For many artists, the digital sphere has been a necessary tool in reaching larger audiences and sidestepping possible gatekeeping from institutions. Instagram, with its emphasis on all things visual, has been particularly helpful.
Since the 2018 rollout of a feature that allows users to share other peoples’ posts in their Instagram stories, profiles on the social media platform have become reminiscent of the blogs on LiveJournal or Tumblr, with personal posts placed between music suggestions and images meant to boost an imagined aesthetic. Queued after videos from, say, a hike or a meal, you may catch the work of an unknown artist your old friend or little cousin admires — and find that, after visiting the artist’s profile, you admire them, too.
ALL ARTS has always been a platform meant to bolster the work of artists through a supportive community that transcends genre, and the ALL ARTS Instagram is no different. Now, with the aim to foster an arts community, we’re talking with emerging artists in our series: Artists of Instagram.
Meet Simone Elizabeth Saunders (@simoneelizabethtextiles), a 38-year-old visual and textile artist based in Calgary, Canada.
Saunders has been involved in the arts in some way since childhood.
“My mom encouraged and nurtured it,” she said. “When I was young, it was Royal Conservatory Piano to level 11 whilst doing competitive dance. Then it was theater school for university: acting, producing and writing. This was my career for some time. ”
The world of theater and film pushed Saunders to set design, which further ignited her interest in visual arts — specifically fiber arts. She eventually returned to school at Alberta University of Arts, and during her studies, took up the tufting gun and punch-needle. “And [I] have not looked back!” she said.
We spoke with the artist about her work, her inspirations and what art means to her.
What does art mean to you? How does it fit into your story?
Art is an incredible expression of self, and in the same breath, is a way to impact people, to share a story. Art impacts my life everyday — the experiences I have, the life I lead, the people I meet and look up to, what I’m reading, what’s happening in the world all influence my art. Art is crucial; it captures time and timelessness.
How would you describe the type of art that you create?
I create textiles with a tufting gun and punch needle. My pieces portray narratives that highlight Black womanhood: showing the strength, resiliency and joys of being a Black woman. I draw from my ancestry, my personal landscape and inspiration from within our modern world to create colorful portraits. I am forever inspired!
How has social media and the digital sphere helped you with your art career?
The digital realm has unveiled opportunities and connections for me with my art. Mostly, accessibility for people to see my art — it is so important to me. We all know it’s not always easy to face the online world, but there is a gift in being able to showcase my art and have it seen on a global level.
How has the current global climate affected your art?
Every day, the global climate affects my art. I leave space for it within my practice to influence me. My pieces tell a story, lifting up the Black community, inspired by the roots of a powerful history and looking forward to an even stronger tomorrow.
How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from the day-to-day, drawing from pop culture, being moved by music lyrics or literature (Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, even Shakespeare) and forever inspired by art history. I am very conscious in honoring my ancestors and representing their history, while looking to our present (the Black Lives Matter movement) and forward to a bright future.
What other artists inspire you?
Wangechi Mutu, Kara Walker, Yinka Shonibare, Lorna Simpson, Amy Sherald, Nick Cave, Diedrick Brackens, Mary Sibande, Kehinde Wiley, Yung Yemi, Rajni Perera, Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Top Image: Courtesy of Simone Elizabeth Saunders