F5: Dwight White II on the Art + Collaborations That Inspire Him
Ask any artist how they found themself in the art world and many will regale you with a tale of an unexpected career path. Dwight White II is a Chicago- and Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist who turned to the medium after suffering a life-changing injury while playing football at Northwestern University. This pivot to another this interest has carried Dwight down a winding path to a place where his work straddles fine art, sociology, and experiential design.
“It clicked for me during grad school at Northwestern University while I was studying marketing. I was completely in a phase of exploration and curiosity beyond my formal education. Living alone for the first time in the city with no roommates, I was forced to sit in my thoughts more and ask myself real questions like, ‘What is your purpose?’,” White shared. “Although I didn’t have a clear answer, I did understand my interests and potential impact beyond athletics. After spending the next few years building within the arts community and immersing myself in Chicago culture, it became more clear that the arts was where I belong – and sitting at my corporate desk became destructive to my overall well-being, knowing I had no flexibility to take complete ownership of my career journey.”
His background in marketing and consumer insights inspired White’s work and his search for the ways truth can be captured visually to engage and connect with people. Nuanced Black human behavior and personal experiences are large parts of his art. These themes are prevalent subjects taking the consumer beyond visuals and into the realm of feeling.
“Even while I was still working a full-time corporate role in 2018, by that point art was already a career in my mind. I was committing nearly equal time to both careers and it was a priority to me. I would get extremely offended when my craft was positioned as a hobby, considering my passion for art,” White adds.
The artist’s ideas and strategies take root in his understanding of how consumers think and make decisions when it comes to brands, products, and the arts. His studies at Northwestern have given him the tools and insight to inspire, innovate, and explore subject matter through a lens of culture and creativity. In this way, White has worked to build strategies for growth with organizations across industries through the understanding of complex societal structures and behaviors of consumers.
Over the past few years, White has become a sought-after artist, working with individuals and companies doing art activations for Nike, Levi’s, Lululemon, Pinterest, the Chicago Bulls, and more. He’s embracing his role in society to document the history of connected cultural experiences through art and hoping to further tap into his interests in fashion, interior, and experiential design in the future.
Today, Dwight White II is joining us for Friday Five!
This is one of the first murals by Max Sansing that I came across in Chicago, which inspired me to pursue art more seriously, but also consider the possibility of painting murals at scale.
This is the first piece that I ever painted as a young adult. I saw this work by Fernand Leger at the Art institute of Chicago during an intro to art course at Northwestern University. We were instructed to select a piece that grabbed our attention and replicate it. This experience validated my ability to paint and inspired me to begin the journey of becoming an artist.
This brand collaboration made me think outside the box in regards to what it looks like to create with brands that you admire and respect. Partnering with brands can sometimes be difficult, but selecting the right ones who fit your overall mission and aesthetic can be very rewarding.
Converse has always been a brand I’ve admired. It’s fresh, original, and vintage. When I saw Virgil Abloh contribute his creative brilliance to the Converse portfolio, I was inspired and intrigued by sneaker culture and the mindset of the current young consumer landscape. The willingness for one to pay $1,000+ for a sneaker that typically can be purchased for under $70 was a clear discovery on how differently art is valued versus the average consumer product, good, or service.
5. Pressure is a Privilege
Throughout my career, I have felt constant pressure – driven by my personal expectations of self and what I may assume others expect of me. For whatever reason, pressure has always been a valuable addition to my ability to create great things and I feel honored that my community sees high potential in my craft and abilities. That alone drives me even when I have self doubt.