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Q&A with Rashad Ali Muhammad
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Q&A with Rashad Ali Muhammad

August 2023 Solo Artist Rashad Ali Muhammad

By Julia Chance

 

If you’ve visited the second floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, perhaps you have seen Rashad Ali Muhammad in his studio deconstructing artificial flowers, or collaging the multitude of faux petals and leaves into colorful, mesmerizing works of art. A series of these creations comprise his solo exhibit Petal Reverie: From Trauma to Beauty, on view at The Art League Gallery through September 3.

“The collection for this exhibit is based on the abstract style I created during the COVID-19 quarantine, where I used art to process the world’s chaos,” says Muhammad. “The inspiration for this exhibition was using color theory and patterns to create calming and rejuvenating art. In a sense, it’s a form of escapism to reduce stress and anxiety. 

For him, collage combines intention, investigation, and invention, dissecting established references and reassembling them to create new compelling visions. The limitless opportunity to incorporate unconventional elements, he says,  fulfills his passion for exploration and continued learning.

Here, the Clinton, Maryland native, shares his early artistic inclinations, process, and what he hopes people glean from his art.

 

What was the first thing you created that you were particularly proud of, and how old were you?

I created an Earth Day poster that was used in a calendar for a government agency. I think I was between 8 and 12. 

 

Field of Dreams by Rashad Ali Muhammad; Collage

 

When did you know that you were an artist?

I knew I had artistic sensibilities in middle school art class. My classmates always ooh’d and aah’d the art I created. 

 

Are you an artist full-time, or do you have another occupation?

I’m not a full-time artist. I work as a full-time and freelance graphic designer. I like to say I’m a full-time creator. 

 

Where did you study art?

I was pretty much the art kid in high school. My art teacher encouraged me to explore painting, photography, and film. I started college at American University, intending to be a film major. I wanted to be a music video and advertising director. But throughout my studies, I switched to graphic design because it felt like the best way to use my creative sensibilities to make a living. 

 

What about your art study has best served you in your artistic pursuits? 

Always be curious and experiment. 

 

Is there anything you weren’t taught that you wished you were?

It would have been great to learn how to navigate the business of art. 

 

How do you describe the type of art you create?

The type of art I create is mixed media analog and digital collage. I describe my artistry as vivid, innovative, whimsical, and enchanting. 

 

What are the ideas or questions that drive your artwork? 

At the core of my art practice, my driving focus is showcasing the intricacies of our human existence—the expansive intersections that shape our lives and how we can relate to each other beyond the surface.

 

Rashad Ali Muhammad at work in his studio.

Describe your process.

I dismantle artificial flower arrangements into individual petals and leaves. I then draw a loose design on the canvas. I typically start with a specific color palette in mind, but it can shift as I create each piece. Finally, I use hot glue to adhere the petals or leaves to the surface. I tightly place the petals or leaves in a way that fully covers the surface to create a fully immersive sensation. 

 

What is Petal Reverie: From Trauma to Beauty about?

The “Petal” portion is a direct reflection of the flower petals. “Reverie” is a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts, a daydream. It reflects meditation and my time spent in nature to get lost in thought. The process of individually placing each petal put me in a meditative space so I could turn the world’s trauma into something beautiful.  

 

You proposed your show two years ago. Has it changed much from what you initially proposed? 

If anything has changed, it’s how I communicate and relate to the artwork. When I first proposed this show, I had only created this style less than six months before applying. After working on these pieces and experiencing life, I better understood the meaning behind this series. 

 

What do you hope viewers glean from your exhibit?

Beyond feeling uplifted, I want to inspire viewers. I want viewers to think of alternative ways to create art. As a mixed-media collage artist, I focus on upcycling everyday material and objects, so I want viewers to get inspired to see outside the box in what can be used to make art.

 

Do you make art daily?

If not daily, then just about every day. Art is work; we all need breaks to rest and fill our inspiration tanks. 

 

What artists, contemporary or past, inspire you and why?

That can be a whole conversation in itself. Some artists I’m currently inspired by are El Anatsui, Zhuang Hong-Yi, Lina Iris Viktor, and Vince Fraser. The common thread among these artists and others that inspire me is that they are innovative and distinctive. 

 

Are you currently working on anything?

[LOL] I’m perpetually working on things. Among my current projects are a commission from an architecture firm for a new residential building in Southwest D.C. My Allure series, where I use up-cycled fabrics and paper to create mesmerizing veiled portraits. The series is based on a painting I made in 2016. A longer term undertaking is braiding plastic bags with up-cycled fabrics to eventually create large-scale tapestries, similar to El Anatsui’s, that are a commentary on how plastic and fast fashion affect the environment

 

How did the period of pandemic sheltering in place affect you creatively?

It really helped me flourish! I stopped painting and shifted to collaging, which has been my favorite form to create in.

 

Petal Mini No18 by Rashad Ali Muhammad; Collage

 

If you weren’t making art, what would you be doing?

I would still be doing some form of creating in general. More than likely, I would’ve started a creative agency or worked as a creative director for a brand. 

 

What is next for you?

Many things are coming next. I’ll continue making my own clothes and possibly start a fashion brand. I have my eye on curating and am currently learning about the ins and outs. 

I am in exhibitions through the end of the year including Leave It On the Board, an exhibit of embellished skateboards at Honfleur Gallery through Sept 16; the Superfine Art Fair at Union Market in October; and a duo exhibition with another local artist at Homme DC in early December. And a major goal is to be acquired by a museum or the Library of Congress.

 

Is there something in your artistry that you are still working to achieve?

I don’t think so. I’ve reached a place in my artistry where I know what’s driving my practice. Once I figured that out, everything fell into place. I approach my art and life holistically, where everything fuels my desire to create and share my vision with the world. 

 

Rashad Ali Muhammad’s must-have items when making art:

” A wireless hot glue gun, headphones, and scissors.”

 

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