How the Cosmic Paintings of Umar Rashid Tell a Deeper Story

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Photo courtesy of Umar Rashid


December 19, 2020

“I’ve always considered myself an amateur historian, especially as a Black American in the US, where histories are very conflated,” says artist Umar Rashid. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, I’m Irish.’ Nobody really knows where they come from. In the case of African-Americans and the descendants of slavery, that history was erased.”

The 44-year-old self-taught painter lives in LA and says he uses a little bit of everything to bring his cosmic tableaus to life, often sitting in the kitchen instead of his nice studio.

Umar’s love of cinema and history combined with his storytelling and photography skills allow him to create complex narratives. He says creating art that borrows from history was partly about filling the void he felt in his own story.

“Later it became more of a unifying device—to look at humanity through a different lens and find out most of the things we see have already occurred and continue to occur because we don’t look at the warning signs.”

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“My work comes from the desire to find out more and, at the end of the day, always realizing you know absolutely nothing. We think there’s an answer, but there is no answer. It’s the quest and the desire to continue that quest that is the real magic.” Courtesy of Umar Rashid

Having fallen in love with Star Trek as an adult gave him hope, as he imagined traveling to different galaxies only to discover other beings faced similar difficulties but came to understand each other.

“My cosmic paintings have everything and nothing to do with the colonial narrative I do 99% of the time,” Umar says.

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 05 with the headline “Umar Rashid: Painter, Los Angeles.” Subscribe today.