Refinery29’s highly anticipated annual festival “29Rooms” is returning to Washington, D.C., this month. The event, both a visual and interactive mass art installation, will feature an assortment of immersive artworks and decorated rooms curated by 11 artists and collaborators.
I recently had the pleasure to talk to Tenbeete Solomon — also known as Trap Bob — and Jamea Richmond-Edwards, two local artists who will be showcasing their artwork at the D.C. installation. The festival is held from Oct. 18 to Oct. 27.
My first interview was with Trap Bob. To me, her work resembles pop art, as it uses a bright color palette. And when I asked Trap Bob to describe her art in her own words, she described it as “bold and relatable.”
“I really try to catch my audience’s attention,” she said.
She wants her art to put a smile on her audience’s faces and have a positive effect on anyone who has the pleasure to see it, she said.
Her biggest inspiration is music. She’s a huge Gucci Mane fan and uses his oeuvre as a frequent source of creativity.
“I also really like all genres, and a lot of the times I find inspiration from lyrics and it gives me an idea,” she said.
Her daily experiences also serve as inspiration for her art. “I use my work as an outlet,” she said.
A lover of all things outer space, Trap Bob uses non-human skin colors in her compositions to promote inclusivity.
“Equality, especially activism, has always been a big part of my work because of my personal life experiences — being a black woman, an artist and a creative and dealing with stigmas and barriers in the industry,” she said. “That is something that I definitely applied into my work.”
For her “29Rooms” installation, Trap Bob designed a staircase called Stairway to Your Dreams for “The Art Park” — a “geometric playground” that features artwork from five artists and will be shown at all the “29Rooms” tour stops around the country.
Trap Bob’s custom-made staircase features bold colors and her signature hand drawings, as well as the words “follow your dreams.”
Although her art carries a simple message, it was inspired by personal experiences. Trap Bob graduated from the University of Maryland with a business degree but didn’t find her calling in life until she followed her dreams of becoming an artist.
After my interview with Trap Bob wrapped up, I got the chance to talk with Jamea Richmond-Edwards. We talked on the phone as she drove back to her studio from Union Market. She describes herself as a mixed media artist, specifically a collage artist.
“It’s primarily cut paper that I glue onto a surface,” she said. “But I’m also drawing on top of it and painting on top of it. I’m putting glitter. There are also certain structural elements to it.”
She’s been collaging for almost 12 years, but Richmond-Edwards originally started as an oil painter with a great aversion for acrylics. When she and her husband first moved near D.C., she realized oil painting would not be feasible because of the poor ventilation in their condo. So, she got inventive and started collaging, and she’s never looked back.
For her collages, Richmond-Edwards primarily paints women and draws most of her inspiration from the women in her family and in her everyday life.
“The works aren’t necessarily me, but they are autobiographical,” she said. “When I look at my paintings I see myself, I see my sister, my mother, some of the young women that I mentored.”
Richmond-Edwards will be showcasing her collage billboard piece during “29Rooms.” The billboard is not part of a specific room and is unique only to the Washington, D.C., installation.
“For me, it’s just about representation and visibility,” she said.
Tickets to “29Rooms” are now on sale and can be purchased here.