1xRUN is excited to present its first print edition with painter and model Megan Gabrielle! Sebastopol is the latest installment of “Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamps“, an ongoing series for Black History Month curated by Greg Cummins. With Sebastopol, Gabrielle hopes to inspire a generation of young black women as living proof that there are successful artists appearing on stamps and in galleries who look like they do. Read our exclusive interview with the artist below.
1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about the piece, and what’s happening in this scene? Is there anything you would like to highlight about this image?
Megan Gabrielle: Sebastopol is my first official attempt at a self-portrait. The scene is based on a film photograph taken by my brother during our last family trip to California. I picked some fruit and vegetables from the garden, laid them out on the dining table and we just had fun taking turns shooting portraits of each other.
1x: How did the idea and execution come about for this image?
Gabrielle: This painting actually came about after I posted the film photo set on Instagram. I got a request to paint the image and I was so excited to work on it, I think I started working on it the very next day.
1x: Why is it important for people to see this image on a stamp?
Gabrielle: I feel that it is important for people to see this image on a stamp because there is such minimal visibility for black women on major platforms in the art world as a whole. When I was young, although I had so much support and inspiration from my father, it would have been incredibly powerful to open an art history book or visit museums and see a significant amount of art made by black women that reflected how they saw themselves, their daily lives or their hopes and dreams.
1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
Gabrielle: This work is my first time painting myself and it was such an interesting experience examining myself and being able to look at the finished product and come away feeling like, wow this actually looks like how I mentally picture myself. My other work is typically based on a collage of images blending fashion photography, architecture and surreal landscapes, or what I call my self-therapy painting, which is when I just paint with nothing particular in mind, using my emotions and current thoughts as inspiration.
1x: If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday, who would it be?
Gabrielle: I’d honor Josephine Baker with her own national holiday because I love how she fearlessly pursued a career in the arts and traveled abroad where she was able to further her career and escape the segregation that she faced back in her hometown. She spoke about her experiences overseas to inspire black people in America by reminding them that the racist climate they lived in should not continue to be their reality nor limit their dreams.
1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present who would it be and why?
Gabrielle: Such a hard question but I’d really like to have dinner with Frank Ocean. I am a HUGE fan of his music, whenever I hear his music I’m reminded of some pretty significant points in my adult life.
1x: How did you first get into art?
Gabrielle: My desire to paint began at an early age, I remember as early as 5 years old I was obsessed with drawing which stemmed directly from having an artistic father. My father, Thomas Harris painted almost if not everyday and his paintings decorated our whole house. I used to pore through his sketchbooks that he would leave around the house and I was fascinated by everything I saw.
1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full time artist?
Gabrielle: My parents have always been so supportive of me chasing this dream of being a full-time artist. Other family members supported as well and purchased my art. Even when I had no intention of charging my family for my artwork, they insisted that I name my price. I really appreciate them for making me aware of the fact that I should be compensated fairly for my work and that I should never feel guilty about it.
1x: What would you consider a dream collaboration?
Gabrielle: If I could collaborate with a person it would probably be Solange Knowles. She has already inspired subjects in two of my paintings, her creative direction is super inspiring and I often listen to her music while I’m painting. She’s an ethereal black woman who taps into her roots with a sort of futurist twist on it all and makes her visions become a reality.
1x: What artists inspire you now?
Gabrielle: Artists I’m inspired by are: Tyler Mitchell, Theresa Chromati, Naudline Pierre, Tim Walker, Paul Gauguin, Egon Schiele, Kerry James Marshall and Lina Iris Viktor.
1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?Gabrielle: I’m in the early stages of planning my first solo show this spring!