Abi Salami Interview - The Hopper Prize

Abi Salami

Abi Salami discusses creating art as a full-time career, making new works with complex compositions & topics, working in series as a means to convey a message, & completing a residency at Field Projects.

How did you get into making art?

I don’t have a solid memory of when I started making art because it feels like I have always made and loved art. I remember as a child I would make drawings for my paternal grandfather whenever we would go see him on the weekends and he loved them and encouraged me to keep creating. I had wanted to go to art school, but my parents encouraged me to attend business school because it was more practical. I worked in Corporate America for almost a decade before I finally took the leap of faith in February 2018 to make creating art my full-time career.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently completing an artist residency in Chelsea, New York at a gallery called Field Projects. Here I am working on a series of works that address the topic of water and how water can be both a protagonist and an antagonist depending on how you view it. The style of the works I am creating are inspired by the works of Faith Ringgold and Robert Colescott. I admire how bold and painfully honest both Ringgold and Colescott are in their work, and I am challenging myself to create works with complex compositions and topics.

I am working on a series of works that address the topic of water and how water can be both a protagonist and an antagonist depending on how you view it.

Abi Salami

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I was listening to the song “Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti and he points out how water can both help you and also potentially kill you. I’m a bit of a thinker/day dreamer, so I started to ponder on that thought. I couldn’t think of anything else like water that is both necessary but can also be deadly.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I tend to work within series, but every now and again I will create a couple stand-alone pieces. I like working in series because it gives me the opportunity to fabricate a story or convey a message and I feel that helps to make my works feel more engaging and visually interesting.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Honestly, there is no typical day. Some days I am just chilling in my studio, listening to music, and sketching on my iPad trying to find inspiration. Some days, I am on my laptop taking care of boring administrative tasks or applying for grants/residencies/open calls. Some days, I am covered in paint while working fervently on a new piece. No two days are ever the same and I love it that way.

Who are your favorite artists?

I am currently obsessed with Robert Colescott and Faith Ringgold’s work. I admire the rawness and boldness of their work. They both weren’t afraid to use their work to talk about uncomfortable things and I am starting to realize how important it is for us artists to use our work to make people think and see the world for what it truly is.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I go to museums and gallery openings to discover new artists. Instagram is also a really great tool especially in these COVID times.

Abi Salami is an artist based in Dallas who recently won The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist by visiting the following links:

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