Zeph Farmby is a recent Brooklyn transplant, by way of Chicago. I first met Zeph through my art world family, The Bishop Gallery in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, NY. I was tasked with writing the press release for his upcoming exhibition. I was told “Zeph is very particular about how he’s represented” and he would need to see a draft and/or be hands on in the process of writing his press release and any additional media content, I would disseminate. I was pleasantly surprised when Zeph returned my work with a simple “it’s good”.
When I arrived to view Zeph’s work I was overwhelmed with the imagery. The use of bold, vibrant hues, and some familiar characters from our childhood, brought about a feeling of nostalgia, but the manner in which they were presented also served as an “ah ha” moment (read on to understand). Through his philanthropic efforts, Zeph has been and remains a voice of the disenfranchised and is very passionate about being a catalyst for change, through his artistic endeavors.
Whether it’s canvas, leather, a wine bottle, or t-shirt, a Zeph Farmby piece sparks the conversations some of us are too “comfortable” to have. Let’s take a voyage away from the norm and venture into his world. With international accolades under his belt, he’s your fave artist, fave artist. Take time to enjoy a moment with Zeph Farmby!
BS: You’ve been very vocal through your artwork and in interviews, about the socio-economic issues that plague people of color and how the images we’ve been fed growing up, has aided in the manifestation of some of the issues we face. Can you share the thought process behind your “Brainwashed Series”, (which you recently made into large free standing images and displayed at Yale University) and also the message you want people to take away from the stimulating works?
ZF: The “Brainwashed” series is a body of work that I developed in hopes of provoking intense and uncomfortable conversation. It seems to be working. It no longer baffles me to hear people question whether or not images were created and put into the media to drive a certain way of thinking – white supremacy, minority inferiority, socialism, etc. What I’m always after, is opening our minds and hearts to think a little differently, than we were “brainwashed” to think. Recently, a white man in his mid-sixties said to me, “Tom and Jerry wasn’t targeted toward the black community! Even I watched Tom & Jerry!” My response was, of course you did. And in that captivation of a cartoon, you were implanted with subtle messages about hierarchy.
BS: Your body of works contain some thought-provoking conversational pieces. What are some of the conversations you hope to spark when people view your work?
ZF: I don’t make the “impressionistic” type of art. I’m literal. The messages that I am trying to convey are pretty clear. I enjoy watching and listening to people interpret my work through the filters (that frankly, we all have) created over time through television, our surroundings, our parents, and our experiences. But what I want to aggressively provoke, is our ability to forget about what we think we know as truth and consider the alternative that may be a bit more calculated, objective driven and potentially sinister.
BS: Over the summer, your Instagram could have rivaled any travel and leisure mag or blog. We followed as you traveled to places like Haiti and Egypt, but also saw you in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand on your International Artist Meet Up tour. How important is it for you to share your art with people of different cultures and how much of your work is influenced by your travel?
ZF: Just “over the summer!?” Maybe I need to spread my travel out more…HAHA! In all seriousness, travel influences everything about me, not only my art. The absorption of unique and distinct cultures around the world inevitably manifests its way into the way I speak and think. It pushes me to appreciate more than what is superficial and status quo. It drives me to broaden my shoulders and stand tall in my humanity – yet it humbles me. Throughout my travels, I’ve been fortunate to encounter so many amazing people – artists, art enthusiasts, and collectors. Rich and poor – in life and in money. So yes, most certainly my art is influenced by my travels since my travels influence me. I will continue to share my travel experiences with the world in an effort to spread the love and talent that comes from it.
BS: You recently opened your own art studio (congrats), what’s your five essentials to set the mood in your creative environment?
ZF: Thank you! Over the years I’ve occupied several art studio spaces and they have all been very different. But, you’re right – there are some essentials. For me the five essentials include – good natural light and extra lights, music (audiobooks/podcast), comfortable shoes (preferably house shoes or slides), 1 gallon of alkaline water, and really good paint supplies. Anyone who has ever visited the spaces that I create in will tell you – there’s always a good vibe and vibrant energy.
BS:You’re very active in the community. Tell us about the nine-week project you just kicked off and why it’s so important to you at this point in your career?
ZF: The nine-week project is a “Professional Artist Development” program I created based on my studio practice, coordinated by Art Space NH. The program allows young artists the opportunity to see the inner workings of a professional, multifaceted artist studio. Each week the artists will practice and prepare for an art show hosted/held out of my studio. Over the course of my career, I’ve experienced and gained knowledge that I want to share, especially with artists looking for direction with their talent. The programs ran from my art studio, provides me the opportunity to connect with the community at large and to educate inquiring minds on different art forms, techniques, street fashion and entrepreneurship.