Reg Zehner interviews Dejiah Archie-Davis as a part of the series Artists + Creatives.
I’ve known Dejiah for a minute, since CCAD (Columbus College of Art & Design). She has always been interested in art that evokes emotion, connects to family, the self. She has participated in lots of different types of art-making, curating, programming, and world-making. To start, I invited her to talk about where she’s at: her interests, what’s in her corner, what does it look like?
I’m interested in everything. I want to do everything. I’m interested in video, collage. Steel is my main thing. And I also love sculpture. I just love working with my hands, being messy. Anything that involves me building something or disconnecting something. I’m really interested in those types of things. I also love sound. I’m trying to learn how to play an instrument. So I think that has helped me understand sound more, and I want to learn how to read music. There’s a lot of things I want to do. Honestly, I just, I love building things. I love connecting stories.
With your corner, and also with your art-making, what really excites you? What keeps you going and going?
I will say, especially when I’ve had my hardest times to stay inspired, what helped me was traveling. Going to a bunch of different art museums, or just seeing how cities were different. I’m just looking at different cultures in different cities studying the way you know, people are in other areas, especially artists. I did a lot of traveling pre-COVID. I went to a lot of different states and I went to a lot of different museums. Took a bunch of pictures of things that inspired me, artists I had never heard of before. I really just spent time, basically building a collection of things that I’m inspired by. I can’t even do that on Instagram now. It’s like, if I just see something that inspires me, I’ll save it. And then I just go back and look at everything that inspires me. And then somehow that gives me the energy to build on my own work because I’m the type of artist where I need to see something first. And then somehow I consume it, in my own way. I just feel like the way the world is set up we need other people or we need other artists to be around to see that other layer of what we can be. I feel like everybody is a reflection of each other. And if I’m in a rut, but I see these amazing artists just making all these amazing things, it just makes me feel more comfortable with opening new ideas and being more fearless.
Yes, that’s nice. With the idea of space and corner, where do you want your work to live? It doesn’t even have to be a real place. And who do you want to be with it?
I want my art to spiritually live within people. Because of the connection that I have with other people, I want that to be felt in my work. In my work I’m creating a dialogue with people I never met and with those I really care about. I don’t really have a set location, but I just think that having my work in multiple areas to exist in multiple ways, builds its own community. And what I want from myself is just to continue to be. I feel like I’m a leader in a way. I want to be a role model. And when I say role model, I’m thinking about the artists that I look up to. They are role models to me because of the way they work so freely. They know who they are and they want to make. It’s that type of role model that makes me feel so inspired and limitless in my own making. That’s the type of person I want to be. I don’t want to stop for anybody or make something different because somebody won’t understand it, or me. I’ve literally studied the role models that I look up to and the one thing I take away from all of them is the constant exploration of themselves and the way they connect to people who actually value their work. I emphasize that—I like to engage the people that actually respect me and my work.
That is really beautiful. I’m going to change gears, take us in a different direction. What are your interests right now? We’re gonna start with what you’re watching. And then we’ll go down the list. So what type of media are you watching: YouTube, TV shows, Netflix? What type of entertainment is drawing you in?
Everything I’ve been watching has been with an intention. Like, I’ve been watching Styling Hollywood. I love that show. Have you watched that? It’s like this couple and one of them is an interior designer. And then his husband is a stylist for all these celebrities. But they run a business together. And they’re a Black couple. And they run a business together in LA. And it’s just inspiring because it’s just teamwork, and then how they motivate each other. I don’t know, I love it. And plus, I love fashion and I love interior design as well. So the fact that it’s in one show is amazing. I also have been into a lot of documentaries. I’ve been watching Youtube documentaries, which are really good. The quality is really good.
What are you listening to right now? What are some of your top songs or podcasts?
Music… I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Lacey lately. It’s so weird because at work, if it’s early in the day, I like to listen to hype music. Sometimes I just listen to a bunch of 80s and 90s music. I play that song “Candy” by Cameo like every day on my way to work. I’m addicted to that song. It can never get bad, like never. And then my other favorite song is “Juicy Fruit” by Mtume. I love that song so much. So I listen to that, like every week. And then, I do listen to a lot of rap. I mean, like, Gucci is one of my favorite rappers. So I listen to him every day. He’s just so motivating.
What are your other interests right now?
Some interests I’m into is not limiting myself to ideas because of resources and talent. It’s just like one of those things—if you really want something, or if you really want to just try something—go for it. However, I’m a perfectionist and I have to get out of that mindset. Usually, everything you make isn’t going to be five stars, you know? And if you focus too much on the outcome, then sometimes you, you know, you might not even enjoy it. Or while you’re making it, you find yourself rushing. And it’s almost like you just got to fall in love with the process, you know. Because if you don’t, then you really don’t see the value in your work. And, that’s the most important thing to me right now: Understanding the value in the time and energy that I put into the things that I do. And I’m constantly reminding myself this is something that I’m doing because I want to do it and not because I’m doing it for some other reason. You know what I mean? It’s strictly because I’m inspired. I want to inspire others. And I just love doing what I love to do, and I love creating things.
Okay, some advice. What would you say that an artist should have in their corner? Let’s go!
Okay, well, um, of course, materials, materials, and materials. You always have to have that thing (aka material) that makes you want to actually make art. And I think for me, in my corner, I always have to have music and fabric. Even a pencil, you know?
Exactly. That also draws back to what you said earlier about using the resources that you have around you. So the material is what will help make whatever art you want to create—which then creates the environment the art will be shown in. Or the material doesn’t even have to be a finished piece, but it could be an idea that gets you going. Yeah, yes. Again, thank you Dejiah. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this. How do people support you—is it online, or your Instagram? Are you selling art at the moment?
I have my main website, which is my full name Dejiah Archie-Davis dot com (dejiaharchivedavis.com). There you can find my fine art pieces. Then I have my shop where I sell my clothes and my sculpture pieces. Then I’m selling original artwork off of my Etsy. All of which are on my linktr.ee: https://linktr.ee/dejiaharchie which is also attached to my Instagram bio @inx0vate .
Reg Zehner (b.1997 and residing in Columbus, OH), is a curator, writer, DJ and sculptor whose work explores the abstraction of Black American histories, sonic intimacies and digital images. They co-founded Friend, an artist platform promoting creatives of color. Reg has presented research on digital intimacy and the spectral hauntings of land and Blackness. This past spring, Reg graduated with a BFA in the History of Art and Visual Culture from Columbus College of Art and Design. Currently, they are co-running an online community radio, Verge.fm, while working on their own artistic practices and world building.
photo credit: Emma Brown