One of my goals for the brand is meaningful collaboration. For a long time, I've kept the brand close to the chest; it's been my baby. I was afraid to let anyone be a part of it, and at times, afraid to let it grow for fear of the compromises that come along with it. At this stage, it's imperative that I do that. I've got to give it room to grow wings and extend itself into whatever spaces it's meant to exist. Collaborating with artists of different mediums provides an incredible source of inspiration, while expanding and challenging the brand "norms." Every collaborative move shifts the comfort zone, pushing me beyond executions of my own eye and creative styles. Furthermore, it gives me an opportunity to open the platform to become a stage for supplemental visibility for wave-makers, artists, and doers who embody the essence of the brand, exemplify integrity, and uphold a lifelong commitment to progress and growth.
The first collaboration of the year is one of my favorites thus far. No hyperbole. I reached out to Liberia-born dance artist and writer, David Rue, for a portrait session. David is currently pursuing his MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University, while working in the public programs department of Seattle Art Museum. Jen Graves of The Stranger, a Seattle-area publication, calls Rue "a powerhouse of grace, wit, and joy." His vibrant presence and fluid movement give him an unforgettable impression. I'd never really gotten a chance to spend time with him in a quiet setting, but we quickly warmed up to each other over candid conversation about the local art scene. While scrolling through the shots, I couldn't help but think about how perfect they would be for an artist collaboration with Mintwab Zemeadim. I discovered her work in 2015, and had become an instant fan. I reached out to Mintwab and was elated when she agreed to work with me on the feature.
Mintwab Zemeadim is a self-taught visual artist. As an Ethiopian living in Seattle, her art reflects the merging of two cultural identities. Celebrating and preserving culture are critical to her creations. Utilizing various mediums such as collage allows her to reimagine and combine layers of images to create a new story. I was blown away by the art she created from my portrait session with David. The collection of images beautifully conveys the joy and vibrance of his personality, and the warmth, strength and individuality on which The Underdog Co brand prides itself.