Vans has teamed up with four stellar Black artists in honor of Black History Month. There's Rewina Beshue, a San Fran-based multimedia artist who often explores optical illusions; Sydney G. James, a muralist from Detroit whose art focuses on Black women in America; Chris Martin, an artist that examines the African Diaspora and southern history; and Tony Whlgn, creator of the Whlgn®, a design firm in Detroit.
Every week this month, Vans will feature a new artist, sharing their stories and promoting their custom designs, which are available to purchase now. Also, the brand is donating $40,000 to the Black Art Features Fund, aiding in grant support for small community-based Black arts organizations across the US.
The brand is centering these artists to highlight the various backgrounds prevalent within the community. "As we live our purpose to enable creative expression, we are proud to partner with each artist to uplift and amplify their voices during Black History Month and beyond," said Carly Gomez, VP Marketing of Vans The Americas.
PAPER caught up with Rewina Beshue to hear why her work and this opportunity is so important to her.
How do you describe your practice?
In the past, I've always felt the need to have a specific way to define myself as an artist. I thought that I needed to rehearse and explain my work to people in ways to help make my art "make sense." I've come to realize that my work doesn't have to have a deep meaning to be considered art. I've realized that it's a form of expression. It's a way for me to transfer my thoughts, experiences and interests onto a surface — making whatever I feel and using whatever tools I want to make it. I love to experiment.
What are your core references or points of inspiration?
I'm really fascinated with optical illusion and how individuals perceive art/ visuals. Two of my biggest inspirations are Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a psychologist who specializes in visual perception, and Takahiro Kurashima, an interactive graphic artist. I'm really inspired by their use of interactive art and optical illusion work.
Why is it important for major brands to support young Black artists in tangible ways?
Major brands that provide a platform for Black artists are great for representation. It shows the world that there are many talented Black artists making amazing work. Black artists are greatly underrepresented in the art world, and are even underrepresented in museums and art history as a whole. Black representation in the art world is extremely important because it encourages young Black people to pursue creative expression and art education. Not only does it create diversity and inclusion in the art world, but it also gives people a different perspective of art and artists.
Vans is such an iconic brand. How did you go about putting your creative stamp on this classic sneaker?
I wanted to experiment with shapes and patterns. I chose to showcase my interest in experimental and optical art. I thought about so many other directions I could go, but once I started playing around with mixed media, I was drawn to the idea of putting a loud pattern with muted colors on the shoe.
What does it mean to you that your work is helping support something vital like the Black Art Futures Fund?
This means a lot to me. I've been using my art and my platforms to help uplift Black communities in the Bay Area and communities all over the country. It's important to use my presence in the art world and my voice to direct attention to and bring positivity and growth in Black communities.
Photos courtesy of Vans