Kaila Austin is a painter and mixed media artist based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. She has been a participant in Murals for Racial Justice with the Arts Council of Indianapolis and has been interviewed for several magazines emphasizing Black arts and culture across the United States. Currently, she has a painting studio located at 201 Studios, where she also works as a bookbinder and printmaker.
Austin works primarily in mixed media portraiture, focusing on the ways in which the arts can
The oil portrait is still the basis by which she begins her work, but she incorporates papermaking, collage, charcoals, inks and embroidery in order to create complex interactions between the medium and the people being represented. By using common materials like newspaper and string, she seeks to emphasize the role of the “everyday” in the creation of beauty, in the creation of things that are important and memorable. By doing so, she hopes to be able to lift black and brown bodies into a sacred space, where we can be rulers of our own realities in all the complexity that that implies. There is a need, especially right now, for Black people to be able to define themselves, to be able to be displayed accurately without being distorted and transformed by trope and stereotype. How do we turn our everyday realities into something sacred? The arts provide us one of the ways.
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Her work links together the museum world, a world that focuses on display, prestige and power, with the everyday realities that most of us live within. As a result, the work spreads across these fields, but display is always at the center. In 2019, she was a Design + Diversity Fellow with the American Institute for Graphic Arts, the Emerging Professional Fellow for the Association of African American Museums and she is a Diversity Fellow with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She has been part of several grants for the NEA, the Warhol Foundation and American Airlines’ Heart of the Community Program. Her work is held in several collections around Indianapolis and has displayed work in most of the major cities in the Midwest.
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