My relationship with visual art has evolved with time and experience. Growing up in Ethiopia, I saw art not as a means of self-expression or a tool for social change but rather as a juvenile hobby that has no place in the professional world. My perspective was shaped by the way art was regarded in my community and its inferior position to science in the eyes of my parents.
My outlook on art began to change when I came to the US and started to experience the world independently. Navigating this transition was challenging but it was equally liberating to unlearn preconceptions and create my own lens through which I see the world. In the absence of my family's guiding voice, I discovered mine and this revelation was pivotal to my self-discovery which is reflected in my artistic journey. I was initially reluctant to experiment with new art media and materials because I was afraid of failure. But I slowly worked my way from pencil sketching to watercolor and then acrylic painting. Similarly, I have explored different styles of painting over the years such as modern expressionism, spontaneous realism and cubism. This process was as much cathartic as it was artistic to me because I was allowing myself to become vulnerable and embracing the spontaneity that came with it. Art enabled me to break free from my fears and realize my full potential.
Even though this section is dedicated to my artistic journey, I cannot paint the full picture without alluding to my scientific passion. In fact, I draw a lot of my creative inspirations from my quest to understand nature. I currently work as a research analyst at Duke University and my work involves using interdisciplinary approaches to better understand our immune system and drive vaccine development for infectious diseases globally. So, I am basically a scientist by day and an artist by night and this unique position has afforded me a perfectly balanced life between the two worlds and a great appreciation for their coexistence. I have always admired how science helps us unpack the intricacies of the natural world and art gives us a subjective angle to experience them. Science provides us with facts while art is concerned with our individual truth which are equally relevant in our understanding of the world around us. For me, art and science are inseparable and their harmony will continue to be manifested in my career.
Aside from my story, I believe what distinguishes me as an artist is my love for colors and the way I use them to portray the nuances of human nature and experience. I often mix unnatural colors when I paint portraits to illustrate the emotional landscape of human beings and to symbolize the complexity of our existence beyond the realm of physical appearance. My artworks are usually spontaneous and they capture my thoughts and feelings as they evolve throughout the painting which is why they have multiple interpretations and portray contradictions at times. I embrace this multidimensionality in my art as it is inherent to human nature and because I want to create art that connects people with their inner selves and with the world at large.