A black woman’s place in the workforce is complex.
Though many sisters have become known for making power moves and contributing to the success of countless organizations, much of that success has been coupled with the experience of sexism and racism in the workplace. This is the inspiration behind the latest work of artist Dania Frink, titled W2 Warriors, which honors black women who bravely enter such working environments on a daily.
Black women have long been Frink’s muse. Much of her acrylic paintings and graphic art showcases women decorated with hip hop lyrics, head wraps, and beaded jewels.
We spoke to the San Francisco Bay Area resident and native about what inspired her to create the project and how her art serves as a reflection of her surroundings.
If you had to describe your work as an artist in a few words, what would you say?
Colorful, bold, emotionally-driven, socially responsive, textured/layered, and unapologetically Black.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
My parents tell me that I first started drawing when I was three years old. In fact, my mother saved a few of my earliest sketch books. I don’t think I ever truly made a conscious decision to be an artist, it’s just part of who I am. I have to credit my parents for always encouraging me to express myself artistically. When I was a child, my father and I would sketch Saturday morning cartoons, and my mother would teach me how to sew pillows and simple skirts. Upcycling was big in our household before it became “Pinterest-chic.” It was an environment that fostered creativity.
Much of your work features Adinkra symbols, hip hop lyrics, and black women with natural hair. When did you realize those visuals would be your focus?
My art tends to be a reflection of my world; the books that I’m reading, the films that I’m watching, the music on my playlist, the fashion and beauty practices of people in my community and beyond my community, the events that are happening — locally and globally. I consider myself to be a life-long learner, therefore as my exposure to the wide range of societal cultures, and history grows, so does the subject matter of my art.
Most recently you showcased a collection titled W2 Warriors. What was your goal for that project?
The W-2 Warriors is a manifestation of my participation in the #BlackFemaleProject, a transmedia storytelling project that collects and publishes the experiences of Black professional women, with the goal of sharing them with the girls and young women who are preparing to enter the professional work world. As I began thinking about my professional experiences, I reflected on this notion of the Black working woman being a warrior. When she rises in the morning, she “arms” herself with prayer and meditation, focus, and the support of loved ones as she steps out on the “battlefield” of the work place, no matter her industry, function, or level of experience. This armor serves to protect Black women from the, often daily, onslaughts of sexism, racism, and other barriers in the workplace. Sometimes it is much easier for me to communicate complex topics, visually. Hence came the inspiration for the W-2 Warriors.
You’re also a member of the #BlackFemaleProject, a network of women that share their stories with young black women who are about to enter the workforce, which you mentioned earlier. How are you sharing your story through this network?
There have been a number of avenues through the #BlackFemaleProject for me to share my career journey with not only the young women and girls we aim to prepare, but my fellow professionals. I was fortunate to be able to participate in a few of the wisdom circles/conversations that took place in Oakland. I also submitted my personal story to the project; which consists of a number of vignettes of lessons learned, and words of inspiration for the next generation. The W-2 Warriors was another opportunity for me to contribute to the #BlackFemaleProject, from a creative perspective. I am so grateful for the vision of Precious Stroud, who is the creator of the #BlackFemaleProject, and one of my mentors. The project has received a significantly positive response, and has the opportunity to impact a wider range of Black women, seasoned and young.
You go by the name “Fluffy Jo.” What does that name mean to you and why do you use it for your brand?
My Great-Grandmother, the late Valerie G. Bell, nicknamed me Fluffy Jo when I was very young. Ms. Bell, which is how we all addressed her, was a magical woman. She was that quintessential, Southern matriarch who loved hard, cooked from the soul, and lived life with such zeal that you couldn’t help but smile when you were with her. We had a very special bond, as I was her first great-grand, so we spent a lot of time together. There was no other name that I’d considered when developing my creative brand. For me, Fluffy Jo captures the love, support and creativity of Ms. Bell. It is one of the ways I choose to honor her memory.