Silly Genius is a Richmond, Virginia based artist that can be found taking pictures during a random night shoot, live painting at a local event or as a vendor with his collaborative group STUDY at a festival. He shared with us his frustrations and aspirations as an artist.
Dom: Who are you and what do you do?
Silly Genius: I’m Silly. I make dope shit.
D: What’s your background?
SG: Poor black kid that taught myself art. I got put on to cartoons and hip-hop super young and it stuck with me.
D: What role does the artist have in society?
SG: I’d say the most important role is inspiration, escapism and to entertain. The world is trash but we use art music film fashion to escape and identify ourselves. Artists provide that. What would the world be without music or fashion? Regardless of how big technology gets, you need that. The world needs art.
D: What work do you most enjoying doing?
SG: Probably painting. I don’t know. I have my moods. Sometimes I want to be outside painting. Sometimes I want to take a shit ton of pictures. But painting and illustration started it all.
D: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
SG: If you’re paying attention, there’s inspiration everywhere. I wake up in the morning, see the sun rise and I’m inspired.
D: What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
SG: I’ve been a secretary, worked all types of retail, grocery stores. I’ve been a forklift driver and correctional officer.
D: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
SG: I had a friend who started shooting videos and eventually got a job at the Barclays center. He told me that me and a few of my friends were his inspiration. I’ve had kids see my work and start drawing. Pretty much having people see my work and be inspired to create.
D: Is the artistic life lonely?
SG: Yeah, definitely. Unless you’re around other creatives. But even then you have to spend a lot of time alone to create art. It makes it worse when you’re surrounded by people that don’t understand your thought process on your drive to live a “normal” life. Just because I can draw people want me to be an architect. I don’t want to live that life.
D: What do you do to counteract it?
SG: Hanging out with other creatives. Art events. But mainly spending time with my creative friends. There’s a bonus to that because they keep you on your toes.
D: What do you dislike about the art world?
SG: So much. I operate in the lowbrow art world. Pop art, street art, graffiti. There are unwritten rules but you know how to go around them. But fine art has so many isms and it’s hard to get into. You can’t flex your creative muscle. It’s 2016 and art galleries are just recognizing street art and graffiti as legit art. It’s like the grammy’s giving away rap awards.
D: What role does arts funding have?
SG: Art is expensive on all levels. It costs a ton of money to produce art. If you don’t have money then you can’t create.
D: What is your dream project?
SG: I have two. The first is a multimedia network. Take BET and G4 and put it in a pot. Art, music and nerd shit for dirty ghetto kids. The other is a school for the gifted. The kids that don’t follow the conventional path. I never went to art school. I learned on my own or from other artists. They don’t teach fashion, marketing, creative writing in high school. I want to make a school so kids can learn that. Kids became superstars from Vine and that’s getting taken away. I’d teach them how to own their creations legally. Music and art are great teachers and motivators. Rap might be your inspiration to become a doctor or an entertainment lawyer. You find your identity, your courage through the arts. It would give kids that space to learn the possibilities and the opportunities.
D: Name artists you’d like to be compared to.
SG: Nigo and Kaus but I don’t even feel right saying that. They’re so good at everything they do. Toys, fashion, animation. And they put their own personal touch on everything. I’d like to think that I’m good at everything I do.
D: Professionally, what’s your goal?
SG: To be as successful as I can and use that success to introduce kids to art. It’s cool if I’m an artist but what good is it if I don’t inspire others. Especially being black. We do more than rap and play basketball.