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Ameerah K. Art: Live-Painting The Hip-Hop Scene.

December 3, 2012

AmeerahK01smallText by Sofiya Ballin. Images by Michael Bucher.

Ameerah Khabir has been told many times tonight to be careful of her makeup. Yet the dark streaks of wet mascara cascade down her cheeks as she tears up yet again.

Sole II Soul restaurant is closing down for the night and Ameerah is surrounded by tables topped by overturned chairs. Dressed in all black with gold jewelry, Ameerah pats her face lightly with a tissue while holding on tightly to a bag containing her paintings.

Tonight, her official brand, Ameerah K. Art, presented GLOW: Hip-Hop Artists of The Past, Present and Future. She showcased the many eras of hip-hop in her paintings on canvas, all of which used glow-in-the-dark paint.

“It’s like putting myself on display,” says the 26-year-old artist. “Each piece is literally a part of me it’s very personal to me and I take it very seriously.”

And the show was a massive success – a big crowd with lots of positive feedback.

“This is a new twist to the art scene in Philly,” says Curran J. Swint, creator of Kings Rule Together clothing line, as he surveys the room. “This was more of an experience. It made you appreciate the art more because she took the time with everything.”

The show began with various soul food dishes and included bustling conversations as well as old school and newer hip-hop pumped through the restaurant.

“I think visual artists are known but get overlooked in popular culture,” says Cory Townes, who acted as host for the evening. “She bridged the gap. She let her vision speak for itself. She let her hands talk.”

AmeerahK02smallAmeerah says she’s had an eye for the arts since she was 2 years old but it was when she was 6 that she first put pencil to paper.

“I just started picking up pencils and started duplicating pictures,” she explains. “I showed it to my mom and she didn’t believe it was me. She thought I traced it. I said, ‘No, I drew it.’”

Ameerah was then enrolled in weekend classes at the Fleisher Art Memorial in South Philly. On those weekends, 7-year-old Ameerah had a diverse roster packed with visual arts classes, sculpture lessons, drawing and painting.

After seven years at Fleisher, Ameerah attended the High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) and her world expanded.

“I’ve always favored Frida Kahlo,” she says. “I like the fact that she was a female artist and an artist of color. She made a name for herself in a male-dominated area and time.”

At CAPA, she diversified her craft, learning not only the technical aspects behind visual art but also the commercial aspects. After CAPA she attended Moore College of Art, where she completed her first self-portrait.

“I was just like, ‘Wow! I think I’m kind of okay,’” she says, smiling a little.

AmeerahK03smallAs DJ Mike Lowry packs up his equipment, he congratulates Ameerah on a successful event. As he leaves, her smile falters slightly.

“I’m happy for the people who came out,” she says with a hint of disappointment. “It’s unfortunate that I go out to a lot of other people’s events and I didn’t see those people here. It kind of hurts but I told myself this night was going to show who my real supporters are.”

Ameerah has become almost a fixture at local hip-hop events, live-painting at more than 20 recent shows. With a face of calm concentration and a palette board tied to her hip, she creates smooth brush strokes as the commotion continues around her.

“Even though no one has ever questioned my work, I do sometimes think people don’t believe my work is actually my work,” she explains. “I don’t see too many female artists so I love live-painting. It shuts down any doubt that my work isn’t 100 percent authentic and done by me.”

After being spotted live painting at a show last spring, she was asked to do the same at Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival.

“It was definitely a turning point in my career,” she says. “M.I.A. was a great experience. I got to reach people across the U.S.A. and even a group of guys who traveled all the way from Europe. I’m just tremendously grateful for that opportunity.”

Tonight, however, carries a multitude of meanings for Ameerah. Even as she introduced her artwork to the audience, she found her voice cracking mid-sentence.

“Art is really personal to me” she says. “I just take it so seriously. I spend so much time on it. It’s a very intimate experience for me to share my art with people and have it judged. It’s like I literally have my heart on every single piece.”

Throughout the night, each piece was brought into the pitch black restaurant by women dressed in all black and in high heels. As the paintings were placed around the restaurant, the glowing artwork illuminated the room.

“I didn’t want to just hang it on the wall,” Ameerah explains. “I wanted each piece to get its own attention. I wanted everyone to take in that specific piece at the time and really see it, and appreciate it, as well as appreciate that person being portrayed.”

Paintings of Queen Latifah, Biz Markie, Big Pun, Andre 3000 and more circled the room, representing different eras of hip-hop. Through the intricate paint strokes that shape Nas’ intuitive stare, it’s clear that it was painted by an avid fan.

“She was always really artistic and into hip-hop,” says CAPA classmate Tierra Fernandez. “The fact that she’s painting hip-hop artists is pretty much who she is.”

“I just love hip-hop so much,” Ameerah says, with a heavy sigh. “If it were a man, I would marry it. It has so many different moods. Hip-hop keeps me in touch with my moods, and it doesn’t exclude anybody. I never want my art to exclude anybody.”

She’s currently developing a clothing line called heARTwork. Her tagline is, “Only make moves when your heart is in it,” a line from Notorious B.I.G.’s hit “Sky’s The Limit.”

She wants the clothing line to serve as inspiration and motivation to artists of all forms.

“Being an artist, unfortunately is not profitable upfront and probably not for a very long time, even if you’re lucky,” Ameerah says. “You’re probably not going to get to the credit that you should. You need to love doing it.”

Love seems to be a key element behind Ameerah’s energy, and it’s something she feels Philly artists have an abundance of.

“In Philly, there’s a ridiculous amount of talented visual artists,” she says. “I’ve been to a few other places for a short time but Philly just has so many creative minds. I can see a portrait of somebody in 75 different ways because every artist in Philly has a unique eye.”

As the waiters begin to turn off the lights and the restaurant is left with a dim halo of light, the room feels slightly barren without the previous glow of Ameerah’s pieces.

“I think that’s what makes Philly special,” she says. “You have these artists and they can produce a painting or spray paint graffiti and it has so much emotion in it. You can feel the energy from the piece. You can tell these artists actually have a passion for what they do and I’m just glad to even be considered one of them.”

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  1. Ameerah K. Art: Live Painting The Hip-Hop Scene | paperpavements

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