Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Finding Art Everywhere: Yusuf Abdul Lateef


Whether he’s creating a 6-inch digital painting or a mural on the side of a building, Yusuf Lateef elevates everyday objects to art.
“Part of my challenge is how to find art in the mundane,” he said. “How can I find moments of clarity while painting a wall or hanging drywall?”
His work, displayed at, shows the fruits of that challenge. A surrealist elephant, the overlapping faces of George Washington and Frederick Douglass, and digital edits of paintings by other artists stand alongside abstract shapes and play on faces and forms. It’s a collection he’ll share at American Frame’s showroom and gallery February 5-28.
“I’m inspired by something every day,” Lateef, 40, said. “It could be something as simple as a conversation or a billboard I’m passing.”
Originally from Skokie, Illinois, Lateef has been creating art as long as he can remember. He saw it as a possible career path during middle school. After earning a BFA in painting and drawing from the Columbus College of Art and Design, he moved to Toledo, where he teaches Fundamentals of Art Studio Technology at the University of Toledo.
“It provides a space for students from any major to learn the importance of tools, the body in relation to tools, and being comfortable with learning new skill sets,” he said of the course. “I’m of the belief that art is the practice of mastery, no matter the material.”
And Lateef has put that belief in motion, creating art in a variety of mediums, including more than 16 murals throughout the Toledo area. One, at the corner of Detroit and Dorr streets, was sponsored by Junction Neighborhood, Art Corner Toledo and United Way as part of a multi-mural project by various area artists.

“Murals are a symbolic way to express the beauty that can sometimes be hidden within a neighborhood,” he said. “My hope is that murals inspire others to act and activate the spaces that they inhabit.”

And soon, his art may be somewhere else - on his fans’ backs. He’s working with artists Chris and Elliott Rogers to produce a line of jackets and other clothing items that feature his paintings.

The way to really ‘see’ art is to live with it,” Lateef said. “I want to encourage folks to buy the work and take it home so that they can be a part of it.”
Lateef said he loves working with American Frame because of our customer service and focus on DIY framing.
“They seem like a family over there,” he said. “They’re super helpful and what I especially like is their willingness to show you how to do things on your own.”

He’s also passionate about Radiant City, a creative collective and consulting group he co-founded with musician Ben Cohen and poet Akili Jackson. Radiant City uses visual art, music, and spoken word poetry to encourage leadership and positive communication skills in youth. The group has launched projects at Toledo School for the Arts, the Toledo Arts Commission’s Young Artists at Work program, The Toledo Museum of Art and Toledo Public Schools, as well as juvenile detention centers in Michigan.
“Life is tough,” Lateef said. “So, if we can provide symbolic and real, tangible legacies, then maybe our work can have a lasting, positive effect.”

With Radiant City, Lateef just finished a project with Fremont High School, where he helped students write and record a song over three days. The piece, “The Hope We Need,” details the students’ vision for their community. Listen to it on YouTube.
Learn more about Radiant City at

Laura Jajko
Laura Jajko is President of American Frame and a longtime contributor to "A Good Frame of Mind." Here, she delights in bonding with others over her love of art and framing. With more than 40 years of practical experience, she brings a unique perspective in a straightforward style that she hopes will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialogue in our online community. Connect with Laura directly here on the blog or follow her on Twitter @LauraJajko.


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