monét Alexander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Devin Monét, what role has risk played in your life or career?
To be honest, I was once afraid to take risks. The word itself is still a bit triggering. It’s because the times that I have taken risks the results ended in disappointment, which is pretty common. Which is pretty common when taking risks, obviously. A part of me is still hesitant to take them, though I find myself more confident than I was ever before to do so. It is the constant “what if?” that tends to drive me up the walls. But then I remind myself that the result(s) of risk-taking may not always be negative. I’m also learning to change my language. Instead of thinking and or saying, “What if it goes wrong?” I’ve learned to say “What if it goes right?” I now think of a risk as an opportunity to experience and learn and possibly be rewarded no matter what the results may be. Yes, I realize that is easier said than done when some risks lead to disappointment but nevertheless I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that risk-taking is important when on the journey to success. Whatever success looks like to you. I never want to regret not taking risks. I want to be a take leap of faith, take a deep breath, and say to myself, “Well… that wasn’t bad. I can do that again.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My studio practice began with exploring mental health, specifically anxiety. For the past year, I’ve been exploring the ways in which I can recreate those moments where I have experienced an anxiety attack. The first piece created in my studio, Night Never Came, depicts one of my severe attacks. My room, an environment that comforts me, was unrecognizable and uncomfortable. Wild, right? While spending more time in the studio there was a shift in the way I viewed my art. I started to highlight the concepts of detachment, disembodiment, and disconnection. One of my next pieces involved two figures side by side, with zombie-like facial expressions, carrying & dragging large bags, floating through space. No environment to place them. I call it We Need To Hurry. This one became a catalyst for these concepts. What does it feel like, to be detached and disconnected? What does this feeling look like by means of body language and facial expression? Do we put on a mask to seem fine but in reality, it is not so? I’ve been told a few times that asking too many questions when it comes to my art may come across as if I don’t know what I’m doing. To this day, I still don’t know if that is entirely true. I think these questions that I ask about my art help me explore in the studio. I guess, that is one thing that I would want the world to know about my art, the process, the exploration, is one of the best parts of creating for me and those are a big part of my art. Was it easy? I’m not sure that is easy to answer, haha. With art, with making comes challenges but because I enjoy the process of making art, it feels easy, even through those challenges. I have to say, the main challenge that came up for me was feeling a bit of pressure to create work that reflected my identity as a black woman. I would go back and forth with wanting to create what I wanted without that pressure. I mean, for example, if I want to paint flowers, why shouldn’t I? It’s one of those conversations that I’ve had plenty of times with other black artist friends of mine and I don’t think that conversation is going anywhere any time soon. I feel like it will always come up for black people in the art world. But to be clear, there is nothing wrong with making art that reflects your identity. I think artists, especially artists who are considered the minority should welcome it.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m blessed to have parents that have supported me since day one. No dream dreamt was crazy or unattainable for me in their eyes. Not to mention they made sure to give me realistic advice and criticism that was needed. Sometimes I needed to be brought back to earth… sometimes, haha. When my interest in art peaked in middle school and I knew it was what I wanted to pursue as a career, they were on board. Even going through some of the failures along the way, they were encouraging me to work smart and continue on the art path. So Shoutout to the parentals! Mom and Dad, I love y’all!
Headshots by Sidra Greene Photography