Poet, instructor, community activist, and self-taught artist. Durham resident Gemynii is a woman of many hats.
Her calling to art began at an early age. “My mother will tell you that I was a creative soul from the very beginning of my existence,” she says. “I grew up drawing people out of magazines, especially National Geographic, Essence, and Ebony, since that was what my parents kept around the house.” Her paintings now reflect her early attraction to the African American experience. Chock full of social commentary and self-reflection, Gemynii uses her work as a way to look both outward and inward, evaluating cultural commonality as well as deeply personal issues such as self-image and awareness.
“I use my portraits to tell stories and to challenge my audience’s views on subjects such as sizeism, racism, and beauty. My paintings show the under-represented in the art world, which can be people with larger or imperfect bodies and people of color. As someone who has struggled with self-love and body acceptance, I love painting women that look like me. People want to see themselves reflected in art and not all of us are a size 6.”
Tackling ongoing social issues and attitudes is something that Gemynii pursues both through her artwork and her actions. “My paintings that touch on racial injustice are my reactions to situations where words can’t express the anger and sadness I feel when I see people like George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson or other hyper aggressive police officers get away with murdering unarmed black youth,” she says. Appealing to the minds of her audience is not enough to enact true social change, however, and so Gemynii also takes a hands-on approach by working directly with her community to improve the quality of life of her fellow Durham residents. “When things go wrong in my community I want to do more than just complain about it. I want to be a part of positive change that will prevent inequalities and injustices in the future.” And so she has, be it by marching on the streets of Durham “going face to face with police,” or by her volunteer efforts, which include teaching adults and children and fighting for LGBTQ equality. “I live and find joy in helping others,” she says.
When asked what the one thing is she would like for people to take away from viewing her art, Gemynii has a quick and easy response: freedom. “I want my art to help them think outside of the boxes society tends to put us in. I want them to see and appreciate the beautiful of blackness. Sometimes there is beauty in what would normally not be considered beautiful in the world we live in.”