Stina Aleah is a self-taught figurative oil painter and makeup artist. Citing personal experience, Aleah paints aspirational portraits speaking to internal struggles, staying motivated, and sticking it to the haters. As part of our ongoing Heroes series for Black History Month, Aleah brings a moving print edition and an original portrait to cap the collection. 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?
Stina Aleah: I wanted to depict the subject of Spiritual Warfare. To me, a lot happens behind the scenes, people pulling strings or manipulating situations to their desired outcome, with intention to tangle you in their storm. But always remaining and staying strong and centered and eyes toward peace (The dove) no matter what is happening around you.
1x: How did the idea and execution come about for this image?
Aleah: It’s funny how I work, but I was given this topic by a collector of mine, and I didn’t touch the painting for months, when I want to make sure i’m creatively in tune I do a lot of meditation. Well one day the image jumped into my head, that is when I took the time to find references and map it out how I envisioned it.
1x: Why is it important for people to see this image on a stamp?
Aleah: Spiritual Warfare is such a daily struggle; this image is a reminder of hope. It’s an inspirational piece that many can relate to, and when you find yourself tangled in a string of indecision, hopelessness, manipulation, struggle, you can look at this piece as a reminder of YOUR peace.
1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
Aleah: Typically, my work is very singular and figurative. This work I was able to incorporate other elements to really bring out the story and symbolism that I wanted to portray.
1x: If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday who would it be and why?
Aleah: Just one? If I can bend the rules on this question a bit, I’d choose Wilma Rudolph, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Jack Johnson and many of the first African American athletes… I mean they literally went through hell and high water breaking down barriers to play the sports they loved. And when you turn on the tv, and watch football, basketball, track & field, It’s just a reminder of our history and what they fought so hard for. I’d love for it to be dedicated to just the sports.
1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present, who would it be and why?
Aleah: Have you heard of Mary Ellen Pleasant? She is so amazing to me. One of the first African-American millionaires. She used her position as a domestic servant soaking up all of the investment information she could in order to make her own intelligent and highly executed investments. I mean that is unheard of in the 1800s and she did it. I’d just want to sit down with her, and hear all of her stories.
1x: How did you first get into art?
Aleah: Oh man this is a long story… I’ll try to make this short. I was a star athlete in high school, but I broke my femur in a devastating long jumping injury. I had to have surgery and was out for the season, I couldn’t walk to class so the counselors and principles decided I’d spend my time healing in the art room. Little did I know that it would change my life forever. When I thought I’d be a professional track & field athlete, God ordained my steps to have me become a professional artist.
1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full time artist?
Aleah: Absolutely, but I didn’t actually begin to paint or think that I could be full time until about four years ago. My parents travel to my shows all over the country, my mother holds down the transactions if necessary while my dad runs around with my five year old so that I can connect with patrons and handle business.
1x: What would you consider a dream collaboration?
Aleah: My fellow artist friend and I want to collaborate with organizations of incarcerated women employing them to create murals and beautify our city, while using art to open up a new world of creativity and belief in themselves.
1x: What artists inspire you now?
Aleah: Kevin A Williams Kadir Nelson Casey Baugh Andrew Tischler Omar Ortiz
1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Aleah: Right now, I’m taking it back a step and creating a huge new series that i’m pretty excited about, so stay tuned…big things are coming.
Follow Stina on Instagram at @stinaaleah.