Juneteenth is a time of reflection, to contemplate the past that we share as a society while moving toward an equitable future through genuine allyship.
It marks the day that celebrations were held in 1865 after federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX and declared freedom for more than 250,000 enslaved people in the state — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Over the years, it has expanded into a celebration of the accomplishments and culture of African Americans worldwide — building a story of renewal and growth through community.
For one of our own designers at ATOMIC D, Nyree Wright, it’s also an opportunity to both honor her past and define her future through the artistic interpretation of what the day means to her.
In our latest edition of the ATOMIC-Me blog series — spotlighting ATOMIC D team members and their creative pursuits — we spoke with Nyree about her artistic stylings and the inspiration she draws from history, her surroundings and contemporaries.
At her local Juneteenth celebrations this year held in Roanoke, Virginia, Nyree will be displaying and selling a number of original artworks — all dedicated to shining a light on Black characters, themes and motifs.
Nyree has spent the last several weeks preparing for the show by creating a number of pieces that span various media, formats and materials — including digital art, paint and collage.
Gathering her inspiration from modern fashions and artists to older cultural items like African masks and Egyptian architecture, her aim is to showcase “what was once not the standard of beauty to what is now our truth.”
“I feel it is very necessary to show the beauty and culture of melanated people, therefore, I spotlight melanated people in my work,” said Nyree — describing her own style as a bit rough and yet a bit undefined.
“The old norms used to have melanated people adjust their beauty and culture to fit into European standards of beauty,” she said. “I showcase all that is beautiful in us already, from our culture, our hair, our skin and our contributions to society such as architecture.”
Like any artist, she looks to those that came before her that spotlight and lionize their individual and collective stories and heritage — like illustrator Bijou Karman, or unconventional minds like Jean-Michel Basquiat or digital artists such as Jade Purple Brown.
Their influence can be seen in her use of bold colors, big shapes and symbolic icons of Black history pitted throughout.
This weekend, Nyree will be showcasing a number of new pieces at a local Juneteenth event. The festivities will include music, food, and an outdoor market, where she will have a booth.
What does she hope people will take away from her art?
“Honestly, a sense of pride from where we came from or an appreciation of unconventional beauty standards,” Nyree said.
A few pieces she’s looking forward to sharing with the public: “I'm excited to show off my rebel boys and I'm doing a couple pieces featuring melanated revolutionaries and ancient Egypt,” Nyree said.
“These are the people that stood up and shouted for change. These are the people that wanted to make a difference in the way we treat one another. I want to showcase these people. Seldom does staying silent help solve anything.”
Like the celebration of Juneteenth, Nyree’s art speaks to both the dark past and vibrant culture of melanated people living in America, across various eras in our history.
But, she says it’s important because it shows our future generations the weight of the past and what can become of the future, and congregates people in the exchange of ideas around how we can become greater together.
“It's important to me personally because I want my son to see that with unity and ideas you can change the narrative,” said Nyree.