Hey there! Welcome back to our Conversation with Aramis Hamer, Seattle-based painter, muralist, spiritual adventurer, and all-around ball of light.
This is part II of a two-part interview. Be sure to check out part I here!
Aramis's Patreon subscribers are granted access to an audio recording of the full interview. For that and other goodies (and, obviously, to support one badass artist), you can subscribe here.
Beginning in 2022, for every Conversations feature, Tako Agency is donating a non-tax deductible $300 to an organization of the interviewee's choosing. Aramis has chosen Vivid Matter Collective -- an artist collective based in Seattle, WA who've started a fund for other local artists. We love creatives helping creatives. 🤝
If you'd also like to contribute to this awesome org, you can do so via PayPal: tdubcustoms206(at)gmail(dot)com, payable to Vivid Matter Collective, C/O Takiyah Ward.
Enjoy! xx Emma, COO + Content Manager
Black artists in the U.S. have historically been denied access to the education, funding, opportunities, and notoriety white artists have enjoyed. The white gaze has long determined whose stories are told, what's given value, and what's worthy of being recorded and remembered. Looking in from the outside – and I apologize if my whiteness shows here – that seems to be genuinely shifting. Would you say that's accurate?
You know…absolutely. Here's the thing. I love history, and when you look back at history, there are always these cycles…these peaks of consciousness. Then complacency creeps in, like we're kind of back to our regular lives, but then – oh – the peak comes back up.
So I would say that we're at a point in history where yes, there is a change that has taken place. But there have been many moments throughout time where similar things have occurred that caused radical political and social change.
I think the reason it seems like there's true change this time around is that we have more tools to consume what’s actually taking place in the world. We get the news, we get social media, the internet, everybody has a camera. Everybody has a phone. My thing is that this feels like a monumental moment for me, but I was born in 1989. My grandmother would say, in 1969, she saw some major things that changed the world...but we’re still having the same problems.
I think what's gonna be important now is financial freedom. The wealth gap is the most… [pauses] like, people can love my art all day. People can love Black people all day – the culture, the music, everything, but
…if the capital isn't there for marginalized communities to actually fund change in their lives, it doesn't matter whether somebody is smiling at me or calling me the N word. We aren't in the same financial position, to be able to make long lasting change.
It's gonna take a whole lot more than a blackout post on Instagram. There needs to be an understanding that when a race has been systemically and institutionally marginalized for centuries, that impacts their children, their children's children, their children's children's children's children.
I want to break this down further, because I feel like we say the words “systemic” and “institutionalized” a lot but like, we don't really break down what that means.
When I first heard the word systemic, it was in healthcare. Systemic is full-body. When somebody has a systemic infection, it isn’t localized. It’s not just a scratch on their arm that needs antibiotic ointment. No. When somebody has systemic infection, their entire body has activated its immune response. That means every cell in the body is undergoing trauma – every single cell.
So in terms of a society, systemically means that their entire system has been formulated in a way that keeps a particular race or gender – whatever entity – separate. That means that another systemic issue has to take place in order to heal it. You know?
What started in 2020 is more than whatever things we’ve done – because I think as human beings, we feel like we have to do things (like donating and social media “campaigning”). What's even more beautiful is the conversations that are happening. I think people are actually starting to question, not only ”Why is the Black Lives Matter movement a thing?”, but also “Why are we sick?”
When you ask questions, you get answers – or at least peel a bit of the veil back – and you can start to use this new level of awareness and consciousness in every single interaction you have.
To me, all this stuff seems so silly anyway – I’m more likely to be thinking about aliens than I am about race [laughs]. But in the context of this conversation, those questions need to be asked every day. It's like, “OK. I’ve went to the gym every day for like three weeks. I'm good now.” No. This needs to be an entire lifestyle change.
That's what my hope is: that the conversations are going to lead to real change. I almost feel like it has to happen in the way that you're talking about; it has to be a consciousness shift. And then that shift has to – returning to that systemic thing – make its way from cell to cell, to cell, to cell…until there's a tipping point. I guess that's what we're kind of all hoping for, right?
100%. When you were reading your earlier question – which was a beautiful one, by the way – talking about how Black artists haven’t been given the same resources that other individuals have, what came to my mind was writers, specifically.
I have a dear friend, Kamari Bright, who is a phenomenal poet and model. She’s published books and everything. Then you think about the fact that, historically, it was illegal for Black people to even read. How do you go back and undo that? You can't.
So it's like, let's move forward in a way where we're being cognizant of that…and provide even more resources, more access, more capital.
There's so many things that I'm learning. I was watching this phenomenal documentary on Netflix called Crip Camp. We talk about the Civil Rights Movement a lot, but there was a whole ‘nother movement going on for people with disabilities in the 60s and 70s. They were literally fighting to have ramps and elevators installed in buildings. Like…I was never told! You can feel pride to be part of such a moment in history (like the Civil Rights Movement or the events of 2020), but then it’s just like, man…I need to learn more. We can only do what we can with the knowledge we have. You know?
I really appreciate the way you communicate these things…it’s really helpful to me. Your philosophy reminds me of Myisha T. Hill; are you familiar with her? She wrote Check Your Privilege and now it’s a whole organization. I’ve seen recently some people who are like, “Stop calling us activists just because we’re Black and we’re talking about things.” And I think those people have a right to be really pissed off.
I was frustrated with the whole, like…”now I'm an activist” thing too. I'm a muralist. I’m just here to paint.
I'm not making a political statement because I'm painting a Black woman. I'm a Black woman painting myself.
Part of the problem in this country is the fact that things related to race – and social justice in general – are politicized. So you talk about humanity and people are like, why are you talking about politics? It’s like, CAN YOU STOP!
Oh my gosh, no. So true. We're not talking about politics. We’re talking about a human experience.
I think it's an easy way out. “Oh, that's politics. I don't want to talk about politics.” It makes it easy.
Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely.
So I saw your bae – is he a husband or a partner?
He’s my husband.
OK, yes, your hubby. That man modeled one of your scarves for you. And he– so, first of all, your chemistry pops off the screen. You're that couple, you know? Ugh! But besides that, he’s obviously really supportive of you, so this is your chance to throw him some spotlight. [laughs] Can you tell us about him?
[laughs] Oh my God. I love that man. I tell him that all the time and he's always like, “Babe you would be so fine without me.” And I'm like, honestly, I could not do what I do without him. Don't even get me emotional. Because artists — we’re crazy. [laughs] He keeps me tethered to this earth. You see my work; it’s ethereal and cosmic and I feel like I could easily go into space mentally, you know? He's a major grounding force.
I also get emotional because we've been together for a long time. He was my prom date.
Oh wow! I was gonna ask how you met!
Mmhm. Since I was 17. So to have been with me that long and for us to be together and still have such a beautiful relationship…it's just crazy. It's surreal to me. I genuinely never take our relationship for granted because I feel like out of everything in this world…we all just want love. Whether somebody is trying to get attention or be famous or have money, it all kind of comes down to the fact that they just want to be seen and want to be loved, you know?
So to know I have a partner who just seals that for me… I don't take it for granted at all. And to have somebody who is supportive of my craft. I can’t imagine having a partner who's not supportive of my work because I couldn't do it to the fullest. There would always be tension. I don't really work well with tension.
During my transition from nursing to working as an artist full time, we were up and down financially. I was just like any small business owner in the early years. He was working full time at Amazon, so he was the bedrock for us, you know? When I say I couldn't have done it without him…like emotionally — yeah. But also financially. Now he’s actually quit his job and I'm the breadwinner, which feels really amazing. He made that sacrifice for so long. I'm here because of his support.
I am just so pleased you have that—and you can see it in the images of you two. You can feel it. OK, next question. I noted (in one of your Instagram Stories) a beautiful list of self-care practices – ways that you remind yourself to come back to center. What do your days look like?
I'm really protective of my time. And, right now, I’m the most balanced I’ve felt in years. But you know, everybody has their season. I was in the grind season in the beginning. I was just going, going, going. I was at every show, every festival – I did everything. Now I have a team, I have balance – and also an understanding of what is actually worth my time!
When you’re in the beginning, you really don't know what's actually going to move the needle for you. Now I'm able to make quicker decisions, so my days look really chill. Part of the reason I’m resting today…it’s my lunar slow day; it’s actually in my calendar. Started my period, so I take a rest day. This conversation is the only thing on my calendar. After that, I’m laying down, chilling. I'm drinking tea and just having a day.
I plan my life in a way that honors my flow cycle because…well, there's a phenomenal book called Wild Power. It’s all about honoring your sacred cycles, especially when it comes down to the female body and our different moons and stuff. I have a better understanding of, OK, I know my flow is coming up. I'm going to be a little bit more tired. Or OK, this other week, I have a spike in estrogen. And I kind of plan the content around those cycles. Now that I've systematized a lot of things, I’ve established better self care routines – that and delegating, of course.
I have my studio assistant Nalisha in Seattle, so she's able to go to the store for me, pick up art supplies, drop off my artwork at different galleries. Then I have my virtual assistant, Shannon, in Oregon. She handles the emails, scheduling, etc.…so now I don't have to do all the admin stuff. I've focused my energy on creating art and content.
My husband and I are thinking about starting a family next year. I'm really excited about that, but kinda nervous. I'm like, OK, I might need even more systems, more…something…because right now, even though I have a good schedule and I feel like it's balanced, I still can't really imagine a kid in my day. Like, how would that fit?
Don't get me wrong. I make time to rest, but I am still decently busy. So when I think about having a family, I’m like…Well, maybe I'll take some time off. What does taking time off look like? How do I still generate income?
Ohhh, but you know what? I already see you. I see you with that baby, all like, in one of those little wrappy things, and you're getting down to your music and painting…I totally see it. [laughs]
I see it 100%. And I'm excited. I'm excited for life.
I’m excited for you. OK. Who are three creatives you admire?
Definitely Kehinde Wiley. He painted the portrait of Barack Obama. I applied for his Black Rock residency in Senegal, so we’re putting that out into the universe.
Oh yes yes yes.
Phenomenal, phenomenal artist. I just love the position that he paints Black people in. Just in this, like, regal tradition — like traditional European style…and he’s sort of reclaiming that power, you know? So beautiful. And he’s such a talented painter.
I love Hebru Brantley too. He’s actually a Chicago artist. He started as a street artist — muralist, spray painting walls — but he also loves cartoons. He does a lot of caricature illustration style work.
He’s pretty well known for a series he did called — well, he actually created this character called Flyboy. And it’s kinda this play on, like, hip-hop flyboy but also The Tuskegee Airmen. He’s such an inspiration because he’s viewed as a fine artist doing large scale oil paintings and portraits… but they’re all cartoon style.
Oh I have to look that up! That sounds cool.
It’s beautiful. I’ve always struggled with the idea, “Oh, I’m a self-taught artist, I’m not like a ‘fine artist’ and I really wanna be in that, like, ‘elite space,’” you know? He has transcended into that space using a medium and a style of work that isn’t traditionally seen there. But I guess nowadays — there’s nothing that’s “tradition”. Everything is kinda rogue out there. [laughs]
Oh…of course! Ashley Longshore. You gotta look her up. New Orleans artist. She’s hilarious. She reminds me that I can unapologetically be myself and still be a fine artist. She was featured in Forbes Magazine, as a top selling artist.
She did these hilarious paintings of [phrases], like “I don’t fly commercial” and “I drink wine for breakfast”. All these kinda silly quirky meme things, but it’s contemporary art that is viewed with such high esteem. She’s unapologetically herself. Fun, silly, beautiful, dancing on her Instagram. She’s quirky. She also has a YouTube channel.
*Writer's note: this is a personal favourite of mine from Longshore's collection of works. lol
I always struggle with How do I define [myself as an] artist? Should I be more elusive? Should I be more like, ya know, “reserved”? But then it’s just like: Yeah, no. She posts funny videos. She truly shows her character. She shows her humor. She’s just who she is.
Her work is phenomenal. I love all the colors she uses. She even uses rhinestones, which are considered a bit of a… DIY craft material, not really something you would see with the high-brow fine art. And she uses them boldly.
Oh I can see the connection — why you would like her. That's how I felt about you, when I found you...totally by accident. I was researching the possibility of buying rolled canvas and I found your video about rolled versus stretched canvas.
Oh, on YouTube! That’s awesome!
I love that I love that I love that. Yes a lot of people found me through that video.
Yeah, so the way you’re describing Ashley Longshore is what I saw in you. I actually stopped in the middle of the video, screenshot it, sent it to Emma and said, “I want her in the series! I just do! Oh my God I love her!” And also I learned something, which was awesome. That’s that energy that I took from you. You really do send out what feels unapologetic, authentic energy. It's very cool. It’s inspirational.
Thank you! That’s affirming for me. It’s like, “Keep showing up in that way.” That’s the same thing that draws me to other creators. I don’t have to be some, ya know, modern Picasso. I can just be me. I’m glad that you see that in me.
What advice would you give to young Black creators, specifically?
I would tell them: Raise your prices.
Period, point blank. There are so many talented Black artists out here, and… this is why I love hanging out with mediocre white men. They think they’re the shit. And I’m like, “Oh, you just decided — you just embody that?”
Now, there’s of course a whole lot of layers to that. But it’s also like, you aren’t even that good and you have that level of confidence? Then there are so many talented people out here who second guess themselves. Doubt themselves. Doubt their worthiness — “Am I good enough?” And whenever I’m around a mediocre white dude — [pauses]
For example, I remember I was painting a mural right next to this other artist. It was a whole building of murals. I charged a certain amount for my mural. The guy right next to me, his work was smaller and – I’m gonna say it: inferior — sorry for however that sounds but it kinda is what it is. He was being paid double my rate.
That’s literally just because the employer asked us our rates. I said “this number” and the mediocre white artist next to me said “that number.” And we both got our checks signed. We both got what we asked for. There are so many artists out here who are damn good and they still doubt themselves every day.
Go hang out with a mediocre white male artist. He’ll remind you to raise your prices.
And if you’re a Black woman, you have that intersectionality going on…
So much. So many layers. I was like, [claps] “Oh wait, have I been underselling myself–” and…yup! Women, we do that all the time. It’s sad.
It’s conditioning, right? The further you go — you actually touched on this earlier — you start to awaken about one thing and all of a sudden all of these things get into your peripheral and you’re like, “Wait a minute! That’s a problem too!”
Alright, well I’m gonna let you off the hook after one more very important question.
What’s your favorite taco filling? Do you even like tacos?
I love tacos, but what do you mean “filling”? There’s all sorts of stuff inside…
Yaaa. Which part of that would be your favorite? What do you like to stuff in a tortilla?
Well, definitely guacamole.
OK, we can be friends. YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY OF MY GUACAMOLE. But we can be friends.
[Laughs] Mmhm. I love guacamole. This has been fantastic, Cindy. Oh, and of course we would end at 1:11. Of course. Perfect timing. That’s synchronicity. I see 11s all the time.
All our love to Aramis for her time and energy during the production of this interview. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our next feature, going live in the coming months. ❤️