This year, I invested in my first custom art piece. The canvas is plastered with fierce strokes of pink, orange, red and yellow. Words like resilience, strength and overcome frame the likeness of a woman whose face is missing, but her eyes hold a confident gaze, and her fro crowns her head like royalty. The painting is a reflection of black beauty, pain, growth and femininity. And when I pass it down to my future daughter, it is my hope that she also finds strength in one of the most precious and personal items I’ve ever owned.
I owe the power in my painting to its artist Marian Mekhail, and you can also experience the magic of her artistry this weekend at her first solo exhibit and pop up shop: QNDM. The event will take place this Saturday, Sept. 28, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at IQ Haus (1107 Dragon St, Dallas, TX 75207). Guests will be able to purchase drinks, raffle tickets, branded merch and, of course, custom art pieces decked with visual testimonies to the women of the past, present and future. I am lucky enough to be able to call Marian my friend and even happier that I get to share her story with you.
Meet Marian Mekhail
What has the artistic journey been like for you?
My artistic journey has been what I would describe as organic. As an artist, you go through phases of complete confidence in your skills and excitement about your work, and then there are moments when you doubt your abilities. The key is not to compare anyone else’s work to your own. You can only compare your previous work to your current work.
A fern plant can grow very quickly, but a bamboo tree takes years and years to grow. Why? Because it establishes roots so deeply into the ground. With a bamboo tree you won’t see a sprout grow out of the ground until a few years after you plant it. But once it begins to sprout, it grows so high, soaring into the sky with roots so deep that nothing can shake it. I see myself as a bamboo tree in this art world. I’ve learned not to compare where other artists are in their journey or how quickly they got there, because no one knows the struggles we’ve each been through as artists. I’m grateful for the journey I’m on and the pace at which I’m growing. I want to be a bonfire, not a birthday candle that’s quickly blown out.
How did you choose Queendom?
I chose Queendom for a few reasons. I had been working for several years at my corporate job that felt like a frat house. Surrounded by, to be quite frank, privileged, misogynistic men, who constantly made inappropriate jokes and comments, who didn’t truly value women, not even their own wives. I was miserable and working towards finding a way out of the corporate world to ultimately be a full-time artist. I was taking on commission orders left and right, and the majority of my art clients happen to be men — NFL players, NBA players, rappers, and so on. I’m so grateful for these clients who trust and believe in my work, but I noticed I didn’t have much of a presence with the female audience, which upset me because I think drawing and painting women is my favorite subject matter.
On Valentine’s Day last year, I made the decision to step away from my six-figure corporate job and become a full-time artist. As I found my footing as a full-on entrepreneur, I decided that there was no better way to get my frustrations out about the way our society STILL views women, especially women of color, than to have my first solo exhibition be completely centered around women/WOC. This show is my dedication to honor women, as we are the ones who are responsible for carrying the reproduction of our human race. And with that should come the utmost honor and respect.
Who or what inspired this exhibit?
was inspired by the strength of women like Nefertiti and Nefertari, who are my direct ancestors, and their strength and leadership during their dynasties in Egypt. I was inspired by black women who don’t receive due credit for their creativity, ingenuity, and brilliance, which I’ve had to tap into while creating this show. I was inspired by the phenomenal Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who found inspiration in herself as her own muse. I found inspiration in makeup and beauty advertisements and how now some companies are starting to realize that featuring ALL skin tones is the best way to advertise, because different shades of complexions are what will truly highlight beauty. I found inspiration in Beyonce’s “The Gift” album for the recent remake of the Lion King. The sounds and colors of Africa highlighted in this album, especially the song “Brown Skin Girl”, inspired an illustration that is now on so many pieces of my merchandise. Studying the geisha culture of Japan also inspired an illustration.
Also, I began using a new medium with epoxy resin and crushed glass. The glass is sharp, almost dangerous, but beautiful and captivating. I see women in this way, sharp, beautiful, captivating, and a dangerous force to be reckoned with.
Why should people invest in art, and what does art provide for a community?
There’s a famous phrase that says “Without art the earth would just be ‘Eh’“. Take art away from this world, and we’d be more depressed than it seems we already are. I went on an Eastern European tour this past March, and one of my stops was in Vienna, Austria. The Airbnb I stayed in had completely white walls, not a single piece of art anywhere. Let me tell you, I felt like I was in an insane asylum. Art brings life to our world. We can identify with it, relate to it, or not. That’s the beauty of it. It inspires us to think. It makes us feel joy, or anger, but at least it makes us feel! In a world that seems to be so jaded and numb, actually feeling something is rare.
I find that people will put money into clothes, cars, food, and have no problem with it. I’ve seen people spend obscene amounts of money on food that’s halfway eaten and will be gone in 15 minutes or on clothes they don’t even wear, only wear once, or will go out of style in 6 months. But, they will have the hardest time wrapping their heads around paying for a piece of art they love, that will be in their possession for a lifetime, that can be handed down to the next generation. The moment a car leaves the lot, it depreciates in value. Art can ONLY appreciate in value, especially if it’s coming from an artist who is passionate and dedicated to his or her craft.
What has preparing for this taught you?
Preparing for this show has truly taught me how to invest in myself. If you have an idea or a vision of what you want to accomplish, you write down your objective and steps on how to achieve that objective, and then you take action every day to reach that goal. Take every bit of knowledge that you’ve acquired over the years and apply it to your goal.
For me, I found that God was using all the experiences and jobs I’ve had over the years for this very show. My merchandising and retail experience to create merch with my art on it, how to interact with vendors, how to set up displays for my work to look it’s best, how to train my assistants for the show on using the register apps, delegation — all of this came from years of experience in the retail management industry. Creating budgets, tracking my gross margins, setting projections and goals, tracking expenses, marketing, etc. all came from 6 years of experience as an operations manager.
Putting this show together has taught me how to trust my instincts, problem solve and learn that scared money doesn’t make money!
Talk about your partnership with the Women’s Center. What kind of work do they do, and how will this art show support it?
The Women’s Center of Tarrant County holds a special place in my heart, because relied on their services in late 2012 and early 2013, during a dark time in my life. They had the resources to help me cope with what I was going through. They empower women and children to overcome violence, crisis and poverty. They provide services such as rape crisis and victim services, violence prevention and education, employment solutions, and general counseling. I decided to support TWCTC by giving a portion of the proceeds from the show to their Rape Crisis and Victim Services department. A portion of every donation, piece of art, merch sale, and drink purchase will benefit The Women’s Center.
How do you want people to feel when they leave?
I want women leaving this show to feel empowered to be themselves, to be bold and strong in this world, and not apologize for who they are. You are who you are, and you look how you look, and you should never apologize for it. You can wear your hair natural to a formal event. You should not have to hide who you are. The love you accept is based on the love you think you deserve, and we all deserve the utmost respect and the kindest love possible. I want everyone leaving inspired to pursue their purpose, tap into their gifts, whatever they may be, and be fruitful with it and multiply!
How can Dallas folks continue to support you and other artists in the area?
Make sure to follow me on Instagram @officialmarebear. Also make sure to check out my website www.marianmekhail.com to see my latest pieces from the show and to purchase merchandise from the show and any new items I put out periodically. (New artwork will be loaded to the website following the show!)
I want Dallas folks to support their local artists. Dallas is full of talented and passionate artists. Make sure to invest in and support local art, because I very much intend on making a mark in the art industry. Get a piece now before the value and price continues to go way way up.I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
Myca is your friendly neighborhood curly-headed storyteller who gets geeked up on connecting (and eating) with other happy people. For her, fashion is not just about style. It’s a story about society’s political convictions, sexual curiosities, social impacts, and creative perspectives.