We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Grant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalie, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. My earliest memory of art was when I was 8yrs old. I had many art supplies, coloring books, sketch pads, construction paper, markers, and coloring pencils. When I was about 10yrs old, my Mom let me paint the walls in my room; I was so excited. I grew up with a very accepting family. When I decided to pursue an art career in high school, they didn’t hold me back. Throughout college, they helped me in any way they could. Their support is what allowed me to keep going.
My background is what inspires my artwork. Growing up in Brooklyn got me in touch with my community. As I’d walk up and down my neighborhood, there was a widespread number of hair salons and beauty supply stores. That moment, I realized hair is a part of the foundation of the black community. Beyond that, our history. Which brought on my first photo series, “ In Hair We Trust.”
I want this work to speak out against stereotypes about black women and their hair. Society has made black hair recognized as a flaw, which caused black women to question their appearances. When people look at my work, I want them to understand why I am addressing this topic. When black women see these photos, I want them to make a connection. They must realize the value of their hair and why it’s essential to embrace it.
As an artist, I want to make an impact with my artwork. Being a black female artist, I want to raise awareness of issues within the black community, whether it’s insecurities about appearances because of society’s ridiculous beauty standards. Or some form of protest art to honor the Black Lives Matter movement. If I think back on my work, I can say that I’ve grown as an artist. I believe it’s essential that we know we can make a difference even in small ways. Since I was a kid, creativity has been my outlet, and as I’ve grown, my art has evolved.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Be patient and stay positive is what I remind myself every day. I have high hopes for my art career. However, things don’t always go as I planned or move as quickly as I’d like them to. After I graduated from college, I thought things would be different. I thought I’d find a great job as a gallery assistant or anything in photography. I haven’t been as fortunate as I’d like. Mainly due to the pandemic making things ten times harder. Although, I know I’m not the only one who’s had setbacks. But I can’t sit around and complain about the things I don’t have. I have to do something about it. Even though I’ve had rejections from jobs and other art opportunities, I did have some highlights.
In my last year of college, at the School of Visual Arts. I was selected to participate in their annual SVA Mentor Show. I was assigned Legacy Russell as my beneficial mentor. With her advice, I created an installation for my “In Hair We Trust” series. I got wallpaper made that contained one of my artworks. Once on the wall, my other artworks were nailed down on top. As a final touch, I got some braiding hair from the beauty supplies store. To make a 4 ft braid that wrapped around the entire display. Also, I added hair accessories and combs inside the braid. In the end, my installation turned out fantastic. Unfortunately, the opening for the show was at the start of the pandemic. Therefore, the reception was canceled, and the gallery had to close. I was fortunate to see the show with my parents when the gallery allowed artists to make reservations. Regardless of the shutdown, I’m proud that I was chosen to create my version, even if it didn’t get as big an audience as I hoped.
Another achievement is my first solo show after no luck with art galleries accepting my work for their exhibition. I decided to create one for myself. I was determined to put together my solo art show. I researched locations in my area and price range, and I found a studio. It was a reasonable distance from my house, perfect size, and reasonably priced. My family was a massive help during the journey leading up to the show. They helped with the location and the deposit. The materials I needed to set up everything. They even brought additional refreshments to give out. Their assistance was a huge weight off my shoulders. The best part about this show was the impact it made. I named the exhibit ”Beyond Our Skin.” It was a three-day pop-up opened during the Juneteenth weekend, Friday 18th – Sunday 20th. I wanted to celebrate Juneteenth as an official national holiday and to honor the Black Lives Matter movement. It was important for Beyond Our Skin to be bigger than a small art show. I hoped for it to be a community event that would bring people together and start conversations. My wish was granted. Everyone that came loved and connected with my work. They appreciated my dedication and bravery to speak up about issues others wish to ignore. The positive feedback got me thinking about future art shows or other ways to use my creativity to reach my community. I want to tell my fellow artists who are discouraged and feel like giving up that they are not alone. I have those same doubts every day, especially after a rejection. You don’t have to wait for opportunities to come to you; make them happen for yourself. The outcome will be so much more rewarding.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Suppose I had to plan an itinerary of my favorite places in New York City for a friend. The first place I’d start with is probably somewhere to eat for brunch. Shane’s a restaurant in Brooklyn that has delicious breakfast, especially their waffles. Afterward, we’d go to the Brooklyn Museum. They always have notable exhibitions on view. Plus, it’s a perfect tourist attraction for first-time New Yorkers. I love museums and art galleries. So, there would be a lot of art trips on the schedule. From there we could walk around the area. Prospect Park is a block away. Or the Botanical Gardens is next door, which would make for beautiful pictures. Either option is great. After that, we probably call it a day and have dinner at home.
The next day, we’d start breakfast at home, then go up to Manhattan to visit the newest art gallery that just opened in Chelsea, Nicola Vassell Gallery. The first black-owned gallery in Chelsea, also owned by a black woman. Honestly, I haven’t had the chance to see the gallery in person, but I love art and supporting other black women. For those reasons, I know it’ll be worth the trip. After that, Chelsea Piers is in the area, and they opened a new park, Little Island. Since it’s new, it’s pretty popular, you have to make reservations, but once you’re inside, it’s incredible. The view of the water is beautiful, especially during sunset. A few hours there, to relax and take pictures. Later dinner at Jue Lan Club, which is an excellent Chinese restaurant. Their outdoor and indoor dining is stunning, and the food is fantastic.
We could spend the following day in Dumbo, at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. They have a lot of activities. There’s a roller skating rink, rock climbing; we can bring our bikes or rent some because there’s a bike path. Also, there are multiple opportunities for pictures all over Dumbo. This area is one of the known places in New York. People take pictures for social media, Weddings, Graduations, etc. During the summer, they play movies on the lawn. So we could bring a blanket and choose from the many food options inside or outside the park. I’d pick Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, which is one of my favorite pizza spots in New York City. We could go across the street to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory with plenty of treats and flavors for dessert.
The last day would start in Harlem at Paint ‘N Pour. An enjoyable and beginner-friendly painting class. It’s $50 per person that includes all painting supplies, an instructor, and cocktails. There’s no pressure to be Pisco. It’s only meant for everyone to have fun. Also, they have small plates available to order. If we come early enough, we can order off the brunch menu. Overall, they serve delicious food. Anything would be a perfect option. After painting, we could go over to the Studio Museum in Harlem. The artists they feature are remarkable. After we get a good look around, I think a trip to the movie theaters would be nice. Any AMC theater with reclining seats is the best way to have the perfect movie-going experience. A few hours later, once the movie is over, we go back to Brooklyn to have dinner at Suede. A black-owned Caribbean restaurant with savory food and drinks. We’ll end our tour on a positive note.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As I mentioned previously, my family and friends are my support system. They stand by me and my career goals. They offer their time whenever I need it. They encourage me to be a better artist. They help me find new artistic opportunities or new creative projects. My family always has my back. Everything I’ve done up to this point is with their help. Therefore, shoutout to my family. I will be forever grateful.