Based in the Paseo Arts District, Ebony Iman Dallas who her father hailed from Somaliland, uses art to express her feelings and to tell underrepresented people’s stories.

Outlook 2020: Ebony Iman Dallas uses art to tell stories of underrepresented people – Article Photos


By Brandy Mcdonnell

Behind the familiar figure of “Invisible Man” author and Oklahoma native Ralph Ellison, his wife, Fanny, stands with a red pen in her fingers.

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“While he was working on his books, she was making sure the house was taken care of, she was paying the bills, she was working and cooking to make sure he had what he needed to bring this masterpiece to light. Not only did she do that, but she also helped edit his work. That was something I had never heard before,” Oklahoma City artist Ebony Iman Dallas said.

“She was a dynamic person, as well, that worked with the Civil Rights Movement. … So, this is about him, but I want people to see that he was ‘Seen, Supported and Loved’ — and that’s the title of the piece — by her.”

Based in the Paseo Arts District, Dallas, 39, uses her paintings to share her African American heritage, to express her feelings and to tell underrepresented people’s stories.

“It’s important to share stories that maybe don’t always get the front page,” she said.

After growing up in Oklahoma and earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma, Dallas moved to Oakland, California, to pursue a career in advertising, then her master of fine arts in design at the California College of the Arts. When she started a series of portraits of legends like Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela, she noticed a pattern.

“I was just thinking, ‘Gosh, man, I know women are doing things, but where are they at?’ Most of my paintings were of men. A lot of the accomplishments of blacks and other (people of color), there’s just not enough representation, and there’s a similar challenge with women’s stories being shared,” she said.

“There’s everyday women that are powerful, that are doing big things, that have overcome major obstacles in life, and I wanted to share those stories to inspire others.”

In California, she reconnected by chance with the family of her late father, who hailed from Somaliland. She since has traveled to Africa several times to visit her family and even founded a pair of nonprofit organizations, Afrikanation Artists Organization Somaliland and Afrikanation Artists Organization USA, to connect art communities in the two countries.

Over the holidays, she journeyed to Africa again, where she delivered arts supplies to an orphanage in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland; visited family in three countries; and shopped for fabric in a small market on the Kenyan coast. She incorporated some colorful pieces into her Ellison portrait, which she painted for auction at the February Ralph Ellison Foundation gala.

“I felt like it was perfect for this piece, to bring out the African heritage,” she said. “The loud colors also speak to this idea of being seen. You can’t help but be seen in this outfit.”


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Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1 million page views a year for the past two years. Raised on a crop and cattle farm near Lindsay, McDonnell started her journalism career in seventh grade, when she was elected reporter for her school’s 4-H Club. Taking her duties seriously, she began submitting stories to The Lindsay News and worked for the local weekly through high school. An Oklahoma State University graduate, she will celebrate her 10th anniversary at The Oklahoman in May 2012.

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