The Carcosa Interview: Debra Cartwright, Traversing the Artistic Landscape of Whimsical Black Women

Art has been breaking down barriers for generations. It has also been inspiring others to see through a lens different than their own. It has been used and crafted to challenge and fight against oppressive institutions and societal norms; art is used to express one’s identity, one’s ability to grow, and to show the world something more than what media and cultural stereotypes aim to negatively reinforce. I came across Debra Cartwright’s art and was blown away. Her style is reminiscent of a dream fitted with beautiful, water-color-esque Black women and figures, draped in elegance and beauty. Her work will make you smile, cry, and think about what our world is, and what we can possibly do to change it for the better. I had the honor of being able to interview Debra, so I sincerely hope you enjoy what she had to say, as well as her splendid work!

Age: 27
Occupation: Illustrator
Favorite fictional world/universe: The Secret Garden

Black Nerd Problems: Please tell us a bit about yourself!
Debra Cartwright: I’m a Harlem-based graphic designer by day, illustrator by night. I’m from Annapolis Maryland, and yes, I can sail, hence the anchor tattoo. I’m really into history and social issues.


BNP: Does race or gender influence your art?
Debra: Completely. My main inspiration is Black women. I really wanted to represent us in a different light than the media usually portrays: feminine, soft, whimsical.

BNP: What challenges have you faced as an artist?
Debra: Being comfortable saying I am one! My greatest obstacle has been myself; social media has really helped me think my work is… not bad.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.15.20 AM

BNP: If your art could speak, what would they say about you?
Debra: It would say I’m learning and growing to be comfortable with myself, natural hair and all.

BNP: Does your art follow any specific themes?
Debra: My art was meant to inspire myself to embrace my natural hair. Sometimes I divert from that theme, depending on social issues at the time. For the Eric Garner verdict I drew a piece, for the McKinney pool party I drew a piece. Illustration is a great tool of expression for me.


BNP: If you could cook breakfast with any celebrity, who would they be and why?
Debra: Solange! She’s my best friend in my head. I think I share that sentiment with about a billion natural, carefree girls.

Visit Debra Cartwright’s website here.
Photo Credit:Chi-Chi Agbim

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  • Oona Sura is a cosplay enthusiast with an appreciation for Framboise Lambic, Haruki Murakami, and cats. Catch her at the next anime convention on the East Coast!

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