Frames of Reference: Collage + Montage

This triptych focuses on Kehlani, a popular R&B singer. Each piece in my triptych is a 10″ by 10″ square, the shape being inspired by album covers as my focus is a musician.

Process – Research, Planning, and Thumbnail Sketches



The first piece focuses on Kehlani’s past, delving into her interesting upbringing, up until the release of her mixtape Cloud 19. This mixtape inspired the background of the piece, depicting clouds that rise as time progresses on. The entire image is black and white, representing the rigidity and binary nature of her past: loving and hurting, conforming, and trying to find footing in the world. Kehlani’s complicated familial upbringing inspired me to include many figures in her life in this piece, such as her aunt, her birth mom, her mom’s other children, her childhood best friend, her musical group, Poplyfe, and her original supporter, Nick Cannon. These figures follow the clouds upward leading her to her present-day life. Time progresses upward as these influences in her early life helped build her up to the successful leader she is today.


The second piece delves immediately into a world of colour. Representing the fluidity of her current life, Kehlani breaks free from her black and white, binary past, as shown through the incredible range of hues in both the background and her skin. The bold and glowing nature of the colours on her skin represents how her presence reaches her audiences by calling to attention usually neutral parts of the complexion. She glows with positive energy and influence on her fans, voicing her opinions and thoughts publically, emitting her soul into the world, so I allowed for her to physically glow with the colours on her skin. The background contains images of tsunami waves, representing her current fanbase, who call themselves the ‘Tsunami Mob.’ They build her up and give her a platform to create, hence my use as a backdrop. Embedded in this background are lyrics to her song, ‘Already Won,’ a song about how grateful she is for the life she has now that she has gained fame, staying humble, and her true values.


The final piece in my triptych embodies Kehlani’s future. This piece draws in the bold, lively colours of the previous piece, representing her energy and her light. However, most of this piece is dark, representing the unknown and souls that her music has not yet reached. I use the symbolism of tree branches to embody her potential reach in the future, the scope of her music and voice. These branches stem from her image, reaching out into the darkness, the unknown, the souls who have yet to be enlightened.

Reflecting on my process after my peer critique, I heard one piece of feedback suggesting using colour in the first piece. Reflecting on the series as a whole, it would tie together the triptych to alter the black and white piece. I could play with the colours I’d choose to symbolize the same binary nature that I was attempting to achieve without hue. Other than that, I think this work turned out fairly well, and partially because of my drive due to creating artwork about another artist that I am so inspired by.

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