Amyn Kassam

UT graduate Lakeem Wilson’s debut book, “Natural Born Star,” will feature 46 of Wilson’s photographs and illustrations. Many of his pieces are influenced by his childhood and focus on social justice issues in America.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: The article below has been revised since its original publication. When published, the article included three quotes copied verbatim from a USA Today article titled "Texas student uses visual art to inspire social change." Those quotes have since been removed. The Daily Texan takes all instances of plagiarism seriously and formally apologizes for the violation of our readers' trust. 

Additionally, Lakeem Wilson was misidentified as a cofounder of Red Throat House. He is a contributor.

With a sketchbook tucked under his arm and both hands chock-full of pens, Lakeem Wilson, a recent UT graduate and artist, meanders through Austin streets, stopping only to sketch what he sees: empty park benches, quiet streets and smoking strangers. He fills entire pages before finishing his walk through the city.  

“Drawing and painting is just something I have always done — just this constant focus in my life,” Wilson said. “It has always provided me a sense of comfort because I can turn to it whenever I need to express things I feel.”

Wilson’s debut art book, “Natural Born Star,” contains 46 photographs and illustrations he created while at UT. His work, which ranges from realistic depictions of the commonplace to abstract images, plays with the boundary between reality and fantasy. Wilson explored the personal effects and consequences of political issues, such as racial violence and police brutality, through the works in the collection. Red Throat House — an Austin-based art collective — will release “Natural Born Star” on Feb. 5.   

Wilson said his identity as a black American has influenced his art and contributed to his distinct style. He said he grew up in an impoverished Dallas neighborhood and, while his childhood lacked monetary comforts, it was rich in culture.  

Dave Herman serves as a creative director for the nonprofit organization Preservation LINK, an education agency designed to foster personal growth and artistic expression in youths. In 2006, Herman taught Wilson in a visual literacy program through Preservation LINK. Herman has mentored Wilson ever since and said watching him develop as an artist has been gratifying. 

“It is great to see that he has stayed committed to his craft,” Herman said. “He continued down this path and is now able to celebrate having a body of illustrations connected by insightful observations and social context.” 

Amyn Kassam, cofounder of Red Throat House, helped Wilson assemble his book to make his art more accessible to the public. Kassam, said Wilson’s artistic style stands out to him because it is colorful and playful but grapples with serious content. 

“I find Lakeem’s work compelling because his casual style invites the eye to explore the serious and complicated issues that his illustrations depict,” Kassam said.  

Red Throat House is hosting a book release for Wilson on Feb. 5 at Spider House Ballroom. “Natural Born Star” will be available for purchase at the release and can be viewed online at 

Wilson said he intends to become an illustrator and plans to go to graduate school in the fall. He said he hopes to one day inspire other young artists.

Name: “Natural Born Star”

Pages: 50

Genre: Art

Author: Lakeem Wilson


Amyn Kassam, philosophy and anthropology junior, is the co-founder of the art curation blog, Red Throat House is a digital platform for local artists to collaborate.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

According to Red Throat House, you are dying. The good news is they can help.

Red Throat House is a weekly online publication that launched in April and serves as a platform for artists to collaborate and mix mediums. 

“The nature of this project is to be very social,” co-founder Ben Clancy said. “We’re really just interested in seeing what happens when we put artists together and give them as much freedom as we possibly can.”

Clancy, a communications graduate student at Texas State University, wrote the website’s slogan, “You are dying. We can help.” He said it is meant to provoke a feeling of ambiguity, and could be interpreted as both saving artists from death or helping artists along with the process of dying. That slightly morbid outlook has become a theme on the website. 

“I thought that symbolized the way that I conceptualize a lot of artistic practice,” Clancy said. “Something that helps us either feel as if we are alive in certain moments or as something that helps us contextualize or understand death.”

Clancy and philosophy senior Amyn Kassam were first inspired to create Red Throat House after collaborating on an e-book that combined Clancy’s poems with Kassam’s photography. With the e-book, Clancy said he felt his work would become more accessible to potential readers who are more likely to be drawn in by pictures than by writing.

“We’re really interested in whether [collaboration] creates tension between the two media or whether they compliment each other nicely,” Clancy said. “We’re really interested in the idea that by having people mix genres of media, it presses the boundaries of both of those things.” 

Kassam said when they finished the book, Clancy had the idea of creating an online place for other people to collaborate the way they had.

“We don’t like the idea that artists are solitary creatures, who write in their bedrooms and drink coffee and are lonely,” Clancy said. “When Amyn and I were initially working together on that poem book, we felt a certain energy that neither of us had ever felt when we were working alone before, and we wanted to bring that to other people.”

Kassam and Clancy often ask their artist friends to contribute to the website, but they also receive submissions from people who have discovered Red Throat House on their own.

“People will submit individual poems to us or individual stories or just ideas, and we will pair them with other artists with the intention of having them produce something more integrative,” Clancy said.

Kassam’s friend Daniel Regueira, a photojournalism senior, was given a poem and asked to take a picture to go along with it for Red Throat House. Regueira said that after working to figure out the perfect photo to pair with the poem, his appreciation for poetry deepened.

“Obviously, when you’re exposed to something, you have a little bit more of an appreciation for it,” Regueira said. “I was not only exposed to it, but I had to digest it and come up with something based on it. When you do that, it totally helps you understand the medium.”

The Texas Photography Club gains exposure for their organization by offering students the chance to take a free portraits in the West Mall.

Photo Credit: Taylor Barron | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Photography Club, active for the first time in several years, is trying to gain notice in the public eye by getting behind the lens.

The club set up cameras and lighting equipment Thursday on the West Mall for a three-hour photography session, offering free portraits to members of the UT community.

“We’ve been growing largely through word of mouth, and we thought it was time to try and attract a wider audience,” club president Daniel Lucas said.

Lucas said since the club began hosting events in August, membership has skyrocketed from 15 people to just more than 230. Though the club doesn’t hold formal meetings, they host events including state park hikes, where older members teach nature photography, and seminars for novice photographers.

“We appeal to anyone who’s interested in photography,” Lucas said. “It’s something you can get into from any background.”

Over the course of the event, designated photographer Amyn Kassam took pictures of a little more than 100 people. Kassam said one girl asked for eight separate portraits, adjusting her clothes and taking her glasses on and off with each shot. Another student brought his pet dog, who was bestowed with honorary reindeer antlers before his portrait session. According to club members, the majority of the portrait subjects were people who came in pairs.

“Photography is a great way to show the personality of the photographer, but it’s also a great way to capture memories,” club member Kallie Nemunaitis said. “Friends love convincing each other to take pictures.”

Comparative literature graduate students Fatma Tarlaci and Somy Kim got their picture taken together to mark the end of their time serving as teaching assistants for undergraduate course “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

“Today is our last day as TAs together, and we wanted to commemorate that by taking a picture together,” Kim said.

Kassan, who took more than 300 shots over the course of the event, said he wasn’t surprised at the demand.

“No one’s going to say no to a free portrait,” Kassam said. “At the very least, you get a new profile picture.”

Member Reese Sun said she also wasn’t surprised at the club’s newfound popularity.

“In photography, you’re documenting life as it happens,” Sun said. “It’s a universal creative outlet. There’s no one who doesn’t like photography.”

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Photo Club snaps free portraits