Kiki Symoné, originally a chalk pastel portraitist with a specialty in urban expression, has been honing her skills as a digital artist for the past several years. An alumna of the University of Windsor with degrees in education and French, Symone has blended her love of art, technology, and social change to bring about the perfect marriage of her passions.
Symone is self-taught in digital art and embraces a pedagogy of online teaching that is shared by a growing community of Millennial-era artists. Her medium includes both digital work and photographic prints which she encourages her audience to share in windows, neighbourhoods, on placards, and in the hands of friends and family in a movement to “lift up” the voices of her beloved community.
Kiki’s digital art depicts the everyday life of Black communities. Visually capturing cultural themes of family, history, education, as well as racism and social inequality, Symone’s art has amassed a global audience, having been featured in recent exhibits in New York City, a feature on HGTV’s Urban Oasis and commissions in France, The Netherlands, Spain, and Australia, as well as the United States and Canada. Her illustration of subjects navigating everyday environments allows Symone to expand the boundaries of traditional depictions of Black people in art, and the open faces of her subjects are a signature feature of her work, allowing viewers to step into the portrait and realize their right to expression. Symone creates her art to emphasize the beauty and strength in the relationships and actions that make up everyday life for the Black community.
“I have lovingly worked my heart into these pieces. I see these images almost every day in the classroom. Children in their innocence. It is all just light and love in their minds. These artworks are very special to me because young children will do whatever we tell them to do; we say: “go colour” or “go play”, and they will come back five minutes later with their little childlike Picasso or Basquiat styled masterpieces. They will look up at you, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, waiting for your stamp of approval. Then, they will ask if it is good and if we like it. Of course, we say ‘yes’ because young children are very impressionable. However, we may fail to realize that they are also very resilient too. That is why I always tell children the truth. If I noticed that they have missed a spot in their picture, or if the colours do not match, I tell them. I feel children need more constructive critiques because out in the real world, it is not all just light and love, sometimes it is dark and it is very grey. This realization came to me, when I examined the juxtaposition of my pieces. I created a soft, fun, bright composition alongside a dark, more serious and political piece. Together, in my opinion, this work illustrates unity and resilience—the children depicted are the stars.”