Born in Blytheville, Arkansas on January 26, 1973, visual artist and entrepreneur Najee Dorsey is known for embracing southern roots in his work by relaying scenes of African American life in the south on canvas. He began his journey as an artist at the age of five, selling his artwork to his mother for candy. From that point on, Dorsey continued making art as a favorite pastime. Dorsey’s first endeavor as an aspiring entrepreneur became evident in his earliest business venture selling cinnamon toothpicks at age twelve to his classmates. In High School, Najee earned a partial scholarship in 1991 to Memphis College of Art (later known as the Memphis Academy of Art). He eventually left the institution prior to completing his first semester due to a combination of financial challenges, and the need for a more dynamic environment. Still, Dorsey continued creating art part-time while working different jobs over the years.
Balancing his schedule as an artist and an employee, Dorsey went through a phase where he became indifferent about creating; lending more time to making a living than creating art. During this period, Dorsey met Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, an artist and community arts activist, who became his friend and an early mentor. This newfound relationship with Abdul-Musawwir provided inspiration toward refocusing some of his energy on his first love, art. Between 1992 and 1993 Dorsey again continued honing his craft and later producing an airbrushed work that became his first response to civil rights issues containing a message of social responsibility in a piece entitled, Guidance in the Time of Ignorance which was purchased by Mr. Abdul-Musawwir soon after.
In advancing both his art and entrepreneurship, Najee opened a creative hub in Blytheville, Arkansas with the help of his wife, Seteria (who is also an artist). This creative space functioned as an art gallery, coffee-shop, and used book store during the summer of 2000. Najee used the space as a launchpad for his career as “artrepreneur”-- a title referenced to in a 2012 BlackEnterprise.com article on Dorsey.
In 2005, the Dorseys moved to Atlanta, GA, where Najee became a full-time artist. Focusing solely on his art resulted in a fruitful career. Now, more than 10 years later, his work has been featured in nine museum shows including, Visions of our 44th Collection at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, MI and Leaving Mississippi: Reflections on Heroes and Folklore at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA and the African American Museum in Dallas, TX. Over the years, Dorsey’s changing mediums have resonated with many people, but his consistency in exhibiting imagery rooted in his southern heritage is what Najee Dorsey is known for. Over the past decade, Dorsey’s work has been consistently featured and acquired by a number of institutions, and private collections across the United States.
Since becoming a full-time artist in 2005, Najee has become well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of most African American artists: the closed doors in the arts community, the lack of representation in art institutions, and the undervaluation of African American art and its creators by dominant society. Being the proactive individual that he is, Najee founded Black Art In America™ (BAIA) in 2010 as a free online media platform for African American artists, collectors, art enthusiasts, and arts professionals. In the company’s conceptual stages, influencers from BAIA’s audience were surveyed and it became clear that their issues were centered on exposure, appreciation, and access to each other. BAIA™ was founded as a centralized location for profiling the African American artist -- giving members of the network access to the work of African American artists (past and contemporary), and most importantly, opportunities for interchange. Since 2010, the network has become the leading online portal and resource focused on African American art, artists, collectors, industry leaders, and arts enthusiasts. The BAIA™ online network currently has a monthly virtual reach of 750,000 people and growing.
As an artist, Najee Dorsey has developed much in his craft over the years, and has become known for his mixed media collage, digital media collage images of little known and unsung historical figures, as well as nostalgic scenes from African American life in the southern United States. In his work, as Najee chronicles moments in Black life throughout history, he maintains that, “stories untold are stories forgotten”. Far from the days after dropping out of arts college, and becoming uncertain about his future in the arts, Dorsey has forged a successful career as an artist, being featured in numerous solo and group museum shows, television broadcasts and print publications -- a major feat for any artist. As well as these accomplishments, he has skillfully combined his creative edge, and business acumen to develop a steadily growing online community that documents, preserves and promotes the contributions of the African American arts community. Najee now lives in Columbus, GA with his wife, Seteria.
more at www.najeedorsey.com