8 Palms: In Conversation with Transdisciplinary Artist, B. Anele
There's not much Los Angeles-based artist B. Anele can't do. From fashion to painting, Anele has applied their unique voice to a variety of mediums. The 26-year-old artist works and lives out of 8 Palms, their own studio and shop. The store acts as a platform to carry the works and garments of other designers and artists like Anele. Dripping in color and creativity, Anele's studio is part mad-scientist lab and part immersive retailer. Constantly experimenting with different mediums, Anele works in painting, tattooing, fashion design, performance art, and installation, just to name a few. Playful and subversive, a lot of Anele's work explores ideas surrounding queerness, the body, identity, and activism through expression.
Utilizing popular culture imagery of the 1990s and early 2000s (such as cartoon figures, flames, op-art patterns, and tie-dye), Anele's style is not confined to a particular genre. In performance art, Anele employs their own body as a sort of jester-like character, expressing through the act of consumption, noise and interpretive dance. Absurdist, sensual and humorous all at once, Anele's practice continually evolves, invoking the help of their friends and fellow artists. Collaboration within 8palms community is crucial, Anele pools the creative energy of others, people like Emma Kohlmann, Hanan Sharifa and Heather Benjamin to create fresh and exciting work together.
As part of our #westcoaststudiotour, I had the good fortune of sitting down with B. Anele to talk about their practice, the culture of Los Angeles, and what it means to be a person in 2019. Take a look below.
Jessica Ross: Let’s start with the basics, shall we? What kind of work do you make and where are you from?
B. Anele: I am a transdisciplinary artist, so my work moves freely between all mediums with the exclusion of music, but I’m working on that too. I’m from Houston, Texas but now based in Los Angeles.
When did 8palms begin and how has it grown since its inception? What’s next?
8 Palms began in 2015. In the beginning, the pieces I made were solely intended to be sculptural and only exhibited as art pieces. Now, I make ready-to-wear items, I’m seen as a fashion brand/designer, and own a brick and mortar store where I sell my wearable works. I’d love to put on an experimental fashion exhibition as part of New York Fashion Week.
Who is the "dreamer" character that appears again and again in your work? Are they a mouse, a bear, a memory?
The dreamer character takes its form from Mickey Mouse. I became drawn to using this form because its ubiquity in popular culture makes it into a sort of blank canvas I can be free to manipulate in any way without ever escaping familiarity. I’ve always been drawn to the surreal or fantastic intertwined with the familiar. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality or denying the existence of that line altogether.
You clearly jump between things, dabbling in everything from painting to tattooing to fashion. How does variety keep it interesting? What have you been dying to try?
Moving between each medium has always been my natural inclination. It creates a limitlessness to the extent of my world. I really want to try making music and performing it live. I’ve been practicing electric guitar and trombone, we’ll see where it goes.
Food appears again and again in your work: through your clothes, your paintings, your performance art. What’s the story there? Does food represent love? Sex? Hate? All of the above?
Food really is the basis for everything. Nothing would be able to exist without the process of consumption. It’s just so fascinating. The fact that, without manipulation, it exists in so many different colors, shapes, smells, tastes, and forms. Then with manipulation, the possibilities are pretty much endless. I guess on the basis I’m obsessed with the concept of limitlessness.
What are your favorite parts of organizing a fashion show? What are the most challenging bits?
I honestly really love the moments when I’m backstage with all of my models in their looks. It sounds kind of crazy, but it feels like a glimpse of my own walking, talking, and giggling world.
What did you want to be when you were younger? What were your first memories of making art or being creative?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. When I was in Kindergarten, we had a “graduation” ceremony where we had to say what we wanted to be into a mic in the auditorium and I said I wanted to be an artist. Since the moment I learned to create, I’ve just never stopped.
Community is undoubtedly a large part of your life and practice. Who are some artists who you love right now? This is your chance to shout some folks out!
I love the artists of my community and extensions of my community for reasons varying between social context, intent and creative inspiration: Clifford Prince King, Alima Lee, Amanda Harris Williams, Precious Okoyomon, Dachi Cole, Narumi Nekpenekpen, Alake Shilling, Martine Syms, Kandis Williams, and Janiva Ellis.
What’s your ultimate dream project? If money were no object?
I wouldn’t say I have an “ultimate” dream project because I don’t want to limit my dreams. But something I would definitely do if money were no object is to create a feature film to be exhibited inside an enormous space with an interactive installation experience.
What’s coming up for you in 2020? Where can we see more of your work?
So far, I have a solo exhibition coming up in February in San Francisco with details to be announced and I will be showing some of my conceptual self-portrait work at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in the spring.