Meet the Maker: Deandra Stokes
Who are your biggest influences?
I was born in Los Angeles, CA but grew up all over the west coast. I lived in Las Vegas, NV for about 10 years before transferring schools to the University of Oregon where I got my BFA in what’s now called their Arts and Technology program. I feel like growing up in Las Vegas for a decent chunk of my life has totally contributed to my More is More, Pop-Culture-influenced kind of artistic aesthetic. That and growing up watching a ton of cartoons and 90’s black and/or women-centered sitcoms like Living Single and The Nanny. These things have really contributed to my sense of humor and the way they at times can just be funny, but at other use that humor to to help break down barriers around tough subjects and open them up for discussion. My work is usually, atleast to me, a little bit funny. Like the concept of a Prince mirror complete with detailed, light-catching chest hair. While it’s an iconic person who you can physically and metaphorically see yourself in, you are still literally looking at a mirror that has chest hair drawn onto it. I think that’s funny! Lol. As far as job profile, I’m currently doing freelance graphic design work and have my own artistic practice where I’m making a bunch of mirrors at the moment. I also am interning and volunteer at a few places around town.
Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now? Who has inspired you in your life and why?
With my foray into making mirrors and this kind of functional art, I was originally inspired by wanting some new, cool, unique mirrors and not finding any around. So, as usual for me, I thought why not try and make something myself. I then thought of creating mirrors of things that have influenced me and been apart of my life and making up who I am as a person, not just as an artist. Kind of being a reflection of myself and, oh wow dang, doesn’t that go well with being a literal mirror. Haha. Plus! I was trying to relax a little bit and have some piece of mind with a more mellow content branch of some of the art I was making, as it had focused on heavier topics for the past few years. So it has just nice to have an area that was a little lighter too.
As far as inspiring me in my life, that's a super broad and tough question! I’m inspired by both the work that people do, but equally so, their character, actions, and outlook on life. I'd say at this point, Erykah Badu is and has been a big inspiration. I listen to at least one album of her's a day. Her music and her words, her as a person, her presence. Everything about her is pretty inspiring to me. I used to have quite a bit of anxiety as well as depression, and had kind of a stressful upbringing. So I've been making a point as I’ve gotten older and grown more into myself to surround myself with people and things that inspire me to be comfortable in my skin, are more… calming you could say, are coming from a place of love, openness. While still being aware of and not afraid to bring up difficult things happening in the world, of course. In a turn of topics, as I said previously, cartoons have also been a huge influence on me and pop culture in general. Whether it's humor and visual comedy, the way they simplify shapes, color. I'm sure I could dig in on this and talk forever to be honest.
Who are some of your favorite artists in art, music or any medium? What do you like about them?
There’s so many, but one of my favorite artists in particular right now would probably be Kristen Liu-Wong, a painter out of Los Angeles, CA. Her color palette is crazy dope, as is her imagery, detail, concepts. It's all wild. Focuses on a femme perspective and dealings with sex, violence, sci-fi and gore, serpents and beasts. Which is exactly everything that is up my alley, no matter the medium. Haha. She uses a ton of pink and tiny line work that envelopes you and really holds you looking around at every tiny detail.
There are also a ton of young black and PoC creatives that work in a lot of different mediums that inspire me in not only their amazing artistic talents, but in their style, unapologetic-ness, their unyielding claiming of and making a space for them and the community, and their selfie-taking abilities. The last of which sounds silly maybe but I 1. Am awful at it/always feel a little uncomfortable on camera so I’m trying to take #notes. Lol and 2. Taking pride in your appearance, knowing that you’re fucking amazing and beautiful in a world that for most of us (as in PoC) at this point were told, through various avenues, that your beauty was in spite of your non-whiteness, or only because you were assimilating into eurocentric beauty standards in some regard. But no, they’re doing this action where they’re saying I’m bomb af, and I know it, and here’s a picture of me feeling amazing and looking amazing and I’m proudly going to display it. This display of radical self-love. Which is all something I wish I had recognized and felt at an earlier age and am so excited and happy to see that people are claiming and recognizing this earlier and earlier. It’s the truth and it’s badass and I am so Here For It.
Music-wise, again I'm a huge Badu fan. I'm into a lot of different music, but really into soul, bossa nova, and old school rap in general, especially now that the sun's out and the weather's warming up. They just work so well together. Rihanna and her unapologetic, bad-assery is really inspiring. I used to be a huge metal head when I was a teenager, and the 70’s-90’s album cover art has always been a great example of design and visual narratives.
Plants and seeing them flourish, and thriving and happy inspire me. Being reminded that we as humans are like them in that we’re natural things, which makes us automatically imperfect beings and that’s okay. We’re not supposed to be Perfect. That we’re still fine and great and can flourish, thrive, and parts can die off and grow back, and sometimes we need a little care or to be moved to a better spot or window to grow, even if the previous one seemed fine at first, etc. It’s all in a way one big analogy for life that inspires me.
What projects are you working on right now?
I'm working on a few different general design jobs right now, but my main personal project at the moment is putting out a bunch of different mirror designs. I'm really into functional art; pieces that people can really use and interact with. Something that isn’t unattainable, but inclusive. Which I feel like is the opposite that some can feel when it comes to art. So mirrors have been a pretty perfect melding of a physical, functional illustration. I'm really focusing on putting out a few different different design lines in them.
What do you like to do outside of your work?
It’s always questions like these that make me realize I maybe need to spice up my life. Lol. But I love going to plant nurseries. I like walking around town and going out to bars with friends. I really love beer and eating spicy, fried, lime-y and/or pickled and fermented foods. I’m most likely not doing my body any favors there, but I am Living, honey! I like pup-watching, which is basically people watching but with dogs. It’s my version of “stopping and smelling the roses”. I like hanging out at the local maker-space I volunteer at in town. I love dancing, even if I’m not very good at it (yet) and going to art and music shows around town. Love watching Sci-fi and monster movies when I have the time to sit still long enough for them. I’ve also made A Lifestyle out of how many times I can watch the entire series of “Chewing Gum” all the way through, aka, I’m about to reach double-digits.
How would your best friend describe you?
Pshh, wow. Probably goofy. Determined. Hard working. Funny (Hopefully? Lol). Talkative. Caring. Kinda prone to make a mess.
Where do you see for yourself in the future or what are some of your goals?
In the present and near future looking at making several series of mirror designs. But one goal of mine has always been to be self-supporting/sufficient. I think it definitely comes out of being raised by a single mom. Not strictly speaking financially, but also I’ve realized I’m also really drawn to the aspect of working for something that I’ve built myself or had a prominent role in. I’d like to do work that also gives back to the community and provides a platform for voices that aren’t given the space or heard as often. Not sure how I can or will meld these into something in the future, but these are all definitely goals I’ve had for a while now. I’d also love to own a 1965 Mustang coupe, have my own dog, learn how ride a motorcycle/dirtbike, and transition fully into a more plant-based diet!
Is there anything you would like people to know about you?
If anyone’s been wonderin’, my name’s pronounced Dee-AHN-Druh (with that hard AHN, not ANN) and no, you can’t touch my hair.