Artist/Creative Business Development Consultant, Los Angeles
Disposable Magazine x Urban Outfitters
Chinwe Okona is a multimedia artist, writer, and consultant living in Los Angeles. She moved to California after living in a college town for 4 years. Since moving, she has come across many individuals who all shared with her their experiences and hindrances in their creative processes. She curated and published Palmss Magazine, a collection of interviews with other creative people of color, as a response to her creative insecurities as well as the inspiration of meeting these new people.
Can you describe a typical day in your life.
Whew. I wake up really early during the week and roll myself to my studio corner to send some emails. After coffee and a little breakfast, I’ll either leave the house to work at a coffee shop with a friend, or work hermit-style from my house in pajamas all day. On days where I don’t have meetings or a heavy workload, I try to take a break in the middle of the day or in the late afternoon to visit an art gallery or museum.
At night, I tend to work on my personal art projects into the wee hours of the morning; I’m a true insomniac.
As an artist, what challenges do you meet?
Time and vulnerability. I feel like my best work makes visible a lot of the feelings that I only share with those closest to me. It can be exhausting to be that open and allow the possibility of critique. In terms of time, balancing art with obligations like work and personal health, as well as personal relationships takes work.
We see a few people on your picture, who are they?
Lots of people who have supported my art practice in both tangible and abstract ways — dear friends, co-workers, other creators who have curated shows or created space for me to show my work…and handful of people I just met.
Can you tell us a little bit about Palmss?
Palmss Magazine is an anthology of interviews with creative folks of color. I started the project because I was feeling really stuck in my art practice and wanted to compile a resource for people that highlights how we all ebb and flow through feeling validated and fulfilled by art. I’m doing a lot of reimagining of the layout and presentation right now, and am excited to land on something for the upcoming issue.
You organize a dinner on a magic night that allows you to invite 5 people dead or alive. Who do you invite?
Jon Benet Ramsey, Josephine Baker, Toni Morrison, John Mayer, and my grandmother.
What is photography to you?
Photography is record keeping, archiving. It’s a mechanism by which we get to cement the existence of a certain moment, in a certain place. For me, it’s my way of saying, “I was here and these are the people and things that I loved.”
Your idea of happiness?
The feeling of peace you get in those rare moments when you have no deadlines, all your bills are paid, and all of your obligations are taken care of.
Your idea of misery?
Wearing a skirt suit.
If not yourself, who would you be?
A clone of myself. Or Rihanna maybe.
My parents. It has been really fun to know them as an adult and I feel overall that they did a really excellent job of raising us. They are forthcoming about their flaws as people, and they also are open to conversation and problem solving when things get tough. I really appreciate the ways in which we hold each other accountable.
What is your present state of mind?
“Help, I feel like a Gemini.”
Bedside table books?
Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness by Rebecca Walker, Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini, The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?
Hit the ‘random article’ button on Wikipedia over and over again, watch Zach Braff films, make work…more or less just noodle around.
Right or left handed?
What is the best dish you can cook?
Curried sweet potatoes, coconut rice, and fried plantains.
What is your middle name?
Eshé — it means ‘life.’ Thank you Mom and Dad.
What do you do in your free time?
Watch the same movies over and over again, eat gummy bears, and lay in bed with insomnia and create fantasy versions of reality in my head.
What inspires you?
I really love analyzing the overall execution of projects. I think creativity is half raw, artistic talent and half how you package and present that talent; I’m super interested in how people rollout new projects, and all the miscellaneous components that go into a that rollout.
What do you do for money?
Primarily I run wholesale for EVERYBODY.WORLD, but I also get miscellaneous gigs, sell work from time to time, etc.
What do you do for pleasure?
Lately I’ve been listening to lots of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and have been practicing just being still. It feels good.
Do you collect?
No way, I’m might be morally opposed to collecting. I just don’t know how to acquire things I don’t need.
Tea or coffee?
This is the hardest question you’ve asked. I abstain.
What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?
I loved Chuck E. Cheese’s, but used to run out of the room when the animatronic stage show would start because I was convinced that the characters were going to leap off the stage and kill me in front of my parents.
What are your plans for this weekend?
I gotta finish a piece for an upcoming group show and make some zines, but also mad homies are gonna be in LA from the Bay! Also definitely gotta clean my house, which has been on my to-do list for roughly three weeks.
Plays Pretty For Baby by Saosin.