By Nick Christophers
Art is such a broad word that there is no true meaning for it encompasses so many facets. For each artist their art is unique in its own way. Hence it is difficult to find a specific meaning for the word art without taking into consideration all the sub-plots involved in it. This can be especially true for artist, Odera Igbokwe. His work is a spectrum of various styles and textures.
Since he was a child he was drawn to the magic of art and the feeling it gave him. As a shy child he always felt alive when he put pencil or brush to paper or canvas. Odera was also taken in by music, dance and storytelling. All of which are depicted in many of his pieces. He realized his love for art even more when he became familiar with the sites FanArt-Central and Deviantart. From there he began to develop his own art world of mythical and realistic characters.
“If I really delve into this metaphor, I think every child has the seeds of creativity planted in their soul. Children have recently gone through the process of well…creation…so all the energies are aligned and waiting to be harnessed. Being creative and artistic is really just allowing yourself to be fearless in your childlike curiosity and be eager to learn and play.”
Odera studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design where he earned a BFA in Illustration. He also studied movement-theater and West African dance with New Works/World Traditions at Brown University. For most of us who do not know what movement – theater is, it is a major foundation and dance form that originated in West Africa (typically from Mali). Odera saw this unique dance technique as an extension of his own “myth crafting” in his art work. He is typically drawn to the fusion of dance and illustration which inspires him to create. This is evident in his work which depicts movement, patterns, flow and rhythm.
As a young man he developed an appreciation for mythology and the images it invokes. His love of myths is derived from the Eidolons from Final Fantasy. A lot of his work is creating a cohesive connection between mythology and one’s consciousness. It is a very interesting idea of how he brings these characters to life on paper and canvas. Even though the process in which he paints tends to sway towards realism he is more focused on the suspension of belief. Odera’s goal is to allow the viewer to be lost in the image and enjoy the ride. His favorite artists who also work in this medium are Sergio Toppi, Zdidlslaw Bekskinski, Yoshitaka Amano, etc.
“Sometimes the idea is as simple as “I would love to play that MMORPG, but I would feel irresponsible. So I will just draw characters inspired by those character archetypes”.
Other times it can be deeper such as a reclamation of Nigerian identity, allegory for relationships with friends and family, or just exploring narratives that really shape who I am.”
Odera has presented his work at many group shows in academic settings. But recently he had a gallery piece at an exhibition at Gallery 1998; the theme for the show was cult classic films. His piece was on the film Pan’s labyrinth. You can view that piece here.
One of Odera’s inspirations is the fantasy TV series “Sailor Moon” from Japan. He found the show was a key element for his artwork and identity. Only recently did he find an unlikely inspiration in the wardrobe of singer Beyonce. He caught images of her on her recent Mrs. Carter World Tour. The stage clothes she picked hit a fuse in Odera who thought of developing a piece that is a cross between “Sailor Moon” and the costume choices of Beyonce.
“So then, I told myself if I am going to honor the Sailor Moon legacy it has to be done in my own way. So instead of thinking of it as fanart, I gave myself the prompt of “If I had full creative control over Sailor Moon, what would my interpretation look like?” And suddenly it became a really fun challenge to honor the mythos of Sailor Moon but contextualize it within fashion and contemporary afrodiasporic myth.”
Currently, Odera has a few projects on his plate. To start, he is working on some illustrations for Ladies of Literature Volume II, Lightspeed Magazine for a special edition called “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” and a short story for a friend that functions as a metaphorical eulogy. Odera has other projects he has yet to divulge but he is sure to keep the public updated on his site. Odera is a very talented artist whose imagery and technique is definitely one of a kind.