Rani Ban Finds the Gleaming Light

At the start of the pandemic, as we all scrambled to reimagine a new normal, artist Rani Ban brainstormed how to usher hope with her artwork. Her whimsical illustrations and prints have always shed light on contemporary topics such as depression, imposter syndrome, body image issues, and finding community. And her pandemic-inspired series, Neighborhood Love, is no different. The 14 black and white prints serve as a means of connecting with those around us despite limiting circumstances. Each print is decorated with bold black type and thick textual love. These gorgeous statements, which are perfect for a bedroom window or front door, symbolically acknowledge the complexities of this era while crossing fingers for a better tomorrow.

Rani doesn’t shy away from expressing truths in a lighthearted tone. It’s a tricky balance between optimism and realism. Instead of choosing one side, she graciously weaves both perspectives into her art. For every beautiful constellation postcard on her site, there are also prints gently reminding us that we can try again tomorrow. Rani’s work encourages us to honor all the fluctuations of being human, an everlasting sentiment that will always be relevant.

Can you give a brief trace of your artistic journey? When did you start making and how has your process evolved over time?

I’m going to go full Delilah radio cheese here and say that I have always looked for art in my life and found it. I am constantly making and arranging things and have found ways to do this for work and pleasure all through my life. I’ve arranged flowers in flower shops and dressed windows for retailers. I didn’t know it then but when working for all of these small businesses I was preparing for what I do now. I was an absolute sponge. After art school, I continued to work in fashion as a visual merchandiser until I quit two years ago. I’ve always made art in my off time but didn’t share it in a meaningful way until four years ago.

How has the pandemic changed your work?

The pandemic changed my work and the protests changed me. Here’s a piece I wrote in March that sums it up:

i hope that you study your subject before you paint it

by that

i mean

i hope you open the window so the light comes in

so you can see what you’re really looking at

i know you’re looking at another day inside

another day with no hugs or errands or bar stools in the nighttime

but when you really look at it

you can see the details that quippy remarks about cabin fever miss:

there are so many masked faces who would give anything for a day inside

like your day

a day off their feet, with no gloves on their hands and their faces free

but they are back at work today

to help complete strangers breathe

to help them get strong

i know this isn’t easy for any of us

to have our lives turned outside in

but having the time to realize that is a luxury

i don’t know how to help my neighbors who need it

but that shouldn’t stop me from trying

i don’t know how to thank all of you who have been awake and at work

while i was sleeping in

but that shouldn’t stop me from trying

i don’t know if i’ll have a job tomorrow or if people buy art while the world stops spinning

but that shouldn’t stop me from trying

i hope you study your subject before you paint it

by that

i mean

i hope you open the window so the light comes in

so you can see what you’re really looking at

How do you juggle the demands of running a business with your mental health needs?

Since my bank account and my drawings are now married, I make it a priority to find new ways to scratch my creative itch. If I don’t take care of this itch then I burn out. Since the creation of Rani Ban Co, I have fallen in love with cooking and gardening. These are safe parts of my day where I can just play - no math, no contracts, no edits.

What questions have been inspiring or haunting your work lately?

Should I keep making art when the world is burning? There have been weeks this year where my work has felt trite against the backdrop of 2020. I don’t have the answer to this question figured out but I am reading Olivia Laing’s “Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency” and it helps to read about artists asking this question throughout history.

What has made you feel hopeful lately?

My 21-year-old sister who is a cowboy and my ducks who are waddling evidence of goodness.

What inspires you to keep trying every day?

I treat my work at my studio as any other job I’ve had. I work Monday through Friday and try to get home by dinner. I show up even if I don’t know why. I count to three and run out the door! I try every day because I am faithful to the part of me that believes it’s okay to do life my way.

Can you share a list of recommendations? Podcasts, art, advice, anything!

  1. Dr. Rahul Mandal’s (of Great British Bake Off) Instagram
  2. Katie Porter using a whiteboard.
  3. Literally everything Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does
  4. The Become Project
  5. Putting a tiny bit of essential oil in your mask

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All of this is a very inspiring reflection of Rani’s personal relationship to making art. Though she holds oodles of passion for creating, she knows how to draw (no pun intended) boundaries that reinforce her mental health as a priority. In a society that pushes people to jeopardize their sanity for the sake of productivity, this is an admirable stance. It can be difficult to say no sometimes, especially to the things we adore, but it is ever-necessary to recognize our limits. Which is to say that Rani’s work guides us in the balancing act that she conquers daily with grace and (illustrated) gleaming light.

Loré Yessuff

Loré Yessuff is a writer who explores topics related to intimacy, identity, and interconnection. She is obsessed with tender clichés like love poems, wild lilac, sweet plantains, and cinnamon-spiced coffee.

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