When Making Art, Christian Nurse Is Good Music, Weed and Lots of Yoga

"I want to create more pieces that will mindfuck the audience."


The images that fill Christian Nurse’s Instagram are those that will ignite a flame of mixed emotions. They are a diverse bunch: cute and scary, political and religious, gangsta and vulnerable, masculine and feminine. While there may be one piece that makes you angry, the next may lift you up, providing a small reminder that all is well in the world. And that truly is the basis of CNursey: the choice to play with both aspects of the good and evil spectrum, portraying both domains in a detailed and intricate way that instigates discussion.

Descending into New York at the age of 18 from Trinidad and Tobago because his “friends were up to no good,” Nurse said he is committed to drawing attention to issues that are in plain sight but still, surprisingly, aren’t visible to the public.

It is this point of view that brings his work to life. “And,” he jokingly adds, “good music, weed and lots of yoga.” To be exact, the tunes range from Sade to Audioslave to DMX.

“For artist’s block I have discovered numerous ways of dealing with it. The most recent discovery was visiting the shows of other artists. My most recent block was lifted when I visited fellow New York artist Sue Tsai. Her struggles and stories behind her pieces inspired me to dig deeper.”

His father, a creative architect, exposed Nurse to art when building layouts for a/c installations. “In between his drafts he would do funny doodles to make me laugh because I would always sit for hours watching him create. My mom didn’t always approve of [the drawings] because some of them were naked.”

It wasn’t until Nurse was in the 5th grade that he began to pick up the challenge for himself; teaching himself how to shade, create images that told a story while also maintaining a little bit of fun.

“[My parents] had just gotten cable television for the first time – I was 11 or 12 – so I recreated every cartoon I enjoyed. All Nickelodeon characters from Doug to Ahh! Real Monsters to Ren and Stimpy. Before that, I would just make flipbooks of stick figures flipping and shooting at each other.”

Those stick figures have come a long way, indeed, and so have the guns. (Above) The powerful imagery of this piece really drew my attention. What stood out for me is the boy’s youthful frame, the large weapon that appears heavier than him and the teddy bears. I interpreted it as a child who is forced to do adult things. It made me feel both sad and angry. I couldn’t help but question its purpose. Was it supposed to make me feel like a mama bear who simply wanted to curl the child in her lap?

“I was a high school teacher at a Special Education school for 5 years and I met numerous kids in the judicial system forced to be adults before their time because of negligent parenting. I was drawn to creating pictures of child rebels whose situations are obviously more extreme but still under the same umbrella.”

And this is precisely what makes Nurse special: the want and ability to turn his audience inside out. He expresses this easily, “I want to create more pieces that will mindfuck the audience.”

Maybe mindfuck is a tad bit harsh but, honestly, isn’t that the role of the artist? To talk about things that everyone else is afraid to? That is what happened with this image (below). My initial thought was the infamous saying money is the root to all evil and that, unfortunately, it also controls the church. Nurse provided clarification:

“The Petrodollar piece stems from that very same quote money is the root of all evil. The control the U.S. has on petroleum is what keeps their dollar so powerful. The agenda to make sure it stays that way results in numerous wars to keep control of these resources. Religion is always the first excuse used to start wars. For example, the war against terror.”

And who can deny this imagery when coverage on bombings are consistently displayed? When the world’s largest mineral resource, Africa, is the most economically poorest continent on the planet?

Although his thirst is at its climax and ever evolving, it wasn’t always this way. As with most creatives, the blur of life tends to get in the way and it is up to the individual whether the blur darkens or clears. “One day I just randomly quit my job teaching and decided to enroll in art school. I just wasn’t happy with my job. I felt like I was wasting talent. It was a decision that took a lot of thinking because it included taking a pay cut and not having any more free time. It’s from being around fellow creatives that triggered my passion to draw again.”

With a clear idea of what he wants to represent, he does his best to steer clear of how people expect him to be.

“I’ve always been told to draw more hip-hop artists or gangsta imagery, because that’s what people like to see. I always respond with: I don’t care what people want to see.”

Because that is what creating, contributing to our world is about: not allowing yourself to conform to what others want. But, rather, remaining true to yourself and allowing those millions like you to gravitate towards your energy.

“Never be afraid to embrace your weirdness.”