Repositioning creative thinking in ways that aren’t adjacent to Black trauma can feel like an out-of-body experience, a separation that’s almost incapable. However, Kahimii Vanzego, a 3D artist, is managing to do just that by imagining and manifesting the future. She does this all while masterfully adding another angle to the D.C’s creative landscape.
Her work is reminiscent of popular childhood anime like Sailor Moon, yet bonded to her identity as a Black and Japanese woman. Born in Japan and raised in Fort Washington, Md, just right outside of the Nation’s Capital. She pulls from her varied upbringings. Vanzego has worked with a bevy of local talent and brands like groun.ded, a D.C. plant company, as well as the popular internet comedian Jaimesha Thomas aka thatgirljaycole.
“I love that I’m able to curate new ideas and show people a somewhat “new” art form in the area and that I get to work with other artists from here too,” Vanzego told the Washington Informer Bridge during a recent phone interview.
Beyond her solo art she also works with Vega Studio, a 3D design house founded by Charles Johnson, with whom she has collaborated since the beginning of this year after the two met on Instagram.
“He definitely pushes me to further expand my ideas so I can be the best I can be, every time we work on a new project I learn something new because of that extra push,” she said, speaking to how she’s continuing to grow as an artist. “I was a big fan of everything he was doing in the area, as well as beyond. He supported me from the very beginning of my career by believing in me and asking me to assist on a few 3D projects he was working on, then brought me along as a 3D artist for his company, Vega Studio,” she continued.
However, even before her dynamic 3D portfolio began offering an intriguing portal of escape, her creativity was fueled much earlier on in life. “I first got into Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty, and then Sailor Moon while living in Japan. There were all of these different types of characters and I loved it,” Vanzego said, as she recounts being exposed to anime around the age of 6 or 7, and the images that first sparked her desire to explore the craft.
“I always knew whatever I was going to do in life was going to involve art and computers,” Vanzego said. The seeds were planted while she was a student at Bishop McNamara High School, where she took a web design class.
“I took a web design class and my teacher’s name was Miss Stanley. She pretty much sparked my whole computer design career and I wanted to take it seriously,” she said. After high school, she went on to enroll in Prince George’s Community College where she declared Computer Science as her major until she decided there was nothing “artsy” about computer science.
She eventually dropped out and enrolled back into where she shifted her focus to animation and motion graphics, but eventually, she decided to leave and drive her education forward. Committed to her vision, and the tools needed to shape it, she began teaching herself 3D design.
“I started going on Skillshare and YouTube and pretty much teaching myself all the different software. I realized if I want to take this seriously I need to get a gaming desktop, or a gaming laptop, so as soon as I did that I started to take things a lot more seriously,” she said.
Finding the necessary tools and resources to deliver on the vision for her work, and moving with intention took Vanzego to where she is today. Like so many others, the pandemic forced Vanzego to take time to consider her journey and how to future-proof it.
“Just by taking the time to take a step back from a busy world to figure out what it is that genuinely inspires and motivates me mentally, which then allows me to have a clear mind, focus on the vision, then deliver the work,” she said. She continues to find deep inspiration through music as she is creating, “I like listening to a lot of Jhené Aiko, a lot of her beats are very mystical, as well as a lot of Kali Uchis. I also listen to a lot of old R&B, the slower stuff calms me down and helps put me in a better place,” she said. Through this inspired place she creates from a point of view that’s all her own. “I kind of just tap in and try to create different vantage points and work with different angles that don’t really make sense, but are going to make sense,” she said.
As the world continues to shift post-Covid-19, she encourages artists to introduce people to new things, because art is always evolving. “People want to see new things. Especially if you like it and it fulfills you, then the right people will come around and support you,” she said. Pushing past the realm of what has already been done continues to inspire her work and those who encounter it through its various dimensions. Further expanding on her work, includes working with more D.C. artists, as well as those in Japan. Additionally, she’d love to see her work land in video games.