Q+A with Hasabie Kidanu, Multimedia Artist + Creative Political Commentator

Hasabie Kidanu has a kind of subtle glow that comes from an immense inner patience combined with fearless drive. Her precision, determination, and even joy are evident in her phenomenal artwork. Though she currently lives in Brooklyn, she will be attending Yale in the fall. We’re so happy to introduce you to the inspiring Ms. Kidanu. 

The Basics

  • Age: 24
  • Location: Brooklyn, NY
  • Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill + Yale School of Art
  • Field of Interest: Art/Art History
  • What Inspired You Today? I was listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album walking to work – it’s genius. I was jamming to “Wesley’s Theory” and I was so proud – I love the part when the female vocals scream ‘tax man coming, tax man coming.’ I kept breaking out into slight dance moves. I was walking through a Hasidic neighborhood, and I stood out, especially to the kids.
  • What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself?  I’ve never had to answer that – I would say I am very daring to get myself new opportunities, in an almost naive way. But thankfully, all the craziest things I have gunned for I have gotten. Maybe they weren’t that crazy to begin with.


Questions +Answers

As an artist, you’ve probably faced “creative blocks.” What do you do to get around those and stay out of creative ruts?

Well – lots of YouTube of artist talks, lots of flipping through art books, lots of music and novels – oh and documentaries. Watch Gerhard Richter’s documentary and you will be ready to make like 10 paintings (but it also makes me want to burn my sketchbook). My creative rut comes in waves, art can be moody. But it usually happens when I am not engaged with any creative product. I also keep a folder on my laptop I’ve titled ‘INSPIRATION’ in all caps- it gets things going.

I roasted the chicken like pretty woman, 2014, Multimedia (digital print, etching, powder pastel)

You work at a studio and cultivate an active creative practice. How do you balance both? Do you find that one influences the other?

Well, I work for a painter. It’s incredible the amount I’m learning but it’s kicking my ass – by the time I come home and start getting ready (especially mentally) to work, my eyes are giving out. So in a strange way there is no balance.

That’s the thing. You choose very early if you want to be a full-time artist or not. Maybe it’s life’s way of trying to weed things out. And funnily enough, the best wave of work I made was during last fall when I was basically unemployed.


Most of your family members live in Ethiopia. Does that distance from some of your closest loved ones play into your artwork?

I grew up in a place where you see a lot, are exposed to all things, good and bad at a young age. So the element that is related to home that is in my work is my need to be a bit political, subversive and have some sort of social commentary. I have a hard time making work that’s ‘quiet’. In terms of my parents, it doesn’t make too much of a difference, because either way they are very hands off. And of course, nostalgia gets me from time to time.


Congratulations on recently being accepted into Yale art school! That’s such a huge accomplishment. How are you preparing for it?

Thank you, thank you. Luckily, I’ve got a few friends and older artists who have been through the program who are giving me tons of advice. I’m trying to sketch everyday so that my hand is loose. Trying to mentally prepare and grow thicker skin. It’s a ton of growing pains, and I’m getting all kinds of opinions.

Yetefa Igir, 2014, oil paint

But I am trying to really think about what I want for myself at the end of the two years. I can’t even look at the notable faculty/alumni list, it freaks me out too much!

What’s your favorite quiet corner of New York?

Is there a quiet New York corner? But you know, there is a park in Brooklyn, called McCarren Park – it’s got a few quiet corners.


Who Inspires You?

Korde Tuttle writes incredible work, I especially follow his Tumblr when I feel like I need to read something profound. Warsan Shire is another wordsmith. She gets me every time.

Connect with Hasabie: Website + Twitter + Instagram


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