Envisioning a Future in Art with Ifeoma
In a world that often does not prioritize Black experiences and narratives, it is always endearing to meet artists who centralize art that includes Black stories. Sasha Igwe, also known as Ifeoma, is a Pittsburgh-based artist and illustrator who transcribes her personal and shared experiences into artwork exploring themes of existentialism, spirituality, and self-reflection. Much of her art explores Africana identity and motifs, though what is most prominent in her artwork is how she colorfully displays Black people in unorthodox ways.
Ifeoma’s artwork was named the second place winner in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Envisioning a Just Pittsburgh exhibit, which features artists throughout southwestern Pennsylvania — including a mixed-media piece of my own — sharing their visions “for a just and equitable Pittsburgh.”
During the opening reception of the exhibit, I was captivated by Ifeoma’s artwork, “A World Reconciled,” which displays a future reimagined. What stood out to me was an illustration of a Black woman being held in embrace on behalf of reconciliation; I was enamored at the vibrant promise of what is to come. Often Afrocentric art is highlighted as historical documentation, but it is just as important to see art that pictures Black people in the future.
When did you recognize yourself as an artist?
Although I have been creating since childhood, at the time I had no idea the desire to create would continue to grow within me all the way through early adulthood. Every time I turned away from art, I eventually found my way back to this form of expression as a way of healing. I would say, finally, I began to recognize myself as an artist in my late 20s around 2019.
What inspires you to create?
The need to express myself in other ways than through speech. I tend to do much better with self-expression through visual arts and writing. I’ve noticed it takes me time to process information and even my own feelings, so taking time to journal and sketch really helps. I have tons of old journals that turn into sketchbooks and sketchbooks that turn into journals. It’s been the best way for me to make sense of my thoughts, surroundings, and God-given ideas.
Are there consistent themes that influence your work?
Though when I create I don’t always have a theme immediately in mind, when reflecting back on some of my works, I notice some common themes around healing, self-reflection, and a lot of asking why. I also have an element of being “elsewhere” in some of my works. I love to incorporate dreamlike and colorful ideas into the works I create.
How do you know when a work is finished?
Usually, when I find myself becoming too perfectionistic about a piece, I know it's time to stop. If I start nitpicking at every little thing I have to tell myself, “Just save it for the next one.” It helps me to not labor one piece too long and take what mistakes I feel I made and improve upon it next time. I will also say that deadlines help too if creating a piece for a specific event or commission for example.
What would a world without art look like?
Boring is the first thing that comes to mind, and maybe a lot more chaotic too. This creative outlet helps a lot with my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In a world without any form of creative expression, I just don’t know how healthy the world would be.
How has your style evolved over time?
While my style is definitely still evolving, I think each series of pieces reflects where I was mentally at the time. One thing that I realized I do is focus on a specific medium or style that feels right for a time before trying something new. For example, a while back I did a Day Dreamers series that focused on melancholic yet hopeful illustrations done with watercolor and alcohol-based markers. This was reflecting a much-needed healing period of my life.
Nowadays, I have begun to focus more on painting, and digital 2D illustration, and slowly I have begun to learn 2D animation. While I find ways to integrate some themes and styles from previous works, much of my work now I feel has evolved to have more lighthearted and fun-loving themes. I love using vibrant colors, which I feel remains consistent over my time creating art so far.
How do you believe the Pittsburgh art community can encourage and support your career growth?
I think the biggest thing for me right now is getting connected to creative opportunities that allow me to relieve financial burden and create freely. I am also very interested in learning the best way for me to share what I have learned from my journey so far to others. I am more than grateful for the opportunities that I have so far and I am excited to continue this artistic journey.
See more of Ifeoma’s work at ifeoma.squarespace.com and instagram.com/ifeomacreates11. You can also see Ifeoma's award-winning work in the Envisioning a Just Pittsburgh exhibit, a collaborative partnership with Carnegie Museums, Pitt, 1Hood, and August Wilson African American Cultural Center, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh through its closing reception on Thursday, February 22, from 5-7 p.m.