Juxtapoz Magazine – Kezia Harrell: To Be Precious


I admire the openness of allowing yourself to kind of go to the canvas and just see what flows out. What are some of the meanings that you’ve been able to see after you finish a piece?

In my piece Hot Momma Americana I really wanted to take on the ancient motif of Mother and Child. What always stands out to me is the removal of the father in these paintings. The cherub is the spirit baby. The life of the spirit baby is about convincing their correct parents to bring them into the physical world. There’s nothing more that the spirit baby wants than to be alive in the physical world with their family but not always are the circumstances correct for that spirit to transition into the world. The spiritual baby is a protector first, but they also can be highly manipulative to protect. So, in my piece Hot Momma Americana, my spirit baby (whom I refer to as Munki Burrito) is tirelessly feeding me energy and knowledge (that maybe goes over my head sometimes). Until this very moment, the painting is unloading more conceptual epiphanies I hadn’t initially acknowledged. Munki Burrito was telling me “You better not get pregnant by that man. I absolutely will not accept him as a father. I would rather stay dead. You may not be equipped for motherhood at this time.” And low and behold, two years after the painting, I found out exactly what Munki Burrito warned me. You have to trust your brain, there are so many memories stored in there. And mind you, I haven’t read one book about Cupid, but doesn’t that make sense though? Communicating with spirits isn’t always direct, sometimes you’ll catch on later. So my approach to painting is similar to that.


I saw this picture of you on your Instagram, where you were playing with art. Did you know that you always wanted to be an artist? 

I come from a family of artists. My dad was a musician. We grew up in Cincinnati and that’s the funk capital of the world. My mom was an esthetician and makeup artist. She used to create these crazy doilies. But I’ve always been an artist and I’ve always taken an interest in that. They would always support me and never questioned it. I was always that kid who was good at art. I remember when I was, like, five and we had to make a white rabbit mosaic project with construction paper. I remember it was super detailed. I went to Montessori schools so they’re very matriarchal, and I’m still great friends with my teachers from when I was a child. It’s really nice to still have that connection with someone who knew me from that point. It’s almost like having two mothers.


Or maybe three, the way you work with Mother Nature, too. One of the things featured prominently within your work is nature. There are these gorgeous landscapes decorated with magical forests and spectacular mountains. Are you a nature girl?

Heck yes! I have 60,000 photos in my phone, 59,000 of them are of grass. I just love painting grass, I can really zone out doing that.


You have this piece that I love, “Butterflies Are Bows,” which is also this image on your Instagram, where you’ve made your hair a flower garden. I loved seeing that as a world  you literally built out.

Yes! The main photo reference is used as a mirror for me to reflect on the actual painting. I hold the photoshoot process very near and dear to my heart because it is my chance to perform and build the world I envision. The act of gathering materials is so important to my being able to build out these worlds. I have been gathering materials for years and I’ve built a nice artillery of things. I learned that from my mom, she has everything, you name it. And she always told me, “Kezia, get what you need.” No matter how much money we had at the time, we got what we needed. That mindset is something instilled, and it is why I’m able to build sets and have all of these materials, just years of investing in my visions.