Deun Ivory's Art Inspires a Deeper Love
This feature is in the March/April Next Wave Issue. Click here to subscribe.
The well-known adage “art for art’s sake” suggests that artists reserve the inalienable right to make art at will, relying solely on, and being justified fully by, sheer inspiration. Yet as it relates to visual artists of color, such liberties are replaced by a deeper mandate for the work.
Such is the case with the Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary creative Deun Ivory.
Deun Ivory. PHOTO COURTESY OF DEUN IVORY
Through her nonprofit wellness organization, The Body: A Home For Love, the Houston, Texas, native creates art with a deeper, more spiritual assignment: to serve as a reflection of the Black woman’s journey to heal past traumas, specifically as it relates to sexual abuse.
We spoke with the creative about the power of public healing, why beauty is a necessity and passion behind her work.
A still from Deun Ivory’s Black Women Are Worthy short film, which was released in April 2021 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month PHOTO COURTESY OF DEUN IVORY
Understanding that you were not formally trained as an artist, where would you say that your talent comes from?
They are all gifts. Photography is something that comes to me naturally, and I sharpen that skill as I move forward. I dance, write, sing and I am also a filmmaker. All these disciplines are a part of the greater work.
How would you express the intentions attached to your art?
At their core, these works are love offerings—an extension of my healing journey and a perspective on what I believe beauty looks like. Before I fully knew what it was, people saw themselves in my work, like I was reflecting something restorative.
A self-portrait of the creator. PHOTO COURTESY OF DEUN IVORY
Who were your early champions who encouraged you to lean into your gifts?
I was the black sheep of the family, but my mother, who had me at 16, always gave me the permission and freedom to become authentically myself. Removing barriers allowed me to be who I wanted to be; she made the sky the limit.
Why was it necessary for art to come and rescue you?
Art was my escape. As with many Black people, when we experience trauma, we need a way to release in some form. I began publicly healing. Working on my inner child. Using my imagination in that way.
Where would you say your creative path is leading you?
The creative path is always leading me to return home to myself, to a place of sustainable joy as a Black woman. That pursuit is what informs my work. It’s where I create from. It’s how I make decisions in my life. God is pushing me through my art, to push myself and Black women forward to experience joy.