Today we’d like to introduce you to Kiara Walls.
Kiara, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. As a child, I was always interested in expressing myself through art. I used to draw these sticks figures with apple shaped heads not knowing what proportions were at the time.
But, I gradually practiced and taught myself new techniques. Once I began secondary school, I started focusing on more opportunities in the medical field because I had the understanding, at that time, that’s the path I needed to embark on to reach success. Fast forward to college, and I am attending Cal State Northridge and majoring in biology, probably one of the toughest subjects I still have yet to understand. I was not doing well in my coursework. At that time, I had to really think about this question “Is this struggle really worth the end goal. In my mind, I thought no, why am I pursuing something that I am not passionate about?”
Shortly after coming to this realization, I switched my major to art with a concentration in graphic design. That following year I ended up on the dean’s list and was in a great place both mentally and physically. I felt once I made that decision my life truly began. I received my B.A in graphic design in 2016 and began teaching at a non-profit in long beach that offered a mosaic mural workshop for disabled children and adults. Although my degree was in graphic design, I gravitated towards career opportunities that would develop me as an Artist.
I worked there for about three-four months before making the big decision to pursue my art practice and teaching full time in Dallas, Texas. I decided this was a great location because I had family out here and the cost of living was amazing compared to LA. Once I moved to Dallas, I began teaching for a charter school and building my art practice. Since moving to Dallas, I have been blessed with opportunities that have not only shaped me an artist but also as an educator.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Yes and no. My practice began with a series called “The Evolution of Self.” I designed illustrations of a black woman with her arm cut off to symbolize trauma. Through this series, I was dealing with depression and anxiety related to personal issues at the time. I used the evolution of self as a pathway to healing. I was very determined to create art that was expressive of myself and understanding to others.
My work was shown in a few art shows and galleries during college. Since graduating from college, my art has evolved to focus more on social practice. It has been a smooth road since moving to Dallas, but before then not so much. When I graduated, I was working for a non-profit for nine hours a week. I really enjoyed working there because I was creating all day, but when it came down to paying bills, I wasn’t able to support myself.
During that short period of time, I figured that this is what sacrifice looked like in order to pursue my craft. Ultimately, I knew the person I wanted to be would require some sacrifices whether that be lack of income or security. Once I experienced what it was like to walk in my purpose, I knew I made the right decision. By taking that job, I realized my potential as a teaching artist.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am a visual artist. My work is centered around increasing awareness of the need and demand for reparations to repair the injuries inflicted on the African American community. This interpretation is seen through many forms including drawings, sculptures, and video installations. I specialize in conceptual sculptures that invite viewers to a perception other than their own.
I am most proud of my most recent project “The Black Box Experience” which I completed this past summer at the L.A Summer Residency at OTIS. The Black Box Experience incorporates visuals along with audio that recreates the black narrative in a large scale wooden box.
By combining both visual and audio sensory, the black box creates an experience that is similar to the subconscious mind of a minority. Through abstract form and visuals, I create a style that is representational of injuries African Americans have suffered during and after enslavement. These injury areas include peoplehood/nationhood, education, health, criminal punishment, wealth and poverty.
I am focusing on the injury area of reparations that interconnects with wealth and poverty. It intersects with the negative effects of systematic racism that has resulted in the division of wealth and poverty among the African American community. I produce visual interpretations of the injuries through video and sculpture juxtaposed with spoken word.
I hope to start a series of Black Boxes that speak to various realities of the black experience in America. I am most proud of my commitment to my community. I like to create art that has a purpose. My art practice focuses on social change, and I am extremely proud of that.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would not have done anything differently. As I grow older, I realize that everything happens for a reason and God has a purpose for me.