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Why Rising Local Artist Kubiat Nnamdie Loves Fire Signs, Hates Specialization

Photo by Jaime Salazar
Credit Work by Kubiat Nnamdie

Look through the oeuvre of Nigeria-born, Miami-based artist Kubiat Nnamdie, and you'd be hard-pressed to predict the next medium he might approach. This self-taught twentysomething, currently showing in the Abracadabra group exhibition at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, started in photography. He began with inspiration  from lensmen in fashion (Mario Testino) and fine art (David Benjamin Sherry). But, he says, expressing himself through photos led to a greater interest in light, form, and overall feeling.

"It was a great teacher, photography. I started seeing light differently. I was interacting with people a lot more. Before I picked up the camera, I really was not sure how to communicate. For me, communicating is not really verbal. The camera kind of taught me to talk, visually." he says. "I quickly started drawing afterwards, and then painting, and then sculpting, and doing an assortment of things -- performance, video."

In an era of contemporary art that encourages micro-specialization in medium and subject matter, Nnamdie's goal is to buck the trend. Call it a sort of planned dilettantism or anti-mastery in favor of the lure of new material challenges. "Sometimes artists will master something, and then they'll get really comfortable, and won't want to do anything else. For me, being a multidisciplinary artist, and having many different skills really does help. I have no issue with someone who just wants to focus on one thing, but I love options." 

There is a common thread among nearly all of Nnamdie's works: A wrestling with spirituality, and not just in the orthodox religious ways. Instead, the artist, who proudly describes himself as a "Capricorn, with Aries rising," often delves into the worlds of astrology, shamanism, and more. In a new series dubbed the "Cleansing Paintings," for instance, he's creating his own magical objects by combining sea salt with canvases painted according to the colors of the chakras.

"I'm questioning the functionality of a painting, and I'm always questioning what is a spiritual tool. Can it be in a painting? Or does it have to be just something I get at a botanica or online? Or can I create it?" Nnamdie says. "I'm exploring a lot with spiritual tools and relics."

For Abracadabra, the group show at the Hollywood Center, Nnamdie returns to these subjects in photography, most notably in the work "Inner Vital Burning (Mars)." Focusing on a steadily smoldering flame, it circles back to his astrological leanings, he says. "It's really a self-portrait of an Aries," he says. "Aries have a fiery desire, and I identify with a fire sign's ambition and passion."

Nnamdie's work, along with those of 100 other local artists from the TM Sisters to Luis Pinto to TYPOE, remains at Abracadabra through February. The exhibition is a fundraiser for the center, and tickets grant you admission to the show for $30, or admission and a piece of your choice, from $375 and up per couple.  Call 954-921-3274, or visit artandculturecenter.org for more details.