MPS Student Profile: Gelila Mesfin, Class of 2017

In addition to pursuing a Master of Professional Studies degree at LIM College, Gelila Mesfin is a talented artist whose work has appeared in Essence magazine and on AfroPunk.com and AfricaFashion.co.uk.

Coming to the U.S. from Ethiopia when she was 18 to attend the University of Rhode Island, Gelila planned on studying civil engineering, but then switched to textiles, merchandising, and fashion design.  

“During that time I took a few elective art classes that made me realize how much I love art and it ignited a passion that I once had when I was a little girl,” she says. 

Working mostly with oil pastels, she started drawing digitally last April.

“I was playing around with a photo and drew a design over it using PicsArt. I ended up liking it and thought it was cool. Then I decided to try the same techniques on some of my friend’s photographs and people that I admired, and after that, things just took off.”

In her digitally edited portraits of people ranging from Ciara to Janelle Monae to Gelila and her grandmother, she draws geometric shapes and patterns in bold, jewel-like colors inspired by tribal prints. On her Instagram page you can see step-by-step how Gelila creates these colorful portraits.

Recently, Gelila’s art received national attention when another artist appropriated her digital drawing of former First Lady Michele Obama and put the image on a wall in Chicago. This spawned, among other things, an opinion piece in the New York Times about how Gelila’s work had been exploited.

While art is important to her, so is earning her master’s degree. According to Gelila, she chose LIM because of her interest in visual merchandising and the fact that the College focuses on the business aspect of fashion. “Plus,” she notes, “the location is great!”

In the future Gelila wants to design fabric prints that are influenced by traditional African cloth and fabric. She also hopes to have her own art gallery one day, as well as a brand of clothing that represents African culture. Of course she will design all her own visual displays.

You can see more of Gelila’s artwork on Instagram and on her website.