Processing Loss into Healing
During the George Floyd protests in Tulsa, Ebony Iman Dallas, painted as her form of protest. While some of her family and friends were encouraging her to join the walk downtown, she explained, “I couldn’t go. But I could make art about it because it helps me process it all as a form of healing. I’m not the one with the loudspeaker; I speak through my art.”
It was challenging for Ebony to process the intense emotions of that fateful day for Floyd due to her own experience in her family. “My father was killed by police officers when he was here in Oklahoma. So that largely informs my art,” she says. Ebony’s father was born in Somalia, and for years she was entirely out of touch with all of her father’s side of the family.
Living in Oakland and working in advertising, Ebony remembers a pivotal moment in her life story when a man approached her and her sister at an event and said, ” I know your family, and I know that your family is looking for you.” From that moment, Ebony reconnected to her Somali side. That connection inspired the creation of the series Through Abahay’s Eyes Series; each painting represents a significant
part of her family history. Beginning with the loss of her father and how she processed the loss into healing. “I’ve definitely come to realize the experience with my father is why I’m inspired to paint things about social, cultural, and political issues,” recounts Ebony.
One artist she loves is Norman Rockwell in how one can see the story and personalities of everyday people unfold in his paintings. Ebony also tells human stories in her paintings, often adding symbols, African textiles, and emotions to push the story along. She paints on canvas and wood with many African textiles from Somalia and Kenya, “I have an aunt in Kenya. When I last visited in 2019, I picked out textiles from local artisans to share experiences of the African Diaspora. “She continues, “I love telling stories. I use symbolism, color, and textiles as my way to tell stories and use my voice.”
Ebony starts by sketching. Then works out the coloring process and begins to paint. She paints to podcasts, audiobooks, and Netflix documentaries- sometimes, she will even watch a show while painting. She confessed that she binged the whole Queen of the South series while painting.
Lately, she has been working with wood, carving out shapes in her paintings with a scroll saw. A new discovery with deep meaning; her only object from her father is a wooden mask from Somalia. Explaining how it is “interesting that I became an artist, and this is the only connection that I had to him was an art piece. Now, I’m not woodcarving in the same way, but in a way that makes sense to my practice.”
Realizing you have to choose where you focus your energy, Ebony explains how we “can’t make major decisions out of fear. We need to picture the life we want and go toward those things. “Learning the very thing she was most afraid of, being a full-time artist, actually made her more money last year than ever working for anybody else. That fear started in high school with an art teacher. “I really wanted to be in Studio Art, which was the highest class you could take. The teacher didn’t let me in, and never really explained why” That fear stuck with her – if I can’t make it in high school. How am I going to make it as an adult? – through hard work, dedication, focus, and realigning her thoughts, she realized what that teacher did was not true, and “now I’m able to do it, and I am stepping out on faith. “
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What is Black Art?
Ebony says, ” I think people, in general, are starting to appreciate Black Artists more. But since everyone’s style is so different, and we are from so many different places, you can’t just say THIS is specifically Black Art because not every artist puts elements specifically from the continent of Africa. I mean, culturally, we’re so mixed. So you probably could call mine, Black Art, but it’s not just limited to that.”
She believes Art should not be limited, and artists should not be labeled. Ebony is a storyteller and is a storyteller through her art. All the while, telling stories of her African history and current experience of being a black female in the Midwest. Along with the her journey of understanding, healing, and revealing the story she is writing for herself.
Where to buy and see her Art?
Much of her work can be found on her Instagram and website, as well as on murals across the state.
Soon you will be able to see one of her Public Art murals in OKC, a massive project that has taken over a year to complete.
A commemorative mural of Willa D. Johnson, the first Black woman to serve on the Oklahoma City Council. The mural will live on the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center in Douglass Park, Oklahoma City. Ahead of its opening later this year, the community has created an endowment fund of more than $100,000 for the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center. Along with 2 other artists, Jarica Walsh and Quiquia Calhoun, they will work together to create this ceramic tile mural of Willa.
Local Hotels & Restaurants
While visiting the Willa D. Johnson Rec Center in Douglas Park, OKC, you can also experience a variety of restaurants and bars in the area.
- The Drum Room. Fried chicken, waffles & other comfort foods dished up in whimsical digs, with a late-night menu.
- Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar. Farm-to-table American dishes pair with craft beers & lots of whiskey in brick- & wood-lined digs.
- The Lobby Cafe and Bar. Stylish bistro inside the 1940s Will Rogers Theater offering updated American classics & cocktails.
Stay at the historic Bradford House.
At first home to some of Oklahoma City’s most well-heeled residents through the roaring 1920s, having hosted Hollywood film star, Rock Hudson, on more than one occasion, as well as a then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter on his successful run to the White House.
Through Abahay’s Eyes Series
Each painting represents a significant part of my family. Beginning with the loss of my father, processing that loss, and healing.
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