Kevin Claiborne

Kevin Claiborne (b. 1989, Washington, D.C.) is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist currently working in Santa Barbara, CA. whose work examines and questions intersections of identity, social justice, & mental health particularly within the Black American experience.

Artist Statement

I aim to make the invisible, visible. Through film photography, abstract painting, poetry, and video, I bring the weight of blackness to the forefront of the viewer’s conscious. I view my art as both a social responsibility and weapon for change.

Inspired by the power of language, reshaping of identity, and the recontextualization of historical narratives, many of my abstract works contain text beneath multiple layers of paint, some visible and some completely hidden. I am interested in how aspects of our identity, including our language and histories, are both masked and developed in environments that do not nurture its growth. When language is hidden or indecipherable, it forces the viewer to engage deeper in order to find meaning, much like our personalities. One of my goals is to get viewers to understand that what is beneath is often more important than what is on the surface at first glance and furthermore, just because something is not visible, does not mean it is not worth searching for.

When our growth is stunted or not supported, what are the effects on one’s mental health? What are the outlets for individuals who have salient identities that are not nurtured by their environment? How does historical trauma and contemporary injustice and oppression add weight to individuals as they try to find themselves?

Street photography and portraiture serve as reminders of realities we face and possibilities of social transformation and transcendence we may achieve. The street view is the honest eye. Through photography, I want people to look beneath the surface and understand the ways in which everyday life informs our understanding of self and our environments. The more we understand about ourselves, the more we understand how to relate to and serve humanity. How are we using our relative power, privilege, and positions to take active roles in the empowerment of others in our communities and across the globe?

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