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Iowa Artist

Kayana Janay

12/2/2020

Young artist gives hope.

Kayana Janay holds one of the art pieces, “Comfort to the Broken Hearted,” that she painted for a virtual Black art and expressionism showing.

As a young artist, Kayana Janay frequently expands her repertoire of art, and she’s learned to avoid a certain repetitive look.

“I’ve learned to not pigeonhole myself into one style. Social media makes everything a popularity contest to have a distinct recognizable look,” she says. “As a craftsman, it’s good to branch out.”

Janay began drawing anime characters as a pre-teen and expanded to drawing portraits. Many of her paintings portray African Americans.

“I depict African American characters since I am. It’s important to me. My work is also inspired by my Christian faith and biblical inspiration, which I incorporate into my drawings,” she says.

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She feels her art plays an important role in climate and society, helping on an emotional level.

“When you look back at history, art plays a role in every great conflict,” she explains.

As she revealed an abstract painting to her grandpa, she says his reaction explains everything.

“He looked at it, saying, ‘I don’t know what it is, but this art, it’s speaking to me.’ That’s the power of art, to speak to people in ways you might not expect it.”

One of her favorite subjects is men.

“I love to draw men,” she says. “I find masculinity beautiful. It might be an oxymoron to call masculinity beautiful, but to me it’s a beautiful disposition.”

When she sold her first painting in high school, it felt rewarding and validating.

“It’s a sense of relief,” she says. “I believed I could thrive as an accomplished artist. Sometimes I get into my head a lot and not sure how people react to my art.”

Janay moved to Iowa from Chicago in 2017 with her family. They opened up a nonprofit, the Des Moines Dream Center, a hub for helping at-risk youth by providing kids a creative outlet. At the center, Janay teaches art classes to young students.

“Teaching was never in my plan,” she admits. “These kids come from harsh lives. They need an outlet to express their feelings. With so much going on in the world, they hear and feel, but can’t always articulate their feelings.”

Janay recently participated in a virtual art show for Black art and expressionism, depicting how African Americans are facing the world today. When she paints, listening to music allows her to get in the creative flow and discover her purpose.

“There are moments when I just start to cry. This piece I’m making could actually affect people and give them hope. When people say my painting spoke to them, I need that,” she says. “It’s like a high and it’s my favorite experience of doing what I do.” ♦

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