The one question at the forefront of America’s public mind right now seems to be: Does race still matter? We see it in the debate over Barack Obama’s presidential run, the media’s claim that there is one “Black Church” (a.k.a. Jeremiah Wright), and art exhibitions like Black Is Black Ain’t curated by Hamza Walker (The Renaissance Society, Univ of Chicago on view 4/20/08 – 6/8/08). Meanwhile, artists like Chanel Kennebrew are creeping on a come up, taking Booker T.’s bootstrap mentality, Dubois’ words on propaganda and Warhol’s use of reproduction to foster a new socio-economic art model: self-reliance, healthy interdependence and conscious capitalism.
(Chanel Kennebrew, Narcissism from the Good Housekeeping series, mixed media, collage.)
Chanel Kennebrew’s movement from the art marketplace, the gallery and the corporate design firm, to independent artist/entrepreneur status has been a process. One laced with stints on the west coast, in the Midwest, abroad in Toronto and finally in Brooklyn, USA for the last 2 ½ years. Her journey has also included study at the Ontario College of Art & Design and the usual artist hustle – a million and one side jobs. After a historical look at stereotypes and binary oppositions through her series of 12 prints called Good Housekeeping for the New Negro Woman, completed at university, Chanel found herself revisiting the surface exploration of race and gender in media through her work at a NYC design firm. Soon, it became clear: 1) Chanel needed to make art for the people…not the scene; 2) the mainstream media doesn’t represent the actual populous, it represents the ‘ideal’ populous; and, 3) she was getting stifled trying to create for curators and buyers. Hence, her leap into entrepreneurship and strictly freelance work with the launch of her own on-line store, Junkprints.com.
(Chanel Kennebrew, Ladies of Soul, 13″x19″, archival matte print, edition of 50, also available as a tee.)
Chanel’s artwork and art-inspired products are in part designed to approach social matters from multiple perspectives. She told Cultureserve, “One thing I try to stress in the work is that discrimination based strictly on being unfamiliar is harmful to communities as a whole and the results can be absurd to just sad. The specific topics are just the tip. The core of the problem is lack of understanding. As simple as that sounds, that lack of understanding affects the victim and the oppressor and causes strange spin offs such as over compensation by power holders and self segregated communities built strictly on visual appearance. I rarely come to conclusions in my work. I’m just presenting my audience with some healthy options.” Along with her own line of junk (clothing, zines, prints, etc.), Chanel donates a percentage of profits from specialty tee’s (Jena 6 & Immigrant Beater) to support social causes and keeps it democratic by offering her art direction services to both large and small companies.
(Left to right: Monitor Mania Jacket, In Support of the Jena 6 Tee, by Junkprints. Below: Chanel Kennebrew.)
Chanel designs all Junkprints’ graphics and prints all garments on sweatshop free tees, hoodies and up-cycled materials in Brooklyn. All of the bags are hand made and the core of the line is made in editions of 50. Contact/Shop Chanel!