We had the good fortune of connecting with Wytessa O’Neal and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wytessa, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
The reason I chose an artistic/creative career is quite simple.. it chose me. For my entire life, art and creativity have been thorough stepping stones through life. When I was younger, like grade school, drawing and designing came so naturally for me. Every blank piece of paper was a catalyst for artistic expression. If it were construction paper, notebook paper, and even magazines, I HAD to create some sort of drawing on them. As I got older, art was this weird but cool thing about me that set me apart from other people. It was an attention grabber, it could wow a crowd, seemingly effortlessly. I saw it as an extension of me, like a super power of sorts. Sometimes, I was just a normal person surrounded by friends. At other times, I’d tap into my creativity, and I became a loner with a broad audience. I began to see how my creativity gave me an undeniable mystique, this inevitably brought me to reckon with my identity. As normal as I wanted to be and fit in with all my peers, simultaneously, there was an irresistible part of me to identify myself as an artist. Well, of course only finding identity in being an artist had its pros and cons. For a while I believed that because I was an artist, I had to look, act, and talk in a particular fashion, and anything short of that meant I wasn’t being as artsy as I should have been. The pros were the ability to express myself in a way that was solely my own. Now being older, I’ve come into further understanding about being an artist. It’s not the sum total of who I am, but rather a part of me. Allegorically speaking, being an artist is an attribute of my personality that I believe was created by God, for one of the unique ways I can Glorify Him. Since my life changed, and I began life in Christ Jesus, I’ve discovered my identity to be first and foremost in Him alone. Everything else is insignificantly significant, yet other conduits for Glorifying Him.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I believe what sets me apart from others would be the content of my work. I don’t create art just for art’s sake, I create art to conceptualize meaning and subjects of great importance, into imagery. I’ve been labeled a “Christian artist”, which I don’t mind. However, if you look into “Christian art”, the majority of what you’ll find is a bunch of crosses or pictures of “Jesus” on the cross. In my opinion, this doesn’t do much justice when it comes to engaging the audience into the Faith. With the artwork I produce, its combined with substance, meaning, concepts and principle. I extract that from scripture and pour it into the artwork in a strategic way, via surrealism. I’m most proud of feeling like I can finally plant my feet on solid ground being the type of artist God created me to be. For years, I struggled and battled with finding my voice, my stamp, my niche in art before arriving at Conceptualist-Surrealist artist. The conceptualism derives from my spirituality. The spiritual content I present typically won’t hold up well in logic/rationale. However, they carry much volume in imagery, emotion, feeling, experience and awareness, being characteristics of Surrealism. It allows me to speak spiritually to an artistic and visual driven world. It is the translator from spiritual concept to linear understanding of what is spiritually discerned. Imagery is everywhere and we experience it differently, according to what is most influential. My process of Surrealism, will grasp the expansion of the audience’s imagination. Using their influences, it structures their understanding into a single relatable thought, thus revealing the meaning behind the artwork – which continuously unfolds. How I got to where I am today wasn’t as easy as perhaps most folks have it. For me, it took a lot of diligence, dedication, endurance, and a continual real look at myself. I had to grow and mature in many ways I had no idea would come about. Back in 2013, my husband (who is a teacher) and I combined forces and started conducting our very own classes at our neighborhood community center. We taught the Bible through art to children ages 5 -18, and where held after school for 2 hours a day, 3 days a week. We operated these classes for two years, just in time for my husband to decide that we should turn it into a free camp. So, we did. We called it Camp Romans 1:16, a scripture we used to emphasize courageously standing on our belief. It was a 9 week long, free summer camp and we had a BLAST. During this entire process, I had to really hone in on the fact that I was being watched for how I was intentionally presenting myself, as well as for the ways I was unaware of how I presented myself. Children are our toughest audiences. They’re watching our every move, and listening to our every word, even mimicking most of our actions. I found this to be very helpful with my artistic career, as it enabled me to be more considerate of the audience’s frame of reference to the work. I find this beneficial for me, because it offers me another angle to consider how it will be perceived. Since operating classes in person, we’ve began transforming them into virtual format, which we are in the process of now. In addition to that, I continue to paint, but on another level. In November of 2019, I began creating wearable art, and started a line of bags that I design and distribute online or in person. Believe it or not, working with children can be very helpful when it comes to designing. Children in their purity will ask the questions and make the comments that social etiquette shuns. Imagine designing something, all the while artistically answering, “Why that color?, Why that shape?, or That doesn’t look good”. Its an appreciated involuntary critique. The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been not to cut corners and to always strive to go the extra mile. Spiritually speaking, I’ve learned that sowing is just as important as reaping. How we treat others and what we put into this life, will indeed return to us in some capacity. Most importantly, what I’ve learned and would like for others to know about my story is that our lives are hidden in Christ, and it is only by way of relationship with Him will we ever come to know Him, the Truth of who we are, and His transformative Love. My artwork is persistent with being an avenue for the audience to peer into Faith.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In my view, some of the most fun, interesting, exciting people places or things to check out are culture rich! I love to learn about different types of people and places all over the world, and most importantly, try their native dishes. So, to start, I’d take a visitor to the water! Where I live is very close to Galveston Bay, and just over the bridge is the Gulf. I’d start at the water to forecast the culture of the locals. People that live in the mountains contrast those that live by water, which contrast those that live in valleys, and etc. With each location, the typography changes, and that of course shapes the lifestyles of those that abide there. After we visit the water, we are heading directly to a that local hole in the wall to eat those few things you can only find around these parts. This includes Boyd’s Cajun Grill for a shrimp po’boy, Bear Fruit Bakery for some yummy sweets (both of which are in Texas City, TX), and since we’re in the area, Mama Frances Soul Kitchen in La Marque, TX for some delicious soul food. After we’re all filled up, we’d head to the Kemah Boardwalk, which may sound strange. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good adventure and some degree of thrill, but I’m one that can bring a lot out of a little, and Kemah is an area that does just that. The Boardwalk is such a quaint amusement park, which seems to go against the status quo of what an amusement park should be. I like that about it, big fun in a tiny place. Lastly, we are going from point A to point Z in Houston. We’d visit art museums, Middle Eastern food spots like Halal Guys, boba tea cafes in China Town or Kim’s Tea House, African clothing and merchandise, and of course the graffiti walk downtown.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people that I could spend days upon days mentioning that deserve credit and recognition in my story. To begin, Jesus the Christ – my Lord and Savior and for literature, the Holy Bible. God IS the story of my life, my reason for reason, my first love. God is the Life, Joy, Peace, Rest and Hope inside of me. Next, would have to be my oh so loving and humble husband. He has been my mentor, coach, instructor, and leader of our household. He is an all around exquisite man of God, very strong in character. Lastly of most honorable mentions, what is a story without thanks to the folks? My parents deserve tremendous credit in my story. The way they shaped me, influenced me, and for the abundant love they raised me with, is a priceless debt I could never repay, but will be forever grateful for. All the remaining credit most certainly goes out to friends, family, spiritual family, teachers, and all those people who are secretly rooting for me that aren’t seeking credit. To everyone, they are all important contributing factors in my story.