Evanston artist David Niari communicates resiliency through his work


Courtesy of David Niari

David Niari’s “Fleeting Moments,” done in pastel and watercolor, shows a group of Black boys running. Rose Cannon, owner of Cannon Fine Art Gallery, says this piece “stirs something in my soul.”

April Li, Reporter

Evanston artist David Niari wants his art to function as a time machine for his generation.

Niari, who is also a musician, tells stories through a combination of technology and traditional mediums, like pencil and pastels. Niari said his work focuses on social themes and perspectives from the African American community.

“I try to capture some of the stories or narratives from my community, from my time, to represent what I’m trying to say,” Niari said. “As the artist, I’m really trying to speak a message of hope and resiliency.”

Inspired by his older brothers, who are also artists, Niari started exploring art at an early age.

Although there wasn’t a clear path for commercial artistry when he was younger, Niari said he went into the field because it allowed him to be creative. Niari calls himself a “dual artist” because, in addition to his personal work, he makes art for an advertising agency.

“I wanted to pursue art because of the joy that you create when you have a blank sheet of paper — there’s just something magical about it,” Niari said. “I was creating something that has never been created before.”

Through public service works and building connections, Niari has been active in both the Evanston and broader Chicago communities.

Niari said that as an artist, he has a responsibility to use his work as a platform to connect with his community.

“As an artist, you come to understand what the public gravitates to,” Niari said. “This helps the community because it gives a voice to the voiceless.”

Niari’s work has been featured by the Evanston Art Center and Evanston Made. He was also the first artist to be featured at the Cannon Fine Art Gallery, which focuses on promoting the work of artists of color in Evanston. 

Rose Cannon, who owns the gallery, said Niari’s art has a unique realism to it.

Niari’s piece “Fleeting Moments,” which depicts a group of Black boys running, makes her emotional because it reminds her of her sons and grandsons, Cannon said.

“Whether they’re running in fear or whether they’re running just to play, I see their activity in it, and it stirs something in my soul,” Cannon said. “When I look at David’s work, I feel something.”

Niari helped paint the Black Lives Matter mural outside of the Evanston Art Center. Cannon said Niari’s section immediately stood out to her because of its quality, striking a chord in her.

Paula Henderson, an artist and teacher who worked in Chicago for about 30 years, described Niari as a “Renaissance person” who works in multiple mediums.

“He does a lot of different things and he does them all well,” she said. “Niari has been at this for a good long time and his life is dedicated to all aspects of representation, whether they be visual, in movement or in verse.”

Henderson, who has known Niari since he was young, said she has seen him grow into a “world citizen” who cares deeply about community and makes thought-provoking work through observing human nature and people’s transcendent qualities.

Niari said his goal is to continue to push the boundaries of his work.

Artists are multifaceted, Niari said. He wants to be known for more than just the images he creates.

“All the things that bring about love, all the things that speak on love, that transmit love, communicate love…that’s how the message is going out as an artist,” Niari said. “Just a full-body message.”

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