Karina Sharif

Karina Sharif
02 / 25 / 21
"I don't want to just make room for womxn like me, I want to make clearings; massive and unapologetic, we take up space."
Karina Sharif


I'm an artist focusing on Black femxle stories, bodies and minds. I use paper as my medium.

As a dark skinned, Black and femxle fine artist, stylist and designer, things have not come easily to me. That's important to note. I think it has so much to do with why I am the artist I am and why my work comes out the way that it does. Getting here has been a combination of using the creative tools my mother provided me with as a child, and my ability to jump into something new because it feels right such as a new career path or a new medium to explore. Sometimes when you look out and can see the world was not made for you, you decide to say "Fuck it, I'll do things my own way then."

My family is from Trelawny, Jamaica but I was born in Boston. I always wished I had grown up in Jamaica, though. Boston was not and still is not really the place for Black folk. I'm not sure it has shaped me in many other ways outside of aspiring to be somewhere better suited for me. I will say I did always love the juxtaposition of nature meets city scape in Boston. I still miss that after all these years in New York. That and twisty streets. I miss those a lot. So much of New York is a grid. Effective yes, but not particularly inspiring for me. As a child I used to love walking the winding streets in my neighborhood and stopping by houses with gardens to sneak a few flowers in my pocket. I loved the allure of getting a little bit turned around at times but always finding my way back home. As I say this, I realize it's not that safe anymore for kids to just wander. That makes me sad. Independence as a kid in that way is a special thing.

I came to New York to go to the Pratt Institute and I was so certain I was here to become a big fashion designer. I loved my college years but when I left and eventually started working in corporate fashion, I realized all of the creativity was sucked dry from those rooms. It was also incredibly racist. I lasted about 10 years and finally left one day without looking back. I fell into styling literally the day after quitting. I actually had no interest in styling and sometimes I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The artist in me doesn't like the uncertainty of receiving the pieces to the puzzle I worked so hard to create. I like to have all my tools in front of me, no interruptions no maybes. At the start to the pandemic I decided to take my work with paper to the next level. I thought what do I have to lose? I’m happy I did because it feels completely, totally right. I know I got that kind of courage to just go for what I want, regardless of fear, from my mother.

My mother shaped me greatly. She showed me what it looks like to go after your dreams and achieve them. She showed me what hard work and believing in yourself looks like. She also introduced me to the arts when I was a baby. Throughout my life, she always fostered that relationship and I am so very grateful for that gift from her. I also had some great art teachers throughout my middle and high school years. Each of them encouraged me to just try and see what happens. I still live by that philosophy.

Losing her 13 years ago was the one experience that has most changed me. I am surely a different person now. I'm stronger because I had to learn to be. I'm also more clear about not waiting for anything or anyone to go after my dreams. When my mom died my entire world flipped upside down. I had to work incredibly hard on myself to find new footing. I'm not sure I would have had the same courage to be so radical with my path; it was the lack of comfort and having no choice but to fully turn to myself that inspired me to try so many things as well.

Now, I wake up looking forward to self-connection— and then connecting with those around me. I’m working on letting go of any and every voice, thought or individual who tries to convince me I can’t do what I want to do or can’t achieve what I want to achieve. I’m calling in Big Queen Energy and Existence. This year I’m sharing my voice, owning the room for me and we.

"I find beauty in Black culture, Black womxn, Black skin, everything Black is mesmerizing to me. "

I expect to take up a lot of physical space in five years. I'll be erecting my first sculpture in a public space and working with architects to create an actual structure or building dedicated to and inspired by Black Womxn. I have a statement I hold dear to me "I don't want to just make room for womxn like me, I want to make clearings; massive and unapologetic, we take up space.” I find beauty in Black culture, Black womxn, Black skin, everything Black is mesmerizing to me.

My greatest hope for humanity is that we will end white supremacy, dismantle the many -isms it creates, and release its firm grasp on this world. I also hope we can end global warming, another problem caused by white supremacy and capitalism. The fact things have even gotten this far is still mind boggling and truly disheartening. 

The best advice I can share? Listen, ask questions, share your truth when you can. Be open to knowing what you are talking about and not knowing what you are talking about. You can't learn without making mistakes so accept them with grace and take notes.




Karina Sharif photographed by Carolyne Lorée Teston.