BOOM Concepts' DS Kinsel explores anatomy and jujuism in solo exhibit BRAIN BONE BLOOD | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

BOOM Concepts' DS Kinsel explores anatomy and jujuism in solo exhibit BRAIN BONE BLOOD

click to enlarge Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery - PHOTO: SETH CULP-RESSLER
Photo: Seth Culp-Ressler
Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery
At BOOM Concepts, the Black-led community arts hub he runs with J. Thomas Agnew in Garfield, Pittsburgh artist DS Kinsel provides support to countless local creative entrepreneurs, small businesses, and community members. Now, Kinsel's own work gets the spotlight in BRAIN BONE BLOOD, a solo exhibition at 707 Gallery in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The multi-media project is described as a "collection of artifacts exploring abstracted anatomy, jujuism, and the amalgamation of identities." With everything from canvas-based paintings to towering sculptures, the exhibit aims to explore the physical experiences we store in our bodies, brains, bones, and blood.

Pittsburgh City Paper asked Kinsel a few questions over email about the exhibition, on view until May 15.


This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

When did you begin conceptualizing this project?
The entire collection really stems from my sculptural explorations. In 2015, I began doing these body-from-trash sculptures called “Shells of our Former Selves.” Each trash sculpture serves as vessels for spiritual reflection and sacrifice — what we shed, what we combine and make new. I was making them by collecting my friends' trash, then making sculptures out of those, using that trash and different holding casts like foil, tape, cardboard, or plastic wrap. That year, Jason Sauer and Most Wanted Fine Art gave me a residency to explore this idea in a small show. The concept evolved and was presented as a window display installation with Oakland Planning Development Corporation's Atwood Gallery with the help of Leo Hsu. The idea grew again and I got the chance to present an iteration of "Shells Of Our Former Selves" in 2017 in Providence, R.I. at the Dirt Palace (shout out to Pipi and Xander).

All this time, I was also creating them in unsanctioned public spaces, and then the sculptures served as set pieces in a series of immersive theater works. It was a dope separation from my painting practice, but, internally, I knew that I really, really wanted to figure out how to turn these sculptures inspired by humans and the lived experience into paintings or reinterpreted as paintings. The basis of my painting practice started with encaustic landscapes and abstract works. In 2017, I was in a super explorative zone and had some space to shift what I was creating. It was time to explore how portrait and the body shows up in my way of expression. Thankfully, I had a starting point with the heart.
click to enlarge Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery - CP PHOTO: LISA CUNNINGHAM
CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham
Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery
Alongside this artsy journey, my real ass life was happening and my partner was pregnant. It was like new life was coming into the world from the new life coming into my actual existence. It was time to create the objects and transform these sculpture into paintings. So I compiled a ton of canvas and started my research, reading, working, and grinding on this idea of exploring anatomy and amalgamation of identity alongside a constant themes of jujism in these paintings — and, how the hell do I turn these sculptures that I finally have a good handle on into paintings?  It's always about reinvestigating your own practice, refining your hits. It's cool for me to think about how the majority of the physical work has been in process for four years, but the entirety of the concept begins in 2015.

What mediums did you work with? Did you get to try anything new in that regard?
Acrylic, aerosol, encaustic, and black magic is what made this work possible. Everything is on canvas, which is very new for my practice to begin with. The newest technique or strategy on display at BRAIN BONE BLOOD is bringing encaustic to canvas — all of my encaustic work has intense texture and volume — so bringing that to canvas with the striking colors really allows for a layered way of enjoying the works. Something for people to visit when they are in the space alone, they can get intimate with the individual pieces to see these deep wrinkles of high movement and motion through encaustic techniques. It's like there are paintings within paintings within paintings.

What questions did you have going in to creating this exhibition? What questions do you hope it answers?
My only question is, "Who wanna buy some of dis art?" I don't question myself or the work. I make it and then it's offered to the market. If the work is spiritual or based in the public space, I feel like there might be more of an engagement of questioning. The real culture and survival work that happens outside of the white wall gallery space is really the place for inquiry or trying to answer important questions. My work isn't here to answer any questions, nor does it have that responsibility. It's there to agitate, serve, and dunk on you.


I saw that you were also doing hoodies that people can purchase. I think wearable art is a really special thing — what's it like for you to have people walking around in your art?
It's important to have different entryways into your practice. It's also a know fact that Pittsburgh weather always calls for a hoody no matter the season, so its important to have a hoody option available. On the real — hoodies and other accessory items that have a more design feel or brand feel are good ways for folks to support if they are new to art acquisition or have hesitancy around buying art in general. I think wearables like socks and bookbags and hats are something I love more way over the hoodies. The little dad hat I have available on my Redbubble reproduction site with the three skull motif is pretty ill — it's the same print from the show.

click to enlarge Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery - PHOTO: SETH CULP-RESSLER
Photo: Seth Culp-Ressler
Artwork by DS Kinsel from BRAIN BONE BLOOD at 707 Gallery
With BOOM Concepts, you have done a lot to further the careers of other artists. Do you like having the focus on yourself and your work?
As the co-founder of BOOM Concepts, it as a project and organization is an extension of my personal practice. Not only do I like having focus on my own work, it is essential that I focus on personal practice at the base level or there won't be a BOOM Concepts. I believe the support that we have provided and placed in artists, and for artists, has strengthened my personal practice and that has helped me bring such a strong solo exhibition. It's been a while since I showcased physical artwork in this way locally. Public-facing work, residencies, and other dope opportunities to redefine creative practice has prepared me for this exhibition but also kept me off the solo show track a bit. I am thankful to be able to share a clear and strong body of work and not have to do it at BOOM Concepts. I'm excited to have the support and infrastructure of the Cultural Trust to make BRAIN BONE BLOOD happen for a long run. It's been very positive and I'm thankful to work with so many other artists over the years to help make my own practice stronger.

Lastly, I'm wondering what you did if you ever hit a road block or stump during the creation of this exhibition?
Artsits always hit road blocks because making art isn't fun — it's a job. It's hard work. It's challenging, it provides things and challenges you can't solve or that you solve in your head, but then there is the extra step of execution. When I need a break, I take a break. When I need fun, I have fun. When I want to play, I play. Those are the things that keep my practice well rounded — that and reading. Reading reading reading, and more reading about a bunch of different shit, that keeps my brain rolling. I was lucky enough to have a good team and always having a strong tribe around me to support my ideas and help me smash through roadblocks.
BRAIN BONE BLOOD. Continues through May 15. 707 Gallery, 707 Penn Ave., Downtown. Free. trustarts.org

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