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Ambitious, Sexy, Otherworldly: A Painter’s Journey in Finding Her Style

Photo: Ashley Villanueva @lustingforlight
Artist Kiki Wondeh alongside her work at the Brickhouse Gallery & Art Complex on January 28, 2023 in Sacramento. Photo: Ashley Villanueva @lustingforlight

To be comfortable in one’s own skin and radiating confidence for the world to see is exactly what Sacramento-based artist Kiki Wondeh achieves with her unapologetically sexy art style.

“I kind of want my art to be in people’s faces. It’s one of those things you can’t be subtle when you’re trying to destigmatize things because it won’t be pushed to people who are the ones stigmatizing it,” Wondeh said.

To break away from society’s sexualization and stigmatization of bodies, she paints otherworldly queer people with different types of nude bodies , and fun colors.

“I paint them in ways that are fun and inviting even when I'm dealing with topics on things that have been stigmatized. That way it’s something that’s hard to look away from” Wondeh said. “I also think it relates to me. I can dress more revealing at times but overall I just wear what I want. It’s just an expression like, ‘you know what, this is what it is. This is who I am.’”

Her process and style are evolving as she continues on her art journey. Wondeh has currently been experimenting with oil painting and enjoys it because it’s something that takes a lot of patience and time even though it can be intimidating to some artists who understand the level of commitment that might take.

As for Wondeh, she devotes time to sit with her pieces, making adjustments, and seeing her vision through without rushing the process. A lot of the time she paints without set plans or references to see what her abilities can achieve.

Her current undertaking is a fierce red piece. Much of her inspiration comes from artists who paint sexy, expressive people and some artists who are inspired by ballroom scene. Painting vibrant and fiery flames without references has challenged Wondeh as an artist to discover and explore her abilities to paint different elements.

“I was listening to this thing that was saying, ‘paint stuff just a little bit harder than you think you can actually do,’ and so I’ve been trying to be more ambitious with my stuff,” Wondeh said. “There has to be a level of being outside of the comfort zone in order to improve and even know if you’re able to do those things.”

Photo: Ashley Villanueva @lustingforlight

Wondeh’s journey began with art commissions, though it wasn’t what she enjoyed most. At the time, she felt her creative artistry was confined in a box.

“I realized I started to hate it because I didn’t like the idea that people were actually telling me what to paint essentially. It was my style but wasn’t coming from my head completely, and that was something that kept me from being inspired to continue,” she said.

In October 2022, Kiki stepped away from art commissions and discovered her own unique style.

“I do a lot of otherworldly things, stuff that is from another dimension. It’s not like a picture that would realistically happen in this universe,” Wondeh said. “I paint a lot of people that are different colors that are not like skin tone colors — purple, red, and green people that are queer in some way.”

Wondeh’s most ambitious piece she’s worked on thus far was a self-portrait she created during a hired live painting event produced by Janelle Grace in Berkeley. This event centered on learning to love yourself and care for your mental health. The event was also a release party for the short film Love Conquers All.

“I decided to do a self-portrait piece where I was looking at myself. It was the very first time I ever painted myself. That was probably, at that point, the most ambitious I had been in a painting ever,” she said.

Wondeh is determined to impact the art world, normalizing discussions around sex and its significance as an art form.

“I’m just excited to see where things go for me,” Wondeh said.” I’m excited when I talk about it because my dream is to do what I like, which is art, and to travel.”

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