Justice Dwight

Creative, vibrant and bold. These qualities depict Richmond, VA artist Justice Dwight, both as a person and an artist. Although, those same qualities haven’t always been intertwined in Dwight’s character. For most of his life, he preferred to stay out of the limelight. However, his art forced him to break out of his mold and to take ownership of his God-given ability.

When did your passion for art first spark? What was your original approach to your talent?

I will say around six or seven. My father was an artist and he would teach me different techniques. Once I started pursuing it myself, I knew the work of a lot of people was way better than what I could produce. But, whatever I can do, I go with that—it’s just me being fearless.

What was an “aha” moment you had about your art ability?

I felt I was really good with my first show in March of 2014. I entered a gallery show at Art Works Inc. off of Hull St. I didn’t win the show but 10 minutes in, a 24” x 30” piece I had sold for $200. When that happened, I told myself, “If I can do that, I can do anything.”

 What is your history with Virginia Union University, (VUU),—why’d you decide to dropout? Any regrets?

I decided to go because my cousins liked it—but I went for social work. I was told my whole life that art didn’t make any money. I am not a social worker and I learned the hard way. So, I decided to drop out in May of 2013. I definitely don’t regret deciding to drop out—I was in school for the wrong reasons.

 What is the significance behind the date on your Instagram bio, 11/21/13?

That is the date when I started dating. I met someone who pushed me. I think women are beautiful. But, when I need someone, I need this person.

 Who is Ian Ibiza?

He is my significant other. He works part-time as a graphic designer for a local print company. He prints and edits my artwork to provide the best quality for customers. After I dropped out from VUU, my parents and Ian told me to pursue art. Honestly, I almost want to give up every day when things don’t go my way. My defining moment was when my dad had a stroke. He was the breadwinner of the house and this was when I decided I better succeed at [art] or do something else. I put the pressure on myself to help with my family’s situation.

When did your fan base start to grow? What is your most popular piece?

I had a lot of Instagram followers before my art—I used to take photos. When that died off, I decided to focus on my art. However, I didn’t develop a major fan base until I was posted on Afropunk—I was put up there twice last year, (read the first and second article here). My pop art series was featured up there and received a lot of praise. I decided to do pop art because it didn’t have a lot of black people. But, now I’m trying to stray from it because I don’t want to be put in a box. People like to determine what you can do.

What is your favorite piece and why?

I really like my 3-D pieces. I use fabrics, paintings, earrings and other items. My favorite piece is Sonjii (below).

Have any celebrities showed interest?

I did a painting for Princeton of Mindless Behavior. Just last week, Erykah Badu retweeted a picture of me and my painting of her. On Saturday, Cardi B reposted on her Instagram a painting I did of her. Also, I did a show in Brooklyn in September of last year and met Markus Prime. He is someone I’ve been following for over five years and it was truly humbling to meet someone of a high caliber in art. I even gave him some prints.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Richmond?

I don’t think much of it—not really a place of community. Everyone is for themselves—you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. But, people who support art are really supportive.  It seems like when a person is getting shine, people get upset about it. I realize that everything I make isn’t for everybody. Some artists lose sight in what they have to do for themselves when they are wondering why they aren’t receiving the same success as their peers.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I answered that question five years ago and I’m way off schedule from where I wanted to be. I wanted to go to VCU but I didn’t get in. But, I just heard recently that a VCU art class was studying my work. When I first started doing shows, I used to act like I wasn’t the artist just to hear what people would say—I can’t do that anymore. Boldness has been a recently attained attribute because of my artwork and personal growth. But, I always know there is room for improvement. If you look at my first piece, it looks nothing like my last piece. It is key to know where you came from and to always know where you are going.

Sterling Giles