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Black Art at Rice: Mignote Tadesse discusses motivation and art

Jennifer Li / Thresher

By Shreya Challa     3/1/22 11:17pm

Mignote Tadesse, a Lovett College junior, aims to incorporate more life and human experiences into her art, primarily working with oil paint on landscape images. Throughout her creative process, she draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, from Monet to her family portraits, and reflects on balancing art with her classes and schedule as a pre-med student.

Rice Thresher: How would you say your major, cognitive science, has influenced your art?

Mignote Tadesse: I’m taking a history of sensation class [this semester] where we learn about different representations throughout history of the senses and perception. We worked a lot with art and different artwork. I did a lot of art in that class and I picked up new techniques on how to represent an image and things like that.

RT: What would you say about the art classes at Rice and your experience with them?  

MT: I took an art class last semester, which was a life drawing class. That was my first art class I took at Rice, so I really didn’t know what to expect. We had models come in every day and we would draw them in like different positions, with different contexts and lighting. We did the same thing every day, and that was really cool because we refined a lot of our skills and changed our drawing styles really quickly. 

One thing I was worried about was it being a high stress environment, but it was very supportive and had a lot of good critique and feedback from the students and the professor. It was a really nice place to make art. I think because I’m on the pre-med track, it’s hard to fit art classes in my schedule at this time, but if I do get a chance, I definitely want to take a painting class. 

RT: What, or who, would you say are your biggest artistic influences?

MT:  Monet is one of the artists that I really enjoy, and I have a lot of paintings by Monet in my room. I just love the style and it has this sort of relaxing and homey sense. I like the brushwork in a lot of Monet’s artwork. Other than that, I really like a lot of paintings and landscape images, lots of color, so another artist that I really enjoy goes by Leonid Afremov. His paintings are basically a lot of thick brush strokes, really pigmented and dark colors but also a lot of vibrant colors. 

RT: Are there any projects you’ve recently been working on?

MT: Actually, I have been going through a lot of my family photos and I really like the type of portrait-style photos that my parents and grandparents take — it was really interesting. It’s a lot of similar poses, but they’re very elegant and almost regal in a way. I’ve been recreating them and putting my own spin on them. One of the most recent ones I’ve done is an old picture of my dad. That was really fun to do. 

RT: What has your journey as an artist been like? What challenges have you faced? 

MT: I think the biggest challenge, honestly, has been finding the time to just do art or even be motivated to do art. It’s been hard to get back into it and really develop my skills more rapidly, which is why I took the class to begin with — to allocate time. It’s been putting me back in the habit because I feel like the more art you do, it just develops your skills much quicker.

RT: What was your favorite artistic experience?

MT: Oh gosh, I was really young, but I was in middle school and I was working on a mural for my school. And it was just this huge hallway in the staircase of our school. Me and my friend, we were working on it for weeks and [the school was] just like, ‘Here’s some paint, draw on the wall.’ They just gave us full control. That was so funny because we had no idea what we were doing, but in the end it was really nice. 

RT: What advice would you give to other students, specifically those at Rice, who are interested in art, whether they’re art majors or not? 

MT: I think my advice honestly, and it’s something that I’m trying to do, is to just go out and have more artistic experiences on campus. There’s so many events and things that are happening on campus involving art and different artists from campus or outside of campus. It’s a great way to meet people with your interests and you don’t even have to be an art major, obviously. It’s for everyone. I think it’s really important to go out to these events and meet all these people. 

RT: What is your perspective on Black representation in art?

MT: I think Black representation in art is definitely something that we need to have and it’s something that we are seeing a lot more of, which is good. But I hope that it continues because there’s just a whole lot that’s in Black art, there’s a lot of experience and stories that we can really share with everyone that is impactful. I think it’s important to have it be represented.

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