Sasha-Loriene is a Maryland based contemporary artist who captures her thoughts, feelings, and interpretation of the world in every piece. The goal of her art practice is to tell a story and create a personal experience that encourages viewer introspection. Sasha-Loriene uses bold colors, shapes, and subject matter to highlight the human experience and the intersectionality between identity (who we are externally), self (who we are internally), and purpose (who we are intrinsically). By focusing on her own self-discovery, she has tapped into a whimsical method of storytelling that liberates others to do the same.

As the founder of BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT®, she additionally catalogues and curates a directory of Black woman artists, which further communicates her artistic voice on a larger scale. In bridging together identity, self, and purpose, Sasha-Loriene aims to be the change she wants to see, including cultivating the community she needed as a young girl.

In this interview, Sasha-Loriene tells us about the people and experience that have motivated her to change her career path and become a full-time artist and create the platform BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT! Join us in this inspiring conversation as Sasha-Loriene, who recently curated Create! Mag issue #26, tells us about her journey finding her voice in her first language—art!

What initially drew you to painting? Was there a moment (or moments) when you discovered a connection to this medium?

I’ve always been an artist. I like to think of art as my sweet spot, where I’m most vulnerable – it’s where I feel most at home and at ease. My curiosity of using different mediums as a child drew me to painting. As far as a defining moment as to choosing to use and stick with paints specifically, I did take a drawing and painting class my freshman year of high school. My teacher took an interest in me and helped me develop more figurative skills and techniques. That encouragement really stuck with me, as that was my only painting class that I took in high school, post-secondary, and higher education. I didn’t take another painting class or extended course until over 10 years later.

How does creating art allow you to share your thoughts and to voice who you are?

I like to think of art as my first and preferred method of communication – my first language. What I’ve struggled with verbalizing myself through speech, I naturally create visually through art. It’s not only how I make sense of the world around me, but how I help others to do so, as well. It’s how I connect with people, especially since I was extremely shy throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I found my voice and confidence in creating art.

Can you tell me a bit about BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT? What inspired you to create this platform?

Although I grew up in a very culturally diverse area (a melting pot), that diversity was not particularly reflected in the arts. I saw Black women doctors, scientists, lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, etc., but not many if at all Black women artists. My family did not support art as a viable career. Like most immigrant parents, they strongly believed that non-liberal arts education like law, STEM, business, etc. and job security were the keys to upward mobility, a.k.a. the “American Dream.” So without support from my parents/family and the lack of representation in the arts world, I pursued education policy and public administration, and painted in my spare time. I soon realized the more I progressed in a career of education policy, that I hated it and the mask I had to wear every day to sustain it. And the more I progressed as an artist, the less I saw myself reflected in the demographics – a complete opposite of the demographics of the area. So one day, September 4, 2017, I got fed up and decided to be the change I wanted to see and create a platform that highlighted and celebrated Black women artists: BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT. I had no idea that many artists felt like this too. It grew like wildfire and evolved into something bigger than myself soon after and we’ve been evolving ever since!

What is the most fulfilling and/or satisfying part of creating Black Girls Who Paint?

I get to create opportunities that not only tell our stories, but also include our stories in larger dialogues – and that excites me! I’ve made many connections and relationships with other artists from around the globe solely by exchanging stories. In doing so, I also get to add more joy and support to actual Black girl painters that I didn’t have as a young girl through our Awards Fund. Each month, we give away e-gift cards to an art store for supplies to two girls between the ages 6-18, and each Spring and Fall semester we give away academic scholarships to two students between the ages of 17-21 currently enrolled at least part-time in a visual arts program! These are the opportunities that I would have loved to have as a young girl/college student. It’s even better that it’s 100% supported by BGWP Members and Supporters! Running a business while maintaining my own artist practice is hard, but these are the moments that truly make it worth it all in the end!

My mission with BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT has always been to create a visual representation of Black women artists with sustainable art practices and careers so that the next Black girl who paints can say “she did it, so I know it can be done” instead of “I don’t belong there, so let me stick to what I know.” I’ve always been on the eccentric side of life and there were so many things I didn’t do as a child because I didn’t see anyone that looked like me or felt like I belonged in the places I wanted to go. Black women are not reflected much in art history, arts education, arts administration, or the global arts market as professional artists. My goal is to help normalize Black women in the arts. That’s why my mantra is “when we see ourselves, we believe in ourselves, and inspire others to do so, as well.” It starts young.

Who would you say is your biggest source of inspiration, whether it be in relation to your personal artwork or your art platform and business?

My mom, Loriene. I watched her sacrifice her career and many of her wants and needs in order to give my brother and I a good life. My parents had a completely different upbringing and experience in Liberia, West Africa so it was hard to relate, and as a byproduct, it was hard to relate to many of my peers. Although, she initially did not support a career in the arts, she always supported art as a hobby. When I realized I was living an inauthentic life navigating a misaligned career path, she supported every step of my transition to the arts without judgement – I quit my corporate job and decided to become a full-time artist and entrepreneur. She embraced that I had a different purpose than the one she intended for me. Because of her sacrifice for my privilege, it’s only fitting that I do right by her and create a life and career worth living, not just out of necessity and security.

If you could give young, Black women artists one piece of advice that you wish you had, what would it be?

Regardless of if you see yourself, know that you belong and are enough. Invest in yourself and your art practice. And always tell your story.