This year’s Fiction Issue includes a theme: parenting, childhood, and the ties that bind both. The cover, “Nurture,” builds upon that theme, and was drawn by the artist Loveis Wise, in her début for the magazine. Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated, only a few weeks ago, from the University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, where she studied illustration, painting, and woodcuts. She recently stopped by the New Yorker office to talk about her work, her influences, and what inspired her to pursue art.
When did your artistic life begin?
My dad was a photographer, and we’d visit galleries often—the Hirshhorn, the National Portrait Gallery. I remember going to the Portrait Gallery and seeing a piece, “SOB, SOB,” by Kerry James Marshall. That’s when I fell in love with art. It was, like, “This is what I need to do.” I was maybe eight. But, as kids, we would always draw on everything at home.
A recent illustration by Wise for the Web site On She Goes. Nature is a common motif in Wise’s work.
Was it an artistic house, generally?
It was! Neither of my parents was involved in it professionally, but my dad painted all the time, and did art projects here and there. My grandmother did hair, which definitely inspired a lot of my earlier pieces.
Your name is also from your grandmother, no?
It was my actually great-grandmother’s name, Loveis. And her last name was Edwards. But my grandmother married into the Wise family, and it just came to be—my dad named me after her. I would love to know how she got her name; I was a baby when she passed, at ninety.
It features on the cover, but nature runs through a lot of your work.
My grandmother was also into gardening; it brought her a lot of peace. She wanted to share that with us. She had a little garden in her back yard, and we’d help her on weekends. It was a way for us to bond, and also a way for us to connect with our environment, the community we grew up in. I wanted to draw from that nostalgia a little.
Your illustrations have such a strong voice, in shape and in color. Did that appear naturally?
Early on in school, I was doing gouache, oil paintings, graphite, woodcuts. I just dabbled in everything, until I saw that what I was doing was illustration. I would always do things with line, and then I realized my line wasn’t that great, so then I decided to play around with shape. I’m still figuring out what my voice is, and how to personalize it a bit more. As artists, I think we can be afraid of putting all of ourselves into the work.
“My mom wasn’t thrilled I wanted to be an artist,” Wise says. “But I kept showing her my work and finally she said, ‘O.K., I trust you—you’re going to make this work.’ ”
Photograph by Tre Watson
What else do you try to put into your work?
I like to explore new types of human interactions, relationships, narratives. I’m always trying to be inclusive about the people I put into my work. Lately, I’ve been thinking about folks with disability, how they should be able to see their image in art. That was a huge thing for me as a kid—finding pieces that looked like me, that I could connect with.
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