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(ep 8) How have Black women influenced the art world?

How have Black women influenced the art world? What type of art do African American women create? How have African American women left their mark on art? What should I look for when collecting art? What should I look for when buying art? Why should I collect art? What is it like to be a gallery owner? What should I look for when buying black art? What should I look for when buying art by black artists? What should I look for when buying art from female artists? What type of African American art should I buy?

In this interview with Lauren N'Namdi co-owner of N'Namdi Contemporary we talked about a number of things including art, of course, being a mother, growing up as an only child in Detroit, her path as an artist and designer, and of course her favorite vacations.

Lauren is an interior designer and she co-owns N'Namdi Contemporary with her husband Jumaane N’Namdi. They recently went from renting a location in Wynwood to owning their gallery in Little Haiti’s emerging arts corridor.

Lauren is an African American woman that grew up in Detroit Michigan. As a child, Lauren didn’t have biological aunts instead she had her mom’s friends that were her adopted aunts. She learned how to be a woman from her mom and those women. Lauren enjoyed watching and being a part of their very socially active lifestyle. In the interview, she reminisces about how they used to play bridge and now finds her mother in herself as she prepares for her own social and gallery gatherings. Because of this, her favorite way to practice self care is having time with her girlfriends and she loves staycations at the Standard Hotel Miami.

Lauren grew up around art. Aaron Douglas “the father of Black American Art” was Lauren’s mother’s cousin. Aaron was an influential abstract artist during the Harlem Renaissance and his work can be found around the world. You can still see his mural “Evolution of Negro Dance” at the Harlem YMCA and around Fisk University where he was the founder and chairman of their Art Department. Lauren grew up listening to stories about how her great aunt hung out with Aaron, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Yes, something like a movie. Since Lauren grew up with art, she always knew that she wanted to be an interior designer. Lauren studied art at Spelman College and got her Master’s in design at Pratt Institute.

Lauren believes that African American women have had a huge impact on art but that they still don’t have a huge presence. She appreciates their stories of being a woman as a wife, a sister, a mother, and how society and men view women. Lauren talks about the work of abstract artist Nanette Carolyn Carter and how she creates textures and expresses her story through layered fabric. She feels it’s important that Black female artists have more exposure and marketing. Lauren personally invites her friends to N'Namdi Contemporary and other places like the Perez Art Museum Miami. Being in the new gallery will allow the N’Namdi’s to introduce more people to artists from the African diaspora.

As gallery owners, Lauren and her husband are now able to influence the art world. They look at the future of an artist, not what they're creating today but what they will be creating tomorrow. The N’Namdi’s look for artists that are willing to cross the line and find innovative techniques. Lauren talks about the artist that was on display at the time of the interview, Patrick Quarm from Ghana, and how living in America has changed the story that he is telling in his art. She enjoys art that is doesn’t have to always be something that is controversial. Lauren herself is also active as an interior designer.

We continued the conversation by talking about Lauren’s travels. She loves spending time in Martha’s Vineyard, especially during August when multiple African American families flock the vineyard. Lauren spoke about the last time she visited there with her girlfriends and how that was a deliberate trip because you never know when you’re going to be able to go again. We didn’t know how true that statement was when we were having this chat (this interview was released during the COVID19 pandemic).

One of Lauren’s favorite international experiences was at a friend’s wedding in Medellin, Colombia. She spoke about how the wedding and the reception went all day and all night long - they even put the soccer match on. Lauren speaks about how polished the women were, and most importantly, to be open about her travels and not to make decisions based stereotypes. She adds that you shouldn’t just assume a place is dangerous because of what you hear, take the time to talk to people and learn the truth.

A really interesting part of the conversation is Lauren’s comparison of artists and their work in Cuba vs. America. The artists in Cuba are respected and live decent lives; however, they are not able to express themselves freely.

Of course we ended the conversation with Lauren’s favorite places in South Florida, she asked me about mine as well. Check out the list below.

Lauren’s question: If you were to be truly selfish what would you do?

How Lauren defines a woman: “A woman is badass”

Thanks so much for listening to this episode. Please remember to subscribe, click the like button if you enjoyed the episode and drop a comment.

Where to find Lauren N'Namdi and N'Namdi Gallery:

N’Namdi Contemporary | 786.332.4736 | 6505 NE 2nd Ave. Miami. FL 33138

Where to find Erica and Collective Drift

Mentioned in the interview (unless noted these restaurants are open for takeout /delivery during the quarantine period):

Little Haiti Cultural Center

GiGi’s Waterfront

The River Oyster Bar *

Shukin and Jivin

*Temporarily closed

Music by Catherine Knowles

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