Dominican-born and New York-based artist Fanesha Fabre‘s work first caught our eye with La Ramona Lisa, a portrait of a Latinx woman inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. In Fabre’s much livelier version of the famed painting, Ramona wears a cropped Supreme hoodie, accessorized with doorknocker earrings and a nameplate necklace. Her hair is coiffed in a slick updo with baby hairs laid with the regal subject posed against a Dominican hair salon/barber shop.
Fabre’s illustrations are a raucous celebration of the the flavor and beauty of Dominican communities wherever they’re based, though at the same time she shows depth with an examination of her people through altogether different lens with watercolor portraits, a medium she describes as her “one true love.”
Below we got to know a bit more about Fabre’s background as well as what she has coming up in 2020.
Snobette: Hi Fanesha, can you tell us about yourself? Where did you go to school and what led to you becoming an artist?
Fanesha Fabre: “I was born in the Dominican Republic. When I was about eight-years old, we moved to New York. We lived with my aunt in Washington Heights and less than a year later we moved to Miami. That is where I spent the majority of my early years. I often came back to New York, mostly during summer and spent time with my cousins. While in school in Miami I excelled in art and failed at pretty much everything else. I had a lack of interest in anything else. All I wanted to do was create all day long.
“I also developed an interest in music and after I graduated high school I spent all my free time making music and recording. Through my good friend Josama I connected with a lot of emerging, talented musicians. He introduced me to a group called BLESTeNATION and [producer] Harry Fraud. BLESTeNATION member Werdplay introduced me to The Blended Babies from Chicago and The Cool Kids. We all started to working together and I spent a lot of my early 20s traveling and recording between New York, Chicago and Miami.
“Then finally in 2008 I made the big move to New York City with about $200 in my pocket and one piece of luggage. I continued to make music, while integrating art into my practice. Creating album artwork for myself and for others, but never really going full fledge with it because I never thought it was an option.
“In 2017 I was burnt out from music. I had stopped enjoying making it so I decided to take a break and decided to start drawing again. I quit my day job and again, the rest is history.”
Snobette: How would you define your work?
Fanesha: “I think most of my work, including the songs I used to write, is very autobiographical. I like to look at things and elevate them a little through art. I like to celebrate people, celebrate my life, celebrate the things around me. I read somewhere that ‘happiness comes when you start to pay attention,’ when you pay attention to everything around you, you start to realize you are surrounded by a lot of beauty, even in the smallest, most mundane things. I would like to think that this is what my art is.”
Snobette: As an artist, do you ever think about the art world as a whole? Art gallery representation?
Fanesha Fabre: “I only think about the art world when it comes to me enjoying it. I love art, I love to see what people are doing. I get inspired to see artists interpret life. Aside from that, I don’t think much about it, I am too too focused on the process of making art.
“I don’t think about art gallery representation at all. If its happens cool, but we’re in an age where artists can do anything themselves. Also, a gallery would have to understand me not only as an artist but also as a person. I’m very independent about my process. My way of making art is a little less conventional. Also, I grew up watching my father deal with galleries and also wanting approval from galleries; it’s just all bullshit, lol.”
Snobette: What is your favorite medium and why?
Fanesha Fabre: “My favorite medium will always be watercolor. It’s so classic and clean. Digital is easier for the type of work that I do. But my one true love will always be watercolor.”
Snobette: As you mentioned previously your father is a painter? Is your mother an artist as well?
Fanesha Fabre: “My mother was actually my father’s student at one point. She can draw, so can my brother and my sister. So we are all creatively inclined.”
Snobette: You had a solo exhibit in November in the Bronx. Where did the idea come from, as well as the location?
Fanesha: I visited the BEYOND THE STREETS exhibition multiple times. It was such a great show and I kept on thinking about it ever since. Then I met Jesse from @no.hot.food and we became instant friends. Once we became friends, we would meet up and just bounce ideas off of each other and it felt like I was a kid again and he got me really excited about the possibilities. He was also the one who started the process for the solo show. He was the one who connected me with Mike [Hamlett Junior] of The Bronx Brand and the rest is history. I really couldn’t have done it without either one of them, especially Jesse.
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Snobette: Your work is distinct. Where does your style sensibility come from. Do you rep a particular borough?
Fanesha Fabre: “Having grown up in Florida, with family in New York, my style is a hybrid. I appreciate all the flavors. In La Ramona Lisa for example, she wears a look I wore back in the day. The cropped hoodie, nameplate, nails done, that was my style mostly. I still have a fondness for streetwear.”
Snobette: What’s you relationship with fashion? Favorites brands? Any style muses?
Fanesha Fabre: “I love fashion, I love clothes. On the mainstream side I have so many favorites, but I have to name Gucci and Balmain. I also have a big affinity for indie designers. I am obsessed with Equihua, those coats!
“On the streetwear side my faves right now are by friends Never Not Riding and Second Hand Indigo. My style muse is Tracee Ellis Ross. I love her edge and how elegantly she mixes sneakers with couture.”
Snobette: What can we look forward to in the upcoming months for Fanesha Fabre?
Fanesha Fabre: “I’m working on a pop-up in March 2020 and I am doing music again. I’m working on ways to incorporate the two so stay tuned! In the meantime all my current work is on faneshafrabreart.com.