Graffiti is more than just precise calculations of shapes and lines on a wall to graffiti writer & artist Kailani; it’s her life.
In November, I was given the opportunity to meet and interview a remarkably gifted Navajo artist by the name of Kailani. Before this assignment, I had never heard of this artist nor had I seen any of her work. After briefly researching her art and probing my connections on whether or not they had heard of her, I was intrigued and set up a meeting at the LA Underground in Albuquerque.
A fitting location based on Kailani’s art style and subject matter. Her graffiti pieces are of calculated designs of digital and pointed shapes and lines, utilizing the location and surrounding graffiti pieces to enhance her work, which clear shows her understanding and control of color. Her canvases contain some elements as her graffiti pieces; the only difference is the use of muted and complementary colors, warranting further study.
How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting graffiti since 2006, prior to that I started with acrylic as a kid.
Have you had any formal training?
I had a friend that I met in high school who was in to graffiti and I asked him to teach me. Prior to that I was doing calligraphy, fancy letters, word styles, and bubble style. He approached me in my biology class and said “Can I take a look at that? Do you know what this is or where it came from?” “No man, no formal training at all.” After I graduated I was mostly self-taught, learning a majority of the basic rules: You don’t bomb a church, you don’t bomb someone’s house, and you respect other people’s pieces unless it’s dissed; then you can go over them, but you have to do it better than them. Graffiti etiquette I guess. I moved to Albuquerque in 2011, started meeting a lot of writers, learning their techniques and styles, and doing more detailed work, more intricate.
I met someone in my math class at San Juan College, he had said that he was in Color Theory with UNEK and said that it would be very important to take that class. That’s pretty much the only official education I’ve had for art, besides elementary art class, it’s pretty much self-taught, freedom of expression.
At this point do you consider yourself an established artist?
Definitely, I definitely feel that I’m established right now. I’m working on the Los Altos Restoration Project in Albuquerque for the Warehouse 508, a youth oriented place. The biggest class they have is a mural art class, instructed by my good friends Buerto and Faustino. They also have a Rock Star Program that helps kids, record music and learn how to play music. They want to get their own record label going, Youth Empowerment; it’s an LLC so it’s non-profit. They started the Los Altos Restoration Project and after they rebuild the skate park, we’re going to paint a mural on it. I get paid for sketch time. That’s a job I’m doing and getting paid for, I’m also freelancing, doing logos. I’m working with a couple of businesses, on top of all that I do have a part time job at Van’s. I’m really trying to go for the art; I’m also painting and stretching canvases worth about a thousand each.
Do you face any challenges trying to promote yourself and your art?
It is hard to promote myself but at the same time I think it’s good that it takes time for those things, it takes time for people to get to know your art. Right now, I’m working for that, I’m putting in work for it. I’m waiting for my time, just being patient about it.
Along the challenges of self-promoting, are there any obstacles of being a female graffiti artist?
Actually, surprisingly, I’m a peaceful kind of graffiti writer; I’m not one to disrespect somebody. Every writer I’ve ever met, throughout my life has had something positive to say about me, and a lot of people really like the art that I do and they respect me because I have really technical style as well, so it’s a one up for me to be female now, it’s not hard at all.
Where can people view your work and where have you shown your work?
Right now I don’t have anything in a gallery. I do have the facebook page Kailani.Art. Right now my boyfriend and I are working on a website, it’s halfway done, we just need my profile, which I wrote in first person and he needs to write it in second person to apply it to the website, its homeproductculture.com so it should be coming up pretty soon.