This Is Not My Art History: A Conversation with Andrea Price


Andrea price stands in front of her crochet artwork, which spans across an entire white wall. The crochet art work reads: "This is not my art history"

I want to be part of the history that shows the true diversity and true beauty that exists in the world. So people can see themselves.”

Editor-in-chief Leah Abraham (virtually) sits down with Andrea Price, an eclectic artist based in the United States, to chat about the intersection of art, social justice, standards of beauty, and turning white supremacy narratives into art that liberates.

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About Andrea:

Andre Price stands outdoors, wearing a blue sleeveless dress with white polka dots.Andrea Price is an eclectic and passionate artist with a love for social justice. She recently graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. Andrea Price has experience with various disciplines, which include drawing, painting, printmaking, photograph, and fiber art. She experiments with different styles and ideas within each of these fields. The major themes of her work focus on social justice in relationship to people of color, especially within the black community. Each of her works create unique beauty through serious or powerful content. Andrea Price is hopeful and fighting for a world of equity through her art that acknowledges and celebrates the vast amount of cultural diversity that God intentionally created. Follow Andrea on Instagram at @andreaandherart.

Full Transcript (edited for clarity):

Andrea: As Leah said, my name is Andrea Price. I just graduated with a bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the University of Toledo and a lot of my work is focused on social justice.  I kind of fell in love with it out of a place of frustration, and also [because of] where we are and the times in the times we’re in. Although we’ve made progress, there’s still a lot more progress to be made. That’s just a little bit about me. 

Leah: I’m curious to know: As an artist, how does your art and your work as an artist intersect with your personal journey of decolonization? 

Andrea: Well, I think they intersect, or the place that they began to intersect, was when I was actually sitting in our art history class and we were talking about all of these different people that are considered masters of art history and painters and sculptors — the people that we look up to when it comes to drawing anatomy and perspective… and all of these different things that we talk about. But there was a lack of people of color as artists being talked about. And when people of color were being brought up, there were terms like the “noble savage.” They were showing slaves in a manner [that] was supposed to be beautiful but it was through the eyes of the person that was colonizing them. 

My heart literally broke and I got angry because why is the esteem that we hold in art attached to European views of what art should look like? That really began my journey to decolonize, to think… how can we create art that involves everyone; where I see myself in a piece of art; where other people of color can see themselves and know that they’re beautiful; and it’s not through the perspective of our white comforts.

Leah: Wow I know exactly what that realization [is like]. That everything — beauty standards and what is considered art and beautiful and acceptable — is just dictated by European standards. Oh gosh.  

Do you remember what you were feeling as you were going through the curriculum and if there was a breaking point at all? 

Andrea: I think I was really shocked and I know my professor saw the look on my face because she kept making disclaimers as she was talking about everything. Like, the “noble savage” is the term that they’re using for indigenous people native to North America.The fact that you feel a need to make disclaimers as you’re going throughout this lesson just shows how much work we need to do, and if I’m the only person to get frustrated at this. Even throughout my whole educational experience, I think one thing that gets brought up so often is Kehinde Wiley. And I love Kehinde Wiley, but he is not the only person of color that is creating art about people of color. The fact that we have to talk about somebody that’s contemporary is insane because there’s so much history and there’s so many different cultures that we’re not tapping to into, and the art that they created that’s equally beautiful that we’re not seeing because of the people that are writing our history books. 

Leah: Did your art look different after your college experience and before your college experience? 

Yes, they were completely different. I didn’t go into art school thinking that I was going to create work about social justice. That was not my intent. I knew that it was an area that I had really strong affinity for, and that I have skill in, and I have the ability to learn about. So I went to school for it, but my intent was never to go into social justice. My original thing was just to talk about things that were interesting to me, things that I could relate to. 

Some of my earlier work in school had to deal with [my mom]. I have a  mother who is a breast cancer survivor and [I talked] about the journey from the point that you are diagnosed until you’re in your remission again — all the emotional roller-coastering and support that’s necessary for that. So I don’t think I ever was light the things that I was interested in, but I think a major thing that even attracted me to art was human body. I never intended it to go as far as it did. I yeah, but I can’t imagine not doing it now. 

Leah: I love that. That’s a strong force right. The work can be hard, but you can’t stop it, like you’re at that point where this is a matter of each breath you take and you have to make it count. 

Andrea: I think it’s just really interesting because at one of the later classes I took of art history, we started talking about the ideas of contemporary art and that in contemporary art, there are different ways that people view themselves and it’s attached to identity. And I really was thinking about it and grappling with it, because I don’t know if I could create art outside of being a black woman because that’s the identity I am given in society. When someone sees me, the first thing you notice is the fact that I’m a black woman and then you see all the other things that happen by having actual interactions with me. But in a way, I don’t think I was able to choose my identity in ways that other people are able to 

Leah: Wow. Who were the artists that helped you? I’m assuming there was that process, as you were going to college and your [journey of] understanding the colonized curriculum and syllabus that’s been taught for generations. And as you were being awakened to all that, I’m curious who are the artists who helped you imagine another way, that there is another world, and there are other options. Who are those artists that sort of paved the way and inspired you? 

Andrea: One of my first interactions was with a beautiful artist by the name of Carrie Mae Weems. She’s a photographer and she’s a black woman. She’s absolutely amazing and I dove into her work, and although it’s photography, which was something I was interested in at the time, it has so many implications for the directions that I was going because she’s so very articulate in the way that she talks about social justice [and] very intentional in the ways that she approaches a subject. Some of it is very controversial because of the level of the depth of the topics that she’s going into — being slavery and the fact that some of our earlier photographers who took pictures of slaves without their permission, of course, because they were slaves and she wrote over the top of these images and it’s absolutely beautiful. I recommend you guys check her out. She’s absolutely amazing. Just hearing her, I not only delve into her work and why she creates art, but listening to the interviews that she gave about not wanting to be boxed into just a black woman making art about black people, that she was interested in more than that, but she didn’t want to be inside of that box and therefore refused to be inside of it… and  she creates work about all types of things. So I love her. She is not only into photography, but works in a lot of other medium, which I think I can relate to because I am an eclectic artist myself. 

Leah: We’ve talked about this before, about how resistance requires hope but, dude, there are some days that I just can’t find it, especially these days if, I’m honest, like I’m really struggling to like Have hope be the motivator. what about for you? 

Andrea: I think there are days — or I should say moments [or] hours — where I’m like wow, the world is really in the position it’s in. There are always things happening and we’re still not addressing the structures that are existing in our world that are making these things happen. Isolated situations. So yeah, some days I’m really frustrated and I just like blurt out everything that comes to my head. Some days, I write everything down and I get my frustration out that way. Sometimes I just go into a piece of work and that’s the way that I get out my frustration, anger, sadness. And sometimes I just do nothing. Yeah, because it’s necessary sometimes. I think one thing that I’ve been grappling with is my hopefulness, lately. Sometimes in my life, [I wonder], am I naive to feel like there is hope? And maybe being naive is important to be able to move forward in hope. Yeah, all things I’m contemplating. 

Leah: Okay. I’m also dying to talk to you about the piece of work that’s behind you. Tell us about it. Because I love it says, “This is art, not my history.”

Andrea:  It says, “This is not my art history.”

Leah: Oh, that makes more sense!

Andrea: The birth of this humongous piece that goes a full wall was, I guess, I was just really frustrated in the moment about all the things that we were talking about, about art history being so European and the fact that there are other people across the world that would be creating the same type of art and statements in the same level of beauty to the same level of correctness. And I had an assignment and I was being anti and so we had to create something out of a book and I was just like, I don’t want to use a book and I just want to crochet. I was told no, so I jumped into thinking about the paintings, specifically of people that we hold to the esteem of being masters of our history. I decided that I was going to cut those pieces apart and make paper beads out of them and create a beauty that I wanted to see. 

So in a lot of these paintings they are of white men and women. Beyond that there are levels of beauty standards that are being portrayed in them. There’s another layer of the way that women’s bodies are being sexualized and all of these different things that are occurring and our history and the distilling of different cultures and create the paintings that are being created. I was frustrated so I decided to cut them off and make beads out of them, and then I decided that I was going to spell out: This is not my art history. And it just grew from there. 

It turned into a large piece. This piece is so important to me because it was the moment that I truly found my voice as an artist. I think I had grappled so long with about about not fulfilling the trope or that idea of the angry black woman; and what is too soft a way to talk about our social justice and what is too hard of a way to talk about social justice; how do you make it palatable; and all of these things that are being presented to me. Because they’re real questions. They’re real things that are going to occur when you talk about something that has so much. It’s triggering. Because it’s challenging the way that things have always been and when you’re doing that there are very specific ways in which you fill. 

I think when you challenge something that is so powerful, sometimes you can get intimidated by it. It’s easy to be intimidated by it. And at this point of making this piece, I decided I no longer care what people thought. I was going to make art and resist the ways and in the ways that I felt was necessary and the ways that meant something to me.

Who cares a lot of people think about it? I hope you enjoy it. I hope that you can search your heart and see this piece and think: Huh is art history really completely Eurocentric? Is what I’ve been taught from a very young age very Eurocentric and why is that? Why are we not talking about all of the indigenous cultures that create beautiful things that we like to labels as savage as lesser than but not understanding the level of intelligence it takes to create something because they’re doing it with meaning. They didn’t create something with a humongous head and a small body just to just to do it. There are intentional reasons why they did it and the way that they did. 

Leah: It took a lot to not scream and cheer for you as you were saying that story because I love it. That is powerful. Like I’m really ramped up right now. I’m curious: What is the art history that you want to create right now for the next generation? What is the history and the legacy you want to leave?

Andrea: I believe it doesn’t just start with me. So I feel like history books should portray all of the different cultures that exist because they’re all beautiful and they’re all unique in order for people to see themselves. There is so much diversity in the world. So if you’re only showing one side of what art… and that there are only specific ways in which each culture can function, what are we doing? We’re not teaching our children. 

The necessary lessons of the possibilities that there are of the beauty that exists in the world. And so I think it starts with showing the true reality of our history, that it doesn’t just exist around white, European, British, Spanish forms of art. Like I was mind-boggled when I found out that there were art that were created anatomically correctly in Africa, that would have occurred shortly before the time of like Leonardo DaVinci and all of the people that we hold to esteem of being those anatomically correct human beings. Anyway, but these are the things that we need to be teaching our children because It’s all necessary.

I want to be part of the history that shows the true diversity and true beauty that exists in the world. So people can see themselves. I think that’s so important to be able to see yourself in piece of art to see someone that looks like you — brown skin or light skin or dark skin — all of these all of these things to be able to see that that diversity is something beautiful. Even if it’s not your culture, to be able to learn about something that’s outside of your culture, what’s more amazing than that? If we’re trying to create well-rounded humans that that care about more than just themselves or can see beyond themselves, why not show them their selves and other people?

Leah: Yes, yes, yes, yes! I love this. You are filling my spirit right now just by your words and your insight and your wisdom. Hearing you explain more about that piece of art is has changed the way I’m seeing it. Because I saw it when you first turned your screen on and I was so intrigued, but now when I see it, I see you standing up. I see a woman rising and planting her feet firm on the ground and saying, “I’m not going to shrink anymore. I can’t shrink to those oppressive forces and I need to find my own voice — my own place.” The more I see it the more I see you and your story and that that’s beautiful. 

Andrea: Oh, that’s a great beautiful!. Yeah, looking at it as a whole piece, I think it was one of the first pieces that I didn’t critique heavily afterwards. And I’m very hard on myself when it comes to my art, but knowing that some of the things that people have about just women creating pieces of art and it being considered craft instead of actual art (what is buying art and what is crafted things), and being in that space and not caring and [realizing that] this is fine art, this is beauty, and this is something that I created with my hands. Because I’m a black woman and creating art, it’s justified. It doesn’t matter what you feel like art should be or should exist as. Even the beauty of it  not being perfect, the way the words are arranged — it’s legible that’s the important part! 

Leah: It feels like an honor just to witness it and to hear that story.Wow, thank you so much for just giving us a glimpse into your spirit and your art and your process. Thank you. Yeah, you’re just you’re just fantastic and fabulous and I’m obsessed with you and your art. We will have all of Andria’s information below. So please go check her out and follow her on social media and support her.

Any last words that you want to share, or a blessing for the young artists, especially like women of color who are pursuing art?

Andrea: I think specifically in regards to creative resistance, just realizing that creativity exists on a lot of different levels. You can create art like I create it, but there are so many other ways to resist. It could exist in the way that you do you do your hair, to show who you are, specifically talking to women of color. But there are so many ways to be creative because I mean, I know that so many people say “Well, I’m not creative.” There are so many different ways to be creative. It just means you think differently about something  I’m thinking a way that nobody thought about it before, or maybe they have and you just have it different perspective.That is Beauty. And if we can offer resist in some way, what would the world look like? It could be awesome.