Art Bish & the Power of Self-Authorizing: Interview with Claire Bishara

Art Bish & the Power of Self-Authorizing: Interview with Claire Bishara

Multi-faceted brand and platform Art Bish empowers the vision of female creatives.

The name “Art Bish” has become synonymous in the LA art scene with femme creative authority, a self-selected collective deriving from the brand and platform founded by Claire Bishara. The Lebanese-Armenian, Egyptian, and Californian creative originally donned Art Bish as a tag for her paintings, and the quick wit and edginess of the name gained a following that Claire utilized to launch her first merch line. 


Art Bish has since morphed and expanded into a free-growing creative powerhouse. At turns podcast, clothing line, and creative production studio, Art Bish serves as a business model for hiring female creative directors, models, and stylists, to advertise and amplify the work of other female artists.


Alex Free spoke with Claire Bishara for Tótem. Here’s what she had to say:

Tótem: Can you tell us about your background?

Claire Bishara: My background is in painting. In the middle of my college life I started doing art shows around LA and Orange County. I met the artist Lucy Ford, who was my idol at the time, and she invited me to one of her art shows. I remember putting my pieces on the wall for the first time and feeling something click. I started doing art shows all the time, got really integrated into the LA art scene. I was living a double life where I would go to college and have a very traditional lifestyle, and then I would leave class, pack my things and go to an underground art show at 11PM. I really played out this half LA art kid, half traditional college student.

Tótem: That sounds like a really familiar story to me, the double life: the split between the more traditional, and the identity that you really feel yourself to be. It always feels riskier to be yourself than to follow the traditional path, the path that’s clearly staked out for you. 

Claire Bishara: I’m still slowly detaching from what was expected of me, and what people thought I should be, and everyday tapping into who I actually want to be. 

What was the genesis of Art Bish? 

Claire Bishara: Art Bish came around because I needed an artist name to tag my paintings. My last name’s Bishara and in high school everybody called me “Bish.” Art Bish became my artist name. Then girls at art shows would come up to me, and be like, “oh my god, I’m an Art Bish,” and I realized that other female artists were coining it as a group identification, like any female creative making work was an Art Bish. So I started making clothes to sell at my shows, and built the brand slowly from there.


Tótem: You focus a lot on female painters. Can you tell me about building up that Art Bish community and highlighting other female creatives, especially other femme, or female-identifying creatives of color? 

Claire Bishara:
  It was about two years into doing art shows that I started to meet really successful creative women who had their full career in their field, and I started asking myself why that had never been taught or shown to me as a possibility. I wanted to build a brand that debunked the myth, and shattered the narrative of the starving artist. 

Female creatives are so undervalued in the art space in general. I wanted to be a brand that, no matter what angle you looked at it, and no matter what I was doing, proved to people that we could be successful as creative women.  

I always want to showcase diverse groups of women, of every age, race, body type, skin tone, hair color. I find so much beauty in being different. I now, for the first time, appreciate the difference I have both physically and the way I grew up compared to other people. I see that as a power, and I think the art world and see that as a power and a strength as well.


Tótem: You have full creative directorial control over the brand. When did you start photography, and finding your own creative voice and vision within this project? 

Claire Bishara: It was default, early-early on. I had a vision and I wanted it to come out how I saw in my mind. Even making my first tank top, I would take the tank top around, reach out to all the girls and models I wanted, scout locations, style their outfits, edit the photos. Without knowing what creative direction was, I was doing it on my own. 


Tótem: Do you have any advice for someone looking to get their start creative directing?

Claire Bishara: The best advice I gave myself was not waiting for other people to authorize me. I remember asking myself how I could charge for a shoot when I wasn’t a photographer, or how I could style a shoot when I had no formal background in styling. I was waiting for someone else to authorize me and tell me who I was. One day I just started authorizing myself. Little things, like when people ask me what I do, I say: “I’m a creative. I’m a founder of a platform for creatives.” Change the narrative out loud, and the second you do that other people follow. It starts with self-trust and self-confidence, and it all flows from yourself. 

Tótem: Everything is a product of experience: that sense of identity with a skill, or craft or art form. It’s interesting and pivotal to claim that title. 

Claire Bishara: It’s less about others approval and more about you. It builds your self confidence to be able to own it and say it, and it’s like a muscle. You have to exercise the muscle. The first ten times you’re going to feel weird, you’re going to feel insecure, you’re going to feel Imposter Syndrome. But by the 12th, 13th time you say it, and you’ve been putting in the work and the hours, it starts to feel real. 


Tótem: What do you want next for Art Bish? 

Claire Bishara: I’m really focusing on creating the most outlandish, and empowered, and powerful shoots that I can think of that are really true to me. And my goal is to bring on creative women to assist me every day. I want to lift up other creative women and bring them with me.

All photos Claire Bishara

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