By ELLE MCKENZIE, April 2018
I recently had a conversation with artist , a painter whose compositions integrate colors from each side of the spectrum. Upon my first gaze, his use of warm and cool colors in portraying people of color made me an instant fan. The echoing battle cry, “Representation Matters” is rising by the decibel and I felt a sense of curiosity to learn what Darius had to say about his paintings.
Elle McKenzie: First off, thank you for joining me today.
Darius Moreno: Of course, no problem.
McKenzie: Is painting a passion you’ve always wanted to pursue?
Moreno: Yes. I can say that I knew I wanted to be a painter at 4-years-old, and I got caught in class drawing inappropriate drawings of women. That’s when I kind of knew that I should stick with this — even though I got in trouble, the teacher called my Mom and everything, my Mom went off on the teacher for making this into a big deal.
McKenzie: Right, it’s not that deep.
Moreno: Exactly. And after elementary school, my Mom put me in a performing arts middle and high school so I was always studying art which helped me stick to drawing all these years.
McKenzie: What high school did you go to?
Moreno: Both are pretty well-known art schools in Maryland and DC, but in high school I went to Duke Ellington.
McKenzie: Oh nice! I went to high school in Bladensburg, MD. I’m definitely familiar with the reputation of your school.
Moreno: That’s crazy! Oh my God, I literally lived right there.
McKenzie: PG County alum now living in New York. So who are some artists that inspire you, or artists you just fond of?
Moreno: Damn, this is hard. Honestly, I don’t really look up to a lot of older artists. There is though, he’s my favorite favorite artist I would put into the category of a legend. But as far as other artists that I enjoy, I like a lot of artists that I follow on social media— like, , , Rebecca-Rebecca aka , .
McKenzie: So a lot of people you know.
Moreno: Right. A lot of my peers are pretty much my favorite artists.
McKenzie: I definitely understand that. It’s important for an artist to have like-minded, creative individuals in their corner. Which, actually, is a good segue into my next question. The artists you just named are POC and the people you capture in your paintings are also POC, why does representation matter to you?
Moreno: I want to paint myself. I want to capture the lives of people I grew up around, living in Black communities the majority of my life, I grew up in a Black household. Though actually, my mother is Puerto Rican. But mostly everything from my Dad’s side is Black culture — from southern style music, I have a lot of family from the South that then migrated to Harlem. It’s all lead me to then be inspired by ghetto-fabulous culture.
McKenzie: Yes, the ghetto-fab culture shines through the paintings - it’s one of the aspects made me a fan of your work.
Moreno: Thank you. I don’t know if I’ll ever paint other races — I mean I try to paint other races sometimes — earlier this year I tried to paint white people, and I feel like it’s successful but also feel like it’s not my work when it’s finished. So I try to stick to people of color. I think when I find someone from outside my race who can become my Muse, will be the day I begin painting other races.
McKenzie: Exactly. Your brush strokes, and especially the warm colors you use illustrate the darker skin that maybe wouldn’t read well on the lighter tone. But it would be interesting to see your work if you begin to explore the caucasian race on canvas.
Moreno: Maybe one day.
McKenzie: Will you describe how you teamed up with and painted his album cover?
Moreno: I got the opportunity thanks to Instagram. His manager reached out to me via email, and we were emailing back-and-forth, at the time I didn’t necessarily know if it was a serious thing until she copied Goldlink on it. Then we started a group text, and they were explaining how much they like my work, especially previous paintings I did of rappers, and they wanted me to incorporate that style into the album artwork. So I was like, yes! I started sending them sketches and ideas, and they told me which ones they were in love with.
McKenzie: That’s amazing! So you pretty much had complete freedom over the direction — at least in regards to what Goldlink’s fans would visualize to the storytelling of his album.
Moreno: Yeah, it was a really smooth process. I mean, of course, I had to get everything approved but there truly wasn’t anything I sent them that they disliked. Except, Goldlink wanted me to change his shoes.
McKenzie: His shoes — I love it, that’s hilarious. Are you currently working on a piece or series of your own?
Moreno: Yeah, currently I’m working on creating dolls. With dolls, I’m able to tell a narrative story that sometimes can go beyond painting. The first time I made a doll it was to tell the story of a stripper, and I created this whole set — I had a stripper pole for her and I had a pimp. And then the second time I created a doll was sort of to replicate my friend Giovanna. She likes to vogue and is into the ballroom scene, so I wanted to make a doll in the spirit of her. But recently, I’ve decided to make a series of dolls that I can create stories for to then box up and sell. I also really want to do a few stop-motion films to further tell the stories of the dolls.
McKenzie: I love it. So now your art can expand to another dimension for people to experience.
Moreno: Thank you. The ultimate goal is eventually to get into animation, but I need help, it just takes so much time. Though I did work on a project that will come out at the end this month where I did the animation for an artist’s music video. Her name is . It’s going to be really cool.
McKenzie: I’m excited to see your animation, definitely will have to be on the lookout for that. Well’ I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to sit down with me and Whitehot Magazine.
Moreno: Yes, and thank you for sharing my work. I really appreciate it. WM
Elle McKenzie is a New York based writer.view all articles from this author