This week, I sat down with artist and designer Senqué Little-Poole PO ’19. Senqué is a member of the art collective Adisa Studios, which is hosting a preview party at The Hive on April 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. In his beautifully curated room, adorned with colorful curtains and lights, Senqué talked to me about his indoctrination into the art world and his philosophy on creating things. Make sure to check out both @sen.que and @adisastudios on Instagram to keep up with his work.
TSL: How did you become interested in fashion?
Senqué Little-Poole: It’s not so much I became interested in art, as my parents had a very strong influence in sharing art with me from a young age. When I was in New York, my mom took me to a bunch of galleries. She was really into taking us to museums and sharing art with us. I remember — one of my earliest memories is, as a gift, I think when I was four, I got a Basquiat calendar. My parents really wanted me to understand that art is just a part of your world. Something that you’re supposed to not only appreciate but understand for the way you live your life.
Ninth grade is when I started making designs and stuff. I had two friends and we were like, “Yo, we really like t-shirts.” So we just started drawing t-shirt designs. After ninth grade I quit sports, so I decided to spend more time at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. It had after-school programs for free for high school students in the Pittsburgh public school system. Ceramics, design, digital, and photography. That was the first place I feel like, as an artist or creative, I had the freedom to define who and what I want to be in a way in which you don’t really experience except for being five, I guess.
TSL: What brands/people inspire you?
SL: I make clothing specifically for the sake of making some sort of message. But that message is not always for other people. As a conceptual artist I feel like I’m trying to do world-building projects. Whatever medium I make things in, they exist in some sort of conceptual world I’m constructing.
So the clothes I make are just the costumes in the world I’m constructing. A lot of them I think of as safety clothes. I have this shirt that says, “When I walk past you, I will not smile. I owe you nothing.” I guess they’re aggressive messages, but they’re safety clothes in the sense that I’m trying to protect my energy, my magic, whatever you call it.
TSL: What is your creative process like for designing?
SL: I just think of designing clothes for different body types. I don’t think about “how will this be mass consumed?” I just think, I’m definitely gonna make a shirt that fits me. I’m gonna make a shirt that fits my mom. Whoever the shirt is based on, it’s definitely gonna fit them some type of way.
One of my main motives is to create things, not just beautiful things, but things that are outside of the imagery and reproduction of my own pain. Things that can celebrate life and inspire joy in people. Things that give people reasons to live.
TSL: How would you describe your personal style?
SL: It’s really hard for me to pin my personal style because it shifts so much, since my clothes are so based off my mood. In high school I guess every year I was shifting into a different “aesthetic”, and it was for different reasons. Ninth grade I’d say it was streetwear, but it was a very localized Pittsburgh streetwear, in a way in which I was trying to blend in for the sake of safety.
But in an opposite motivation of trying to stand out, I would wear preppy clothes. And then in eleventh grade I guess I was on my OG sad boy shit and was just not with anything.
Any way I define my style is just different labels or qualifiers given to give coherence to what the image of me is. But I just put things on that I find from the thrift store. I got clothes in my closet that make me feel pretty. I got clothes in my closet that make me feel tough.
TSL: What are your favorite pieces?
SL: My favorite things in my closet are the things that hold sentimental value, or they’re the things that I like wearing the most for whatever comfort reasons. There’s some safety clothes where it’s just, this shirt’s just me. It’s not even about anybody else, anybody giving it to me, I just identified the shirt as me.
I got this Supreme jacket that my mom brought me. My mom is a super supportive person, number one supportive person in my life. But, all the things that I’ve tried to do in my life, she’s not always the first person to get on board. Streetwear, art, skating, all that stuff. She was one of the later people to get on board, and, understandably, because I’ve now chosen to make that stuff the focus of my life rather than becoming a neurosurgeon. So you can see how she’s like, “What’re you doing?”.
That being said, she got the jacket for me a few months ago when I was back in Pittsburgh. My mom and I have an interesting relationship and I love her to death. I think that, in a lot of ways comes out through my work. One of my shirts is one I made, inspired by her, that says, “Mama I just wanna shine.” I like to put that shirt on because it gives me the confidence to exist.
TSL: Do you have anything you’re working on?
SL: My thought partner, Sara, and I just released Fetishize Facade, which is an art book that is the last project we’re trying to make that is surrounding our politics. It’s an academic art book that comes to you through meme form with four essays and a bunch of visual essays and images.
Adisa Studios, to me, is like worlds colliding. How did all of you happen to float in the same vicinity? And it’s the fact that your energies and your ideas are around and we’ve connected. Do you know how hard it is to keep a collective of people together? The idea of what together is stretches very far. You become a very loose and tight collective at different times. I’m trying to build a collective of amazing individuals who inspire me to keep making things because all of those people are currently my muses.
Oh, also I’m gonna make a short film this summer. It’s titled, “It Can All be Real.” The hope is to produce a visual representation of moving past internal psychological wounds based off of one’s environment, towards a state of liberation through a collective move towards creative and spiritual expression. It’s going to be a visual album. So all the music’s already been scored by my friend Irises the Artist. He makes dope music.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.