We had the good fortune of connecting with Gena Rynae Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gena Rynae, what are you inspired by?
Inspiration for me comes from so many different things. To be honest, I could find inspiration in almost anything whether it be from a conversation, food I’m eating, or a fond memory. The process in which an idea comes resembles a fire, it begins with a spark, but all it takes is one spark in a forest to ignite an inferno. What started as a speck of light over time can become something grand and hot. My artwork has been just like that fire, when I first began painting I was so afraid of what others would say about my art. I passed up many chances to share my work not even realizing that I was robbing myself of the opportunity to become a better artist through those experiences. At that time I was telling myself that I wasn’t a good artist so, why would anyone want to see my art anyways. There were so many times in my life where I just got fed up with my crap and just made a decision to change. One of the most vital skills I had to learn in life was the lesson on how to talk to myself. There were a lot of days that I would have to tell myself, “I am an amazing artist. I can accomplish any goal I set my mind to.” No matter if I believed it at that moment I had to get rid of all the negative self-talk and affirm myself. At the point where I stopped concerning myself with what others thought, I started listening to that little voice inside of me. The funny thing was that the more I listened to it, the louder it got. I had finally stopped worry myself about what people expected of me. Out of this experience, I was finally making artwork that gave the viewer something deeper than just a pretty picture. I am making artwork that is pleasing to the eye and touches your soul.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I see art-making as the process of making beautiful junk. The idea that I was contributing to the massive amount of waste produced in this country upset me. So I decided to find a way to save things from ending up in the garbage. How? It began with my fascination with quilting and how that process dates back to slavery. Slaves would make quilts from old clothing that they were given by their masters. So, I decided to try this out by asking all my friends to donate all the old clothes that they didn’t want. The process of building a quilted tapestry looks like a lot of sketching and measurements before any physical work begins. With my background in printmaking, I began incorporating my handprinted designs on these found materials. This takes some of the fast fashion pieces out of their former use and into something more personal and long-lasting. Within my work, the element of experimentation exists constantly. I am not afraid to fail because I know that there will be a great lesson to be learned in the journey. It is that willingness to fail that I think allowed me to be where I am today. I would say the biggest lesson I have learned through this process of becoming is to stop comparing myself to others. My journey is not meant to follow someone else’s timeline or rules. I am willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to succeed!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I were to show a friend around the city I would have to start with my neighborhood, Inglewood. After any long trip, the first thing I do is seek out a yummy meal. Some of my favorites are Blessed Tropical Cuisine for their curry chicken and beef patties. Next would have to be Sweet Red Peach which is well worth the wait for their amazing cupcakes. For my vegan friends, it would have to be between Stuff I Eat and VegainzLA. When it comes to hanging out my favorite place to go when I just want a nice relaxing afternoon is South Coast Botanic Garden. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Big shout out to God! Thank you to my Mom for always being in my corner. Thank you to my mentors for being a great example for me to follow. Thank you to my friends and family for your love and laughter. Thank you to Brené Brown for writing Daring Greatly, this book changed my life.