Worthy Convos: Austin Uzor Is Finding New Meanings
Austin Uzor is painting a name for himself in the crowded and competitive world of art. Nigerian born and predominately self-taught, Uzor immigrated to North Texas at 25 to complete his MFA at UNT. In five short years, the young talent has captivated audiences with his unique and intricate style. Fort Works Art will showcase Uzor’s work in an upcoming solo exhibition, New Meanings, which will run from Sept. 9 to Nov. 6.
You moved to the United States in 2016. Describe that transition.
My move to the United States in 2016 was one that was filled with hope and uncertainty. Hope that I may find a better future, and uncertainty on how to go about that pursuit. Leaving Nigeria for the first time in twenty-five years was hard but I had to do it to keep the dream of a better life alive. The transition from Nigeria to the US was tough. It still isn’t complete; I do not think it ever will. You have to understand that I lived my whole life as a Nigerian and having to start all over again is one thing but having to do that as [an] adult is something totally different. As an immigrant, my actions, and the actions of others around me, remind me every day that I am still a foreigner, and that’s okay. Transitioning into a multicultural society like the US can be tough but it is an exciting experience. I learn new things every day and that keeps me going.
What do you do when you’re missing home?
I don’t think I miss the idea of home in its physicality. I miss a version of home that is no longer real. The memories of home and the idea of a much more stable structure of living, one that I have gotten so used to after twenty-five years in Nigeria. Whenever I miss home, all I can do is go back into memory lane and explore the past either by drifting away in thoughts or visually consuming symbolic images from back home.
At what age did you realize that you had artistic talent?
I realized around the age of six when most kids around me were into comics. Drawing came so naturally as I was able to perfectly observe and replicate objects either on paper or on sand. With time it became a hobby as all I ever thought about was how to draw, make art and do creative things.
What have you learned from your time in North Texas?
I specifically learnt how to be part of a community of diverse talent. Getting back into an Art program in pursuit of a Masters in Painting and Drawing was part of a process of learning and acquiring knowledge that would help mould me into a professional artist. So, I am grateful that I was able to complete this life changing program that has set me on a trajectory to achieve some of my professional life goals. I specifically gained more experience as a teacher and learner, that way I am able to understand my process better while also being a professional teacher.
When you’re ready to create, do you go in with an idea or do you let the idea come to you?
At this point in my life, creating is a lifestyle. I paint even when I am not physically painting. Just like when we eat food just to fuel our bodies, I make art for the sole purpose of fuelling my mind and soul. That being said, I create all the time be it physically or mentally. Creating as a form of expression helps me interact with ideas as they come either in the short term or long run. It’s like an endless cycle, so just like everyday life you have these ideas overlap, whether new or old. Either way, they’ll always find a way to surface.
When you aren’t in your studio, where do you like to spend your time?
When I am not in my studio, I spend most of my time either playing video games, watching documentaries, or going out somewhere new. I am always in search of an escape route into new worlds and these activities help me disappear away from reality.
You are putting on a solo exhibition at Fort Works Art in early September. What can we expect from New Meanings?
New Meanings is a recontextualization of old and new works, ideas and narratives displayed in a new way to address my past and present in a bid to offer fresh perspectives on how to move on from here. It is a show that has a mixture of traditional wall paintings, site-specific paintings and installations all put together to form new narratives using old visual vocabularies.
We’re proud of our arts scene in Fort Worth. Have you been able to explore it for yourself?
Yes, I have been able to explore this area. The Cultural District is my favorite place in Fort Worth. It is very rich, especially with the arts. I always feel like a tourist anytime I am in the area. There is a lot to explore and digest and I make sure I leave no stone unturned whenever I visit.
What’s the next chapter in your book? Planning on staying in Texas?
I recently got a job as a visiting Assistant Professor to teach drawing and painting at the NYS College of Ceramics, Alfred University, [in] upstate New York. So, I will be leaving Texas for a year. Let’s see what happens. Either way, Texas will always be home to me. Always!
Visit fortworksart.com/newmeaningsbyaustinuzor to learn more about the artist and exhibit.
Although she prefers burnt orange to purple, Hannah Bush is happy to call Fort Worth her new home. She began freelance writing a few years ago to break up the monotony of her 9 to 5, and to prove to her parents that she’s making good use of her journalism degree. When she’s not hanging out with her cat, Hannah can likely be found on a patio with her fiancé, talking about her cat.