Artist Yoyo Lander Talks Creativity, Joy, and Defining Success
Artist Yoyo Lander is having a moment. Her artwork is currently on display in L.A.'s Kaiser Premanente building and featured in the Emmy-nominated web series, GIANTS. Her latest success follows a 2017 exhibit at The Museum of African American Art and a well-circulated Blavity profile. I had the opportunity to chat with her about the inspiration behind her work, her origin story, and her advice for aspiring artists.
1. This is an exciting time for you! You have 8 large scale art pieces displayed in the Kaiser Premanente building in L.A. How did this partnership come about?
My agent actually told me about it.
2. When you take on a partnership like this, what’s your ultimate goal? Is the objective to reach as wide an audience as possible?
My ultimate goal when doing corporate projects is to incorporate my style within their theme and to never venture far from that. When people see my work, no matter where it is, I want them to know it’s my art without being told, or looking at my signature, or the plaque next to the pieces.
3. Also, your work was featured in an Emmy-nominated Issa Rae Productions show, GIANTS. How did that partnership come about? How does it feel to have your work featured on a show that’s garnering this type of acclaim?
I actually said to myself one day that I wanted one of my projects on a popular web-based show, and it literally just happened. I got a call from the production manager of Giants and it literally all happened in a week. It feels amazing! I know the writer and main actor of the show, James Bland, and this show has been brewing for a looooong time. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see an idea grow into what it has become today and what it will become tomorrow. I’m happy to be apart of it.
4. These are major moments for you now, but how did you get started? Have you always been drawn to art?
I have but I never took it seriously. But here is how it all started. One day I got the desire to paint something on my kitchen wall. So I just started to draw on the wall...it ended up being a large painting of myself. It’s so large that when people came over, they would take pictures with it. No big deal. I had a few photos of the piece in my phone, and one day, I was showing it to a friend of mine (who was visiting from Australia), and he randomly asked me to do a portrait of MLK for his office. I put it off for a while and then, one day, I just decided to do it. I got all the materials, and I worked on that portrait for a good month. It was the most therapeutic experience I ever had, and I decided that I wanted to see where this art stuff would go. I sent the painting to Australia, my friend loved it, and since then, it’s been non-stop. I’m full of gratitude.
5. What’s the driving force behind your work? When someone views your artwork, what do you want them to take away?
Joy. Always. My underlining theme in all of my work is joy. Art can do sooo many things. It can inspire, it can question, it can do a lot. There are so many horrible things in the world, but equally, there is a lot of beauty...I choose to focus on the latter.
6. You have close to 20,000 followers on Instagram. What role does social media play in your career?
Social media is a tool and that’s it. I try to focus on real relationships.
7. In all forms of creative art, there’s a huge conversation happening around diversity. Art, in particular, isn’t exactly known for welcoming or championing creators of color. Do you feel race has had an impact on your art career, in either positive or negative ways?
Honestly...I haven’t even noticed. I only go and participate in projects where I and my art are celebrated. If a curator or gallery doesn’t want to celebrate my art...that’s fine. I am not concerned with being remembered as a great artist, or being filthy rich. My concern is making good art. Art that surprises, art that reflects, and art that sparks a conversation within one's self. That’s it! If artists stay consistent, the RIGHT people will celebrate you no mater who you are, where you are from, or what color your skin is.
8. For someone who hopes to have their artwork seen in an Emmy-nominated show or secure a huge partnership for new original pieces, what advice would you offer them? What should the aspiring artist do to have their work seen by more eyes?
Stay consistent. If you consistently bang on a door only 1 of 2 things will happen. Either someone will open it or you’ll knock it down....either way...it will open, but you gotta keep banging.
9. What’s next for you? What projects are you working on?
My next biggest project is another solo show!
10. Where else can we see your work?
You check out some of my work on my website at yoyolander.com