Courtesy of the artist

Student spotlight: Qadir Parris’s creative practice knows no limits

The CCA Film student spoke with us about his time as an artist in residence at San Francisco’s Recology, his interdisciplinary practice, and how family inspires his work.

A headshot of Qadir Parris wearing a neon pink hat and black shirt

Qadir Parris (BFA Film)

You create interdisciplinary work that spans film, poetry, painting and drawing. What inspires much of your work?

Family is one of my biggest inspirations. I always look back to them and their lives to be able to navigate my own life. A lot of the references come from my grandfather. He inspires me to be in different places, different environments that you wouldn’t necessarily see a person of color like me out there in the world.

My grandfather loved jazz as well, and my grandmother showed me his whole jazz collection. Each record I pull is another story that my grandmother has about my grandfather or even just history about Black culture.

Two side-by-side paintings one with a kitchen and family scene the other with text about the subject's grandfather

Courtesy of the artist

It’s also something that inspired me to make a cyanotype print of all of my grandmother’s photos of my grandfather, with his siblings, other family members, their wedding day, things like that. And they’re all masked over this layered photo that I took when my grandmother had all of the records out on display while making lentil soup in the kitchen. I knew I had to take a photo of that moment to remember it because I knew I was going to come back and make a painting out of it.

A painting of carnaval like scene with various figures in clown attire

Qadir Parris, Leaders of Tomorrow, 2024. Courtesy of the artist.

You were featured recently as an artist in residence at San Francisco’s Recology. What was it like to create work with discarded or recycled materials?

Being at Recology was really fun. I learned a lot more about my practice and the bodies of work that I want to create. As I was going into the residency, I didn’t want to make the same style of work as in my older pieces where I would integrate cyanotypes and paint on top of them. I wanted to instead focus more on the references and the archives that I’ve received from my grandmother. I made about seven new paintings in that four month period!

I was also very curious to see what they had to offer. Like, how is a recycling plant collecting all these things and how are they managing it to be a resource for artists? And they gave me a tour to show me the main dump and where you could collect all of your materials. For example, they have a hazardous waste area if you want to collect paint; I was there all the time collecting paint.

The workers there are really helpful. They’ll leave items and materials if they guess it will be something cool that the artists will probably like.

A cyanotype with sock monkeys and painted over with various people in different poses

Qadir Parris, Reflection, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

You were already a budding artist in high school. How did you decide to choose CCA for your undergraduate career?

It started after I showed my portfolio to Claudia Molina, a CCA Admissions Counselor. At the time, I was not very confident with where my work could take me. It was the beginning of the year, and I was working on my senior portfolio. I didn’t really feel I had a direction of where I wanted to take it. So I was discovering myself more as an artist in the moments of me applying to colleges.

I felt like CCA had so much to offer, especially because I wanted to still be able to paint, but also do other things as well. I was really looking for a school that had the resources for me to pursue any artistic ideas I wanted. And after talking to Claudia, I knew CCA was that school. There aren’t many colleges that I found where you could explore your practice across different mediums and disciplines.

I’ve also learned a lot more about and have become immersed in the art community in San Francisco. It’s very connected and very open to new, incoming people and pushing people forward in their careers. They are so welcoming, and I just really love them.”
Qadir Parris (BFA Film)

Courtesy of the artist

A photo of Qadir holding flowers and standing in front of one of his paintings

Parris stands alongside a work he made during his artist in residence. Courtesy of the artist.

What have you learned about yourself and your creative skills since you started CCA?

I’ve learned a lot about how I want to have a career as an artist. Although I major in film and am exploring the commercial side of it, I still want to be able to practice as an artist as well.

I’ve also learned a lot more about and have become immersed in the art community in San Francisco. It’s very connected and very open to new, incoming people and pushing people forward in their careers. They are so welcoming, and I just really love them. I’ve grown to appreciate that through my professors and other artists I would meet out there in the city.

What advice do you have for new, incoming CCA students?

You’re going to come in with a major already set. And if you are in love with that major, then great. But don’t close yourself off to exploring other mediums either. In your first year, you should take in everything. Be like a sponge, just soak up all that you can, and try everything. Hang out in the other studios. You’ll be surprised to find something there that can take you in unexpected and interesting directions.