Afro-Indigenous artist DeLoné uses dreams and ancestral work to create art that heals.
By Jess Bugg, Photos by DeLoné
Self-taught artist DeLoné first began drawing as a child as a way to cope with abuse in their household. Doodling in their closet was a way for them to hide from it all. Later, as a teenager, DeLoné would spend afternoons at an anime shop reading manga and developing the foundation of their artistry. “I started copying the hair and the eyes. It came pretty naturally. When I realized I could draw these characters, I began to draw other things.”
However, it wasn’t until a traumatic miscarriage that DeLoné began to explore painting. “What started as an escape evolved into a way to heal.” DeLoné’s friend brought them paints and brushes and introduced them to Frida Kahlo. “I remember looking up everything I could on her. Then I started learning about other artists and how so many lived such painful lives but could still create such beautiful things. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to create beauty from the chaos and darkness.”
Years later, 2020 would bring a new evolution to DeLoné’s work. While they had experienced vivid dreams and visions most of their life, the pandemic allowed them to fully pay attention and focus on their craft without distractions for the first time. “All I wanted to do was recreate my dreams into art. In that creation, I started to deep dive into my spirituality. Often you will see my work set in the desert.
Deloné Dreams of the Desert
I recently asked my ancestors in a dream, ‘Why the desert?’ They said, ‘Because that is the only place you can listen without distraction.’ Lockdown was my desert in the physical realm.”
DeLoné’s work is a sight to behold. Celestial stories of mixed media play out in ornate detail. Like all great works, the pieces, while deeply personal to DeLoné, are able to transcend the artist and allow the viewer to see their own stories within the creation. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in energy. When we pass, that energy has to go somewhere. I also believe that since time is not linear, there are different timelines stacked on top of themselves. I really feel like my ancestors are reaching out to me, helping to guide me through this life. When you heal yourself, you heal your bloodline. What people seem to forget is we are all connected. I see now how my work is not just helping me heal, but those around me.”
Their current medium of choice is pyrography (a free-handed wood-burning technique). First trying it in 2020, DeLoné fell in love with the application as well as the challenge. “I started with a $12 soldering iron, fell in love and then saved up for a big kit. And I also add acrylic and metal leafing into a lot of my pieces. I have ADHD. So having a bunch of different materials, layers and textures to work with really seems to help keep me in a creative flow.”
Healing from the Pain
While DeLoné’s work used to be darker, portraying pain rather than the healing from it, there has been a shift in their work that connects them to their younger self. “As my work started to portray more messages of power, protection and healing, the style turned into more of how I drew as a kid. All the swirls in the hair were meditation. And the way I paint my eyes is a throwback to me as a teenager drawing anime characters all the time. It has become a way to go back in time and hug that scared little 10-year-old and tell her everything is going to be okay. That she is beautiful. And that she does all the things she was told she couldn’t.”
Just as DeLoné seeks to heal those around them, they also seek to amplify voices in their communities, bridging the gap for others. “Something that needs to be said is yes, I am Black and Indigenous, but I am also light-skinned. I am also queer. I check off all these little boxes for these different marginalized communities where I might be more palatable or socially acceptable in one space versus another. So, I see myself giving back to my communities and uplifting their voices. I see myself being the bridge that can help others get into spaces they didn’t think possible. To make a name for myself that can open doors for the people who come after me. And if I can’t save a seat at the table, I see myself building my own.”