In celebration of Black History Month, we collaborated with New York-based illustrator Lo Harris on an exclusive design called “Gratitude,” inspired by discovering, collecting and cherishing Black art.
Lo walks us through her creative vision to defy stereotypical expressions of Black art and, instead, depict casual, everyday gratitude.
When it comes to this design and how it relates to my voice and creative vision, the first thing I want to point out is how important color is to me. I’ve recently fallen in love with primary colors, very bold colors and jewel tones. They exude power, boldness, a sense of confidence and finiteness in what they’re saying. For this project, I intentionally chose very bold and bright colors that aren’t the stereotypical Black History Month marketing we see.
I think a lot of the time, brands are not talking to Black artists all year around. They only talk to us during that time and then when they do, they’re like “Can you please put this black fist with a green and black and kente cloth pattern?”—just very stereotypical expressions of what Black art is. One of the things I always put in the forefront of my work is challenging the idea of what Black art can look like because I don’t necessarily think that the first thing people think of when they think of Black art is digital, cute, playful—and I put that into everything I do.
I offhandedly named this piece “Gratitude” in the Society6 shop. In my personal life, I’ve been very much into really appreciating what the universe has given to me and really beholding those things. The woman is sitting there, she’s content, and she has a yellow star and blue star which I guess could metaphorically embody the idea of good things in your life—the nice things, the beautiful things. In this case, it’s the art that she’s collected. She looks fulfilled, like she’s not trying to grab for more. She’s not clutching on to it; she’s just like, “This is mine, I’m here, and I’m vibing.” There’s a casualness to the way she’s presenting herself—a casualness that I would love people in the mainstream to adopt when they approach Black art. Black History Month is not the only time people should be engaging with it.
I would love to see a future where Black artists and Black art are just sort of the norm. It’s not a kitschy thing, it’s not a niche thing, and it’s not a February thing. It’s just a part of the canon of art and the canon of art conversation. I think institutionally, especially in the fine arts world, Black artists are often pigeonholed into a very particular kind of storytelling. And it’s often the white gaze that informs what types of Black art are valuable and not necessarily the Black artists informing the institution on what they want to see and what they enjoy. What I definitely wanted to convey through this piece is casual joy, casual gratitude and the casual collection of Black aesthetics—just enjoying them, admiring them for what they are and where they come from.
Photography by Kate Ladera