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Local artist feature from UICA: Esan Sommersell

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For Esan Sommersell, making is living. In a world where it's become increasingly difficult to discern fact from fiction, Sommersell's paintings remind us that what we see, hear, touch, and taste cannot be separated from what we feel.
Artist, Esan Sommersell

Artist, Esan Sommersell /Courtesy of the UICA

Underwriting support from:
Art by Esan Sommersell

Art by Esan Sommersell /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Art by Esan Sommersell

Art by Esan Sommersell /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts invites you to learn more about West Michigan's creative workforce, neighboring cultural organizations, and about ways to engage with Grand Rapids' art-scene with interviews and guest features highlighting our local and regional community members. Visit for monthly interviews.

With bold forms and surreal color palettes taken from the landscape of lucid dreams, Esan Sommersell's work is an affirmation of humankind's innate desire to create, to mold, to touch the raw nerve of experience and discover for ourselves what it means to be alive.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my work as "practice" or "trial and error." I'm creating to both understand why I create and also to explore my boundless capabilities. We all have gifts. We all can accomplish anything.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

My relationship with God and what I have learned from that unconditional love has had a huge impact. Learning to love and how to share that love is very necessary. Also, I learn from everything around me -- from the wide variety of colorful people I meet, to the way the wind blows. I don't really have a singular influence; there are many things that motivate me.

Do you have a piece of work which stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

The painting of my first series titled Motivation would have to be the piece that stands out to me. Battling with artist block, depression, and daily struggles as a man of color (amongst other struggles in life) I came across an entrepreneur via social media and was immensely inspired. This woman was very talented and seemed to assertively tackle all of her goals and dreams on a regular basis with magazine premieres, modeling gigs, a graphic design practice, etc. She motivated me to get up and go! I painted her as a symbol -- of lifting off into my galaxy of creation.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I am currently working on a few things, actually. As far as painting, I'll be moving into a new series and will be working with oils rather than acrylics and maybe even a mixture of the two with additional mediums. I'm launching a clothing line soon and lastly, I am in the planning stages of creating a short film series to reach black youth around the world. There's much more on the horizon, but that's all I can say for now.

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

I would like outsiders to both respect and make a conscious effort to learn about artists, art itself, and the idea of art. So much goes into creating art and the world depends on art. Art is beyond a hobby or mere passion. Art is "life" and without art, a vast majority of things would never have come to existence. I digress.

How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?

That is a good-looking question and I have tons of ideas! I will just say that Grand Rapids is moving in the right direction, but more organizations, programs, and most importantly, actual facilities dedicated to art would give the entire city a proper boost.
(So anyone looking for a brilliant man with ideas look no further! I am the man for the job!)

What are you passionate about besides your work?

I absolutely love making music! I go under the name Pluto Monday. You can find my music by searching that name on iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Aside from that, I'm really into movies. I am a film fanatic. I fill my spare time with consistent reading, writing, and studying art and other things I have yet to learn.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

“Art is not created for the masses. The artist creates for himself. He only chooses to allow the masses to see It.”— Unknown

That saying has stuck with me longer than I can remember. I feel as though it has been fused within my soul. We often live our lives for the sake of others; the same applies to the relationship between the artist and the world. I believe it is best to make the line clear so that you may create from a place of pure, free flowing thought. Otherwise, you may be limiting yourself by catering to the world rather than yourself. Create for yourself and keep it genuine.

Looking for more? You can find more about the artist here. Visit Sommersell's website here.

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