From ‘Insecure' to Issa Rae's Personal Collection - Here Are 4 Artists Worthy of Your Attention

By Gabrielle Pharms | November 12, 2021

Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Insecure or has had the privilege of visiting the abode of our cover star Issa Rae can figure out she’s a big fan of the art world. For example, in the fourth season of Insecure, Issa Dee (played by Rae) has the artworks of emerging artist Nakeya Brown displayed on her apartment wall. Rae tells EDITION contributor Kimberly Drew, “Art should feel like it’s a piece of you, it’s yours.” To Rae’s point, when a piece of art resonates with you, it becomes part of you - an impactful experience that changes your perspective forever.

Rae’s penchant for supporting the art scene, primarily Black creators, in Insecure and in her own home, is intentional and stems from her late aunt Rae Louise Hayward. As an artist and organizer in the Bay Area, Hayward co-founded a collective for underrepresented artists called The Art of Living Black and used HaRae for the Arts as part of her brand. Rae says, “My aunt was my gateway into the medium of art. She was very passionate about letting her nieces and nephews learn about artists like Jacob Lawrence. She saw a lack of representation in terms of Black artists being able to showcase their work in the Bay Area, and I resonate with that so much in the entertainment industry.”

Taking a cue from Rae, we highlight four artists she has name-checked and spotlights in her collection or has featured on Insecure. Tre Crews, Adrienne Wade, Hasef, and Hana Ward expound on the inspiration behind each work displayed below.

Tre Crews

Tre Crews had print features on the fourth season of Insecure and will have pieces in the current run. In addition, Tre personally curated a print collection for Rae, which now hangs in her new production office space.

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The inspiration behind this image really comes from experimentation. Fashion can be captured in a very straightforward way which is fine, but I also like to use the garments in ways that could be interesting but still highlight the subject. As for my approach to the mood, I typically try not to limit my mind and eye to capturing something too specific, especially with this shoot since it was a test. However, this image has been a popular one since I put it out. I think what draws viewers to this image is the contrast in the colors, the softness that's still covering the entire image while your eyes are clearly drawn to the model’s face and soft doe-eyed expression.

I can say that I am coming to a place in my work where I'm challenging myself more to think bigger and not letting go of those big ideas. When I took this image, I was approaching my fourth month of living in New York. I think seeing the exponential growth from this striking image to where I am now is crazy and serves as a good reminder to keep going. Growth is what serves as a huge component of my work and being open to learning new things along the journey.

Adrienne Wade

As mentioned in our cover feature, while working on a talk show, Rae connected with Adrienne Wade, who had been working as a sound mixer. After their time together on set, Rae learned that Wade was a talented artist and added two abstract murals to her collection. Regarding Wade’s artwork, Rae says, “There’s something where I get to interpret it for myself but also clearly understand what she was feeling at the moment.”

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This specific piece represents the return of an ancient goddess in modern melanin. This is inspired by our return to (w)holism and knowing. Both the ancient world and where we’re heading requires us to tap into something far, far greater than what this illusion pretends to offer us. This commitment and unwavering desire to elevate, heal, and build in harmony with our soul is one of the many keys that will unlock this path. Strengthening this connection inspired this piece.

Mood: empowered, connected, and whole.

The most important component is honoring authenticity and soul flow. Creativity is a gateway that connects us to the source of life. This allows each of us to tap into our unique gifts. To dig deeper, to share, to sit with whatever work is required to transcend so we can grow and expand the power of love and liberation.

Hasef

Praised L.A.-based artist Hasef created a commissioned art piece for Hilltop Cafe Slauson. Rae, pictured here, is donning a Hilltop tee featuring Hasef’s creation. Furthermore, Hasef pays it forward by educating and mentoring young aspiring artists.

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The inspiration behind this piece was developed by a picture I saw of Jay Versace. I thought to myself, how come I don’t see more artworks of Black men just being. So, I started a drawing series of drawings of different Black men, whether found images or pictures I have captured. I just want the image of Black men to be diverse. Showing and depicting the many shades we come in and hair textures.

The most important component of my artworks is that people get to think and experience the Black male in a different way that’s not sexual or stereotypical. The other component would be the colors. I use bright background colors to engage my viewers and keep looking deeper into the artwork.

Hana Ward

The talented artist Hana Ward’s stunning paintings and ceramic works pay homage to her ancestors. In her artist statement, she says, “When I paint, I try to look for guidance from the people who came before me. Fathers, grandfathers, mothers, grandmothers, and far beyond that. I feel this push, a prodding, from the people who came before me.”

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This piece was a reflection of the feeling of trying to hold things together, mostly for others. I made it in the summer of 2020 and was painting it at my sister’s house, where she (like so many other Black women) were feeling the pain and frustration from state-sanctioned violence, the invisibility of the murders of women, and the general sense of sadness and frustration from the global pandemic. I watched my sister work from home every day in her corporate job and have to operate like things were normal. I think a lot of people had to do this, and it seemed frustrating and unnatural, like a contortion. The two-piece part kind of touches on the pressure to “make it cute” - like “contort, but make it cute.”

I think the most important component in my work is actually color. It’s often what prompts me to make a piece of work, or it’s the part that makes it fun for me. Mixing colors and finding what to put next to each other is one of the most satisfying parts.

Photography by: Tre Crews, Adrienne Wade, Hasef, Hana Ward