By Paul Rozycki
Art historians say that Pablo Picasso began drawing at age seven, and produced his first painting at age nine.
But Picasso may have nothing on Flint’s Karina Brown. The energetic, self-taught, fifteen- year-old artist who displayed her work at the Flint Public Library Jan. 25, started to draw at age three, and also did her first painting by age nine.
Brown, a student at Mott Middle College, exhibited more than 20 of her works at a well-attended reception Saturday afternoon.
Brown’s inspiration arose from major challenges she faced in her young life. At age five she was diagnosed with major hearing loss, and was required to wear hearing aids. As a result she faced bullying in school, because of her hearing issues. She says her reaction to that bullying made her more sensitive to others, and led her to use her art to express herself, and encourage others who face similar challenges because they are not like everyone else.
Several of Brown’s paintings depict those with vitiligo, a condition that causes the loss of pigment in the skin. In her recent interview on WJRT-12, she said that her continuing desire to assist those who “are different” led her to exhibit and speak at a national conference dealing with vitiligo and those affected by it. She said her art is meant to be unique and that it reflect that all people are unique.
Other paintings are a commentary on social and political issues. She depicts NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, kneeling, surrounded by comments about those who stand up for their beliefs, and has a painting reflecting the impact of the criminal justice system on African-Americans. Another highlights inspirational quotes from singer Nina Simone.
She said, “My inspiration of becoming an artist came from my hearing difficulties, because of my hearing loss, it gave me a third eye and the ability to see colors through people and see their differences as a unique platform. The major thing I want to say with my art is inclusion.
“All people are beautiful. You just have to look at them from a different perspective. And the constant bullying from elementary through middle school, some of high school, made me more sensitive to people and their emotions. I paint because it makes me happy. Art is my therapy.”
She began drawing and sketching Disney and comic book characters by age three, and by age nine was producing acrylic paintings, many of which were on display at the Flint Public Library. The display, titled “A New Perspective: 21st Century Vison Art” was hosted by the library and The Pierians Incorporated.
The Pierians are committed to supporting and promoting the arts and have highlighted a number of major African-American themes over the years. The Pierians sponsored an exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts for Jacob Lawrence, and hosted a photographic exhibit at the Sloan Museum, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which banned legal segregation.
The organization also awarded college scholarships to students planning an artistic career, and has sponsored trips to area museums and cultural activities. Its members also serve on many area arts boards and commissions. The Flint chapter has been active since 1990.
The national organization, founded in Baltimore in 1958, takes its name from Piera, a region of ancient Macedonia, which was considered to be a center for the muses, who inspired the arts. The Pierian’s spring was said to be sacred to the muses, and a poetic inspiration to artists. “Embracing the Arts of the Diaspora” highlights their webpage.
Karina Brown’s art will be on display at the Flint Public Library until Feb. 28 and is free and open to the public. Her Facebook website is “Officially Karina the Artist.”
Banner photo of the Karina Brown exhibit at the Flint Public Library by Paul Rozycki.
EVM ataff writer and political commentator Paul Rozycki–who also is an artist– can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.