soulciti: So, about the invitation to paint at the Nothing Compares 2 U Prince tribute. How did you feel about participating?
Akaimi Davis: Man! The whole event was a blessing! I was so nervous. I just prayed and prayed that I would be able to get out of “me” and trust God’s spirit to guide me. And, He let me know He was there. I hadn’t been painting long and had begun Prince’s eyes when the skies opened up. A single raindrop fell right at the corner of his left eye, creating a perfect teardrop. That was nothing but God using me as the vehicle for His will.
sc: What was the first piece you remember feeling proud of?
Akaimi: “Warfare is Mental” is a piece I did in 2007. It made me proud because it was my first exhibited piece. The piece was centered on the concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with veterans. At the time, I thought my best friend, a single father with PTSD, was my inspiration. As I continued to draw, though, specific images and numbers were revealed to me that later proved to be directly related to President Nixon’s withdrawal from Vietnam. When I learned that, I was reminded of a quote by Rainn Wilson from the sitcom The Office: “Art is the closest thing to God/ prayer.” When I paint, it is important for me to be open to what God is using me as a vessel to express.
sc: Which artist(s) do you admire?
Akaimi: Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist who was really big in the seventies and eighties. He was really good friends with Andy Warhol. His life was complicated by drugs and other tribulations, but his work spoke profoundly about injustices to humanity. He made statement pieces about statement pieces. As I evolve, I am feeling the need for my work to reflect the call to this generation to stand up to bigotry, racism, social injustice in general. If I was not an artist, I believe I would be a philosopher. I love inquiring about they “why” of mankind and human behavior.
If I was not an artist, I believe I would be a philosopher. I love inquiring about they ‘why’ of mankind and human behavior.
sc: Can you explain the (usually) single, female subject most often found in your work?
Akaimi: It’s funny; people often tell me that the women in the paintings look like me. They think they are self-portraits. I don’t think they look like me; but, of course, they are all a piece of me. My initial calling was to uplift women through my work, to help highlight their higher calling. Just as it has been therapeutic for me, particularly on this post-cancer-diagnosis leg of my journey, I hope my work has helped other women. [Akami is currently undergoing treatment for Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia, a rare form of cancer.]
sc: You’ve been heard referring to the fox as your spirit animal. Why do you say that?
Akaimi: Well, the fox is often depicted as sly and cunning, but it is more than that. Foxes are particularly known for their ability to get themselves out of precarious situations. I relate to the fox when I consider my ability to emerge from situations that have threatened my health, finances, relationships of all types, and be able to care for my children. For both the fox and me, when faced with situations that might mean “the end” to others, giving up is not an option.
sc: When did you know you were an artist?
Akaimi: When I was 5 years old. My beloved teacher, Mrs. Anderson, instructed us to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew a picture of myself in an artist’s beret.
We may never know whether young Akaimi’s beret was raspberry in hue, but she is certainly a true example of one living her dream. Akaimi and her work can be found online at her website, purchased online, and she’s on Instagram and Facebook.