We had the good fortune of connecting with Tonique Puritty and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tonique, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
The first habit that I would call essential is self forgiveness. It doesn’t seem like a habit in essence but when practiced habitually, it can be life changing. There are so many days when I get down on myself for not getting a project done or going to a show, or networking and being social, and these moments and decisions can anger me. My inner voice condemns me for not doing enough or being enough, but what is most important is learning to let go of that voice, telling myself that I am putting me first; and allowing myself the time and space that I truly need, regardless of how the world around me is presenting itself. You could call me anxious, or self involved, and maybe I am both of those things, but I have had to teach myself not to apologize for taking care of me. I wouldn’t be able to do that, to take care of myself unless I practiced self forgiveness. I can’t do everything and be everything all the time to other people, or even to myself, and that’s okay. It’s always forgiven. My next key habit to success, and by success I mean joy is being honest in everything I say and do. It was advice given to me years ago when I asked someone how I was supposed to be my true self. Some told me to be honest in every word that I say and every step that I take. When I realized how much I lied to myself and other people, I stopped cold turkey. It’s surprising to see how many times we lie in a day when we make a conscious effort not to. In my life honesty meant saying no to hanging out with friends, even if I had said yes previously, just because I really didn’t want to do it or because I’d rather paint or write or sing. Honesty meant telling men that asked me out that I just wasn’t interested instead of leading them on for my own comfort and extending situations that I knew had no place in my life. Practicing radical honesty in my life has changed me. It’s made me question decisions that I made for other people. Honesty taught me how to say no and when it was right to say yes.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I will preface this answer with the fact that I am not a full time artist. I believe that I represent the majority of artists, especially here in LA that practice when they are not working for a livable income. I sometimes refer to myself as a closeted artist with a whole lot to say. My day to day centers more in business, which is what I went to school for, but my nights are full of self expression, doubts and fighting that inner deamon to put myself more fully out into the world. If you look at my paintings, you will see a lot of my inner deamon and self doubt coming through. Most of my work is done in self portraiture with a heavy inspiration from African art, textures and heritage. As a half white and half black woman raised in the midwest, there is no question as to why I still can’t see myself even in my own work. My body in painting is always full and voluptuous (which I am not), as I saw black women represented in art and on screen for most of my life. My hair usually displays as straight in my work (which it is not), and I never have a face. In all of my paintings the body cuts off at the face or the face is made to be unintelligible. I never consider the reason as to why this is until recently. The answer that I found is that I have never identified with the image that I see when I look in a mirror. I have never found peace in my body or in my experiences and this comes through in my work. I am just a brown body looking for myself in all that I see around me. This is a peace I’m not certain I will ever find.
I believe my work is unique because it is a reflection of the human dilemma. My paintings ask who am I? I draw from emotion. None of my paintings are planned or drawn out. I sit down in front of canvas and allow all that I am in that moment to be made manifest. Much of my work uses African style, or Ankara fabrics. Throughout my life my white mother has done her best to encourage love and appreciation of our blackness. Her being a white woman, she did this with our home. She filled our house with black literature, our walls were covered in African paintings and our fireplaces were mounted by African statues. My work is a reflection of the people that I love who have surrounded me. My inspiration comes from the art I saw in my home. The body that I paint, although it is mine in reflection, is inspired by the body of my sister and other black women that I idolize. I am a piece of all that I love and that is what my art is. My art doesn’t show you who I am, it doesn’t show you who I want to be, it is simply the display of a woman who can’t find herself, seeking definition in the people and the culture that she loves.
The hardest part of finding yourself, or at least embarking on the journey to making that effort, is letting go of the expectations of those who love you. For me the hardest part of deciding to be an artist was knowing that it would disappoint my parents. I so badly wanted to be a CEO for them, to follow in my mothers steps. I wanted to finish college and start a family. I wanted so badly to have money and success, but I knew deep down that none of that would make me happy, that none of that would fulfill my untamed desire to express myself, and so, even in the pain and the disappointment I chose honesty. I chose myself.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my bff were in town I would take them to the beach to show them the beach bums that chose freedom. I would drive them through Beverly Hills where the fire hydrants are painted silver because the residents decided that yellow was an eyesore. I would show them skid row and point out the underpasses where our homeless have been driven from. I would show my best friend the LA that I know. I would point out the stark differences of the privileged and the way that the other is forced to live. Then of course we would relax and let go of that pain that we cannot solve at Davey Waynes or No Vacancy. I love bars that excite, tantalize and surprise people that are used to all that Kansas has to give, which is generally a whole lot of the same. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to my friends and family. Deciding to be true to oneself and to leave behind a life that others desired for you is never an easy choice. My family and friends have been by my side as I made mistakes, found joy, and found myself and they have loved me every step of the way, even when it wasn’t easy. For that, I will always be grateful. I could have gotten to this place without them bu I wouldn’t want to be here without them by my side.

Instagram: tonipuritty

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