Art is a medium in which a person, through creative means, can delve into to find his or herself and cultivate an identity that may have been unexpected. In fact, the late Thomas Merton has blessed us with a thoughtful statement: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” This was the case for Atlanta-based painter, Muhammad Yungai.

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Thornton Dial is a man of truth – unclaimed by the pretentions of high art, the Alabama-native creates pieces constructed out of everyday objects strewn throughout the home. The truth lies in the message behind his work – simplicity in metaphor, a reconstruction of the civil rights-era racism through the placing of mop strings or scavenged tin. Dial utilizes commonplace, intricately Southern scraps to often depict America’s most glaring realities: racism, war, bigotry and homelessness.

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“What helped me through the tough times was projecting. Everybody was a hater in my mind and it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t take any of the tough times personally because I had faith that I would be able to do something undeniable,” said Alim Smith, also known as “YESTERDAYNITE.” Smith is a 29-year-old Delaware artist with a unique perspective. He defines himself as an afro-surrealist, a term coined by activist Amiri Baraka for someone who possess, “skill at creating an entirely different world organically connected to this one … the Black aesthetic in its actual contemporary and lived life.” He originally caught the attention of the internet through his portrayals of popular internet memes, but now much of his art focuses on black women, black culture, and iconic black figures.

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The undeniable link between graffiti and hip-hop is marked by the culture that was conceived in the Bronx in the 1970s. Since then hip-hop has matured into a prominent artistic culture in America that is arguably something completely different from how it began. Originally consisting of music, graffiti and breakdancing, hip-hop culture has created a platform for urban city dwellers to express themselves and voice their concerns about societal issues. Doze Green, graffiti artist and social commentator, is known as a legend of culture’s uprising.

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Lately, it has become nearly impossible to remain inside our own little bubbles. You can be transported to places you’ve never seen or heard of by just turning your TV on or logging onto social media. I wake up on a typical Monday morning, get dressed, have some coffee and turn on the news to realize that I was lucky to have a boring peaceful weekend. There are so many things happening every day around the world; innocent people dying, violations of human rights; corruption; drugs; diseases; hunger, you name it. The saddest thing is that we all know about it, we condemn and complain about it, but we don’t do anything to change it, we only rely on someone else’s good deeds.

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The self-taught artist, J.D. Hillberry, has been a professional artist for almost 20 years. Over this time, he has become the most respected and well known artist in his field. His charcoal and pencil drawings are praised for being life-like and his style interests viewers because it plays with their perception of reality and tells a story. His book, Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil, has sold over 50,000 copies to date and it is now considered a classic drawing instruction book that is used by student all over the world. However, although Hillberry always enjoyed art when he was younger, he never thought he was going to be an artist.

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As the images pop up, there’s a lot to process. Bright colors, large eyes and words all come together in one piece. When these types of works show up, art is no longer a spectator sport. We are involved and become a part of this world. Joseph “Sentrock” Perez has created a graffiti-based work of art that screams at you in both pictures and words.

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At 15 years old, Melissa Alexander (aka Phyllis.Iller) was convinced she was going to be a DJ. She had the passion, the love for music and the rhythm to make it happen. All she needed was the equipment. So when her father asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she made sure to ask for two turntables and a mixer. To her surprise, she received a small digital camera instead. “I was slightly disappointed,” she recalls, “but, little did I know, this would be the beginning of a love affair documenting the life I saw before me.”

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