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Check Out Rashad Ali Muhammad’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rashad Ali Muhammad.

Hi Rashad, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m Rashad Ali Muhammad, a multidisciplinary artist who works in various creative specialties. That’s why I named my business RAM Creates. It intrigues people as to what I create, and I never pigeonhole myself into one specialty, leaving room to continuously expand.

As a child, I always drew on the walls at home, so it’s no surprise I’m an artist today. In high school, my art teachers exposed me to various art forms (painting, film, photography, and graphic design), which deepened my love for creating. Knowing I wanted to work in a creative field, I started college at American University as a film major. The curriculum was excellent, but my creative passions were ignited after my first intro to graphic design class. For me, graphic design was the best way to make a career from my artistic sensibilities — I was terrified of falling into the starving artist trope.

After college, I worked full-time as a graphic designer, and photography became my creative outlet. I focused primarily on editorial fashion photography, which combined well with my goal to become a creative director for GQ. However, my passion for photography waned year after year with compounding negative experiences. My top cons were expensive equipment and studio rentals, working with lackluster or flaky clients, and people unwilling to pay for my services. While I got work published and had plenty of fun along the way, it drained my spirit and my wallet. So I stopped.

As I continued working and blossoming as a designer, I eventually felt burned out and unfilled because I had no unrestricted creative outlet. I started creating art to simply fill my office. I made a simple yet breathtaking piece of a silhouetted black woman with a massive gold leaf afro. It was fun to create based solely on my imagination, and I absolutely loved the reactions from family and coworkers. Since I hadn’t painted since high school, I wondered if I still had the sensibilities to create more advanced art. I did! As I developed more pieces, I got a handle on my style, and what subject matter bought me joy. I really surprised myself at how quickly those skills came back — it was like riding a bike!

From there, my mother was the first person to encourage me to start showcasing my work since I had built up quite a collection. After strumming up the courage, I started vending my art at small events, gaining confidence to apply to various art exhibitions. As people recognized my art more in the area, I received invitations to showcase my work in multiple shows. I finally had my first solo exhibition in 2017, just one year after starting my art journey. Soon after, the same art collection was requested for another solo exhibition in 2018.

After accomplishing such a significant goal for myself, I felt lost. I took an extensive break from painting. Although I created pieces sporadically, I was bored with my painting style. I had no idea of my next artistic evolution. A mentor asked me why I make art and what it means to me. I bumbled to find an answer — talking in circles. They let me know that once I understood my “why,” the art would flow.

Everything clicked after a trip to West Africa for my 30th birthday in 2019. The generational trauma of slavery and the disconnect between Africa and our ancestors creates a dissonance for many African Americans. It was clear I was channeling my connections to Africa in my prior work. But I didn’t consciously understand what I was trying to communicate. I finally recognized I’ve been creating art rooted in uplifting my fellow people of the African diaspora.

As that revelation sunk in, my art well constantly overflowed. Since then, I dove headfirst into collaging — exploring the unlimited potential in that art style. Now I can unabashedly say I use art to explore the intersections of culture, race, spirituality, identity, and sensuality — addressing stereotypes and misconceptions that (continue to) confront people of color today. All the while celebrating the vastness of the human spirit, reinforcing ideas of individuality and self-love.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road certainly hasn’t been smooth, but I have adopted the mindset that there are great lessons and successes on the other side of life’s challenges. Most of my struggles relate to business snafus aside from finding my “why” on my art journey.

I’ve shelled out a pretty penny for opportunities that I should’ve known wouldn’t pan out. And there have been instances where I should have spotted the BS a mile away. From those experiences, I learned valuable lessons to ALWAYS get things in writing and read, reread, and reread again.

Additionally, I’ve tapped more into my intuition. If an opportunity doesn’t feel right in my gut, I don’t push myself to take it on out of fear of missing out.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My art is known for its vivid and captivating reflections of African ancestry, Black culture, and spiritual enlightenment. Art being timely — I provide a respite and rejuvenation from a heavy, complicated world. It’s the warm embrace of a loved one after a long day — the person that nurtures and uplifts you.

While I have worked in photography and painting, I currently create primarily through physical and digital collage. I got started in collage during the initial COVID quarantine in 2020. I found myself bored with painting and wanted to explore new ways of creating. I gathered old images I used for painting inspiration and recyclable material with dynamic textures and patterns, like greeting cards and gift wrap. Once I got the hang of the material and adhesives to use, I explored unconventional material I could incorporate in my collages. My favorite material to date is fabric flowers because they provide rich color palettes, dynamic textures, and irregular shapes.

As I established my style and subjects, collaging reminded me of my ancestor’s ability to create new ways of existing from disparate sources. While ties to their indigenous homes were broken, they blended their knowledge and skills in a new world to survive and persevere. Similarly, collage fuses various repurposed material, each with a distinct meaning, combined to create new connections and connotations that captivate and engage the mind.

What sets me apart is that Afrocentrism and innovative thinking are steady undercurrents in my art — no matter the style I work in. My art inherently celebrates and gives reverence to my ancestors and the lived experiences of the African diaspora. I approach art through the lens of innovation, constantly thinking of what’s new and different and how to evolve my style. I receive consistent feedback that you never know what I’ll create next, which keeps people engaged and fascinated.

I recently expanded my collage style for a local restaurant, Wacky Waffles Cafe, located at 40 N Streeper Street. The owner wanted pop art pieces that echoed his brand, so I created six large waffle pieces with “wacky” syrup trickling down them. Each piece makes distinct and enchanting visuals using fabric flower petals, African wax print fabric, silver-painted twine, and copious amounts of glitter. I had a blast working on those pieces and continue to enjoy seeing his customers fascinated by them.

I’m ecstatic to share that I’ve booked two solo exhibitions for May 2022 at the Strathmore in Bethesda, MD, and August 2023 at the Art League in Alexandria, VA. The upcoming May exhibit is an extension of my collage portrait collection. As I expand on the series, I’m amazed at my life experiences reflected in the art. Similarly, the abstract collage art for the 2023 show started as a reflection of lessons I learned through life and therapy. As I expand the collection, it has grown to highlight the visceral emotional connections we all have with color.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking?
I would undoubtedly categorize myself as a risk-taker. I’ve learned to trust my gut when opportunities present themselves. Don’t second guess your first inclination if it feels good or bad. If time allows, it is great to research and ponder before making a final decision. But if you don’t take risks, you’re not in the running to win the rewards. You can also end up playing the “what if” scenarios, which are obnoxiously negative and mentally draining.

One of my favorite quotes to live by is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I’m not sure who said it first, but I heard it first from reading Jenifer Lewis’ memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood. From what I recognize, when people have to be vulnerable and possibly get rejected, they opt for the safe route of doing nothing. You don’t get ahead in life, especially Black people in America, by playing small. So I figure, if I have nothing to lose and the worst that can happen is receiving a no, I might as well shoot all the shots I can.

And sometimes, that means finding your own way of accomplishing what you want. If you want to achieve a goal, but you’re not putting yourself out there, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. So take a chance on yourself!

Pricing:

  • Originals range from $300-$5,000.
  • Reproductions range from $20-$500.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Traffic Box Art Wraps, Blood Memories Exhibition, and Rashad Ali Muhammad

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