This past week marked a lot of firsts for me in my art career that have been some of the most gratifying moments of my life.
On Tuesday, the National Black Theatre presented their production In Perpetual Flight: The Black Body in Motion at the Schomburg Center. Their event was part of the New York City wide festival theme on migration which was developed by Carnegie Hall. NBT had commissioned me to create artworks that marked the four critical stages of Black migration within the United States: The Transatlantic and Domestic Slave Trade & Runaway Journeys, The First Northerm MIgration, Back to Africa: Colonization and Emigration and The Great Migration: Redefining Cities. Each era was celebrated through dance, spoken word and song with the works I created serving as an introductory backdrop for each performance. It felt incredible to be part of something that was bigger than myself and that celebrated the migratory experiences of Black people in such a powerful way.
After the program ended, I was invited onstage to join in the panel discussion that featured all the commissioned artists for the production. This was the first time in a very long while since I’ve been on a stage for a live show so leading up to it, I was kind of nervous but once I got out there, it felt good. The energy of the audience was so positive (replete with finger-snaps and affirming “mmm-hmmms”), and the camaraderie among my fellow artists was so strong, that it felt like I was having a conversation with people I had known for a long time.
You can watch the livestream entire program here.
Then the next day I traveled to Newark to hold my artist talk for my exhibition Fluid Resistance: Heroism in Two Acts. The best part of the talk was getting a chance to answer questions and explain my process to the students in an introductory photography class. For many of them, it was the first time they had gone to an artist talk so it was refreshing to see my presentation and the art world through new eyes. After answering questions about my process, inspiration and my thoughts on current social issues, we all walked over to the exhibition to view the works in person. One of the greatest parts of this experience with Rutgers was getting to see how committed Paul Robeson Galleries to the grassroots art community, which is a refreshing change from New York’s art scene, which at times can be too elitist and competitive. In addition to hosting exhibitions and artist talks, they also run workshops and classes so I’m hoping to work with them in the future about possible workshops regarding legal issues for artists.
So that was my week! It feels so good to see flowers blooming where I’ve been planting seeds for all the years. It gives a whole new meaning to the rebirth of spring.
My art is overseas! My Inkscape photograph, A Balm, has made it all the way to Kigali, Rwanda! My work was chosen by the editors of Mfon to be included in a group exhibition that will be on display at the United States ambassador's residence in Kigali for the duration of his term. I've always dreamed of displaying my work internationally so this definitely an exciting milestone for me. I am, however, kind of jealous that my artwork made it to the continent before I did but I will get there eventually.
Big thanks to Mfon editors Layla Amatallah Barryn and Delphine Adama Fawundu for this incredible opportunity!
The Belle Noir series continues with more photo shoots. This time I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Catherine, a vibrant professional model from Houston, TX. I had so much fun photographing her and capturing her grace and energy.
One of my favorite things about this series is meeting so many fascinating Black women and hearing their stories and learning about what drives them. Catherine's tales about the modeling industry were enlightening and in some cases surprising. While she is passionate about being breaking barriers as a Black model, she admits that there are still so many obstacles to overcome that include colorism and body image representation.
I'm grateful for this happy encounter with Catherine and look forward to seeing her shine even more. I'm looking forward to creating some Inkscape magic with her photos!
I decided to submit one of my Inkscape portraits for this year's annual Postcards From the Edge art show. I remember when I first started submitting for those shows; it wasn't such a big deal back then. You could go without getting overwhelmed by a crowd and go late enough in the day that you could still see plenty of unsold postcards. Nowadays, it's swelled into something huge and there are actually stampedes to get into the event when it opens. This is probably because word got out that you can end up buying a postcard from a famous artist for only $85. The postcards are displayed anonymously, so you never know who you end up with until you purchase it. What's cool about it is that someone who is just starting art gets to display their artwork alongside someone who is world famous but both of their works sell for the exact same price. Given how elitist the art market can be, I can't entirely blame people for bumrushing the galleries. It's also a win-win for Visual Aids because the sale proceeds from the show help support AIDS awareness and outreach programs.
I usually submit something every year but I stopped going to the shows because they got to be so crowded, and I really hate crowds. That’s one thing I don't like about art openings in New York; they get to be so crowded because everyone wants to see and be seen that you really can’t even get a good look at the work. They have a preview party for participating artists but I wasn’t able to make it last night because of another event I had to go to. But since I decided to be better at getting out and going to more art events this year, I promised myself that I would suck it up and brave the crowds. I almost changed my mind when I saw on the Visual Aids’ Instagram feed that the line was down the street just before the doors opened but my resolve strengthened when I promised myself to eat first before going. Afterall, no one likes a hungry homicidal maniac during an art opening.
By the time I did make it down there at around 1:30, I was shocked to see that the crowds were gone. It was almost like people had stormed the gallery, grabbed the art they wanted and then ran out. There was still a lot of work up for sell but a lot of pieces, including mine, were gone. I was somewhat bummed that I didn’t get a chance to see my work up on the wall but I was happy to know that someone connected with it enough to take it home with them. I was always wonder about the buyer when this happens; who are they, what do they do, what did they seem in my work that made them want to take it home with them?
At any rate, it was great to stick around take in the works that were still there in a calmer atmosphere. There were a lot of great postcards still around, including some pretty impressive 3-D works that looked like a lot of thought and effort were put into them. I’m sharing a few that I really liked and I wish that I could tell you who made them, but you know…it’s all anonymous.
If you're an artist interested in participating in next year's show, you can find out more information about it by going to their webpage.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the much anticipated Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I'm so happy to have the time off so I could absorb the show because there was so much care put into showing the many facets of her life. I wish I could share pictures but out of respect for the Museum's no photo policy, all I can say is be sure to see it as soon as you can!
Like most people, I had read and seen movies and documentaries about Frida's life but it felt so different to see the parts of her life that she lived with in person, which even included the medicine bottles that she used for her chronic illnesses.
It took me a while in the last several years to really appreciate her paintings. At first, they seemed too surreal, so full of pain and even gruesome at times. Over time I came to appreciate the raw honesty of her work and her willingness to speak of her hopes, pain and disappointments through her work. I imagine that had to be like journaling for her.
I was so inspired by what I saw that I created this quick Inkscape portrait of her. I I thought it apropos to have her kind of softly disintegrating (or integrating, depending on how you look at it) considering her painful and complicated relationship with her body. She spent most of her life in pain but I wanted to show that even when it seemed like she couldn't come together physically, there was still fluidity...some softness to it.
Anyway, don't waste another minute and get your ticket to see Frida in Brooklyn.
Hey all! I finally have the date for my artist talk at Rutgers. On Wednesday, April 17, 10 am, I will be holding a discussion with one of the university professors. In addition to talking about the current exhibition, we’ll also discuss how my work in relation to Audre Lorde’s book, Sister Outsider. I’ll be following up with more details as we get closer to the artist talk date!
Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of working with two wonderfully creative souls for a brainstorming session. The goal of our meeting was to help my friend develop a business plan and a vision for her gallery/studio space. In the process of developing ideas, it quickly became apparent what a transformative experience her studio would create for all those who would come to visit. I admired her drive and her absolute passion for what her art and what she wanted it to inspire in her audience and patrons, as well as fellow women of color artists. It also made me realize how out of touch I have felt from my own creative process in the past year.
For the past year and change, I had been working long hours at my day job and at the end of the day and on the weekends, I felt physically and mentally depleted. This, of course, left me little energy to really pour into my creative work. Sure, I was creating and remaining committing to making the art but what lacked was the mindfulness behind the process. It was mostly: create something, then share on Instagram with a short caption and then move on to the next thing. I wasn’t putting as much into writing on my blog to give more context behind what I was doing and it was starting to feel soulless. I was just another body on the internet just throwing stuff out there.
It wasn't until I received the exhibition opportunity through Rutgers and the curators inquired about doing an artist talk that I started to slow down to pay attention to what I really was saying with my work. It was immensely gratifying that people were interested in knowing more about the person and the thought process behind what I was creating.
Thankfully, I have had a chance to slow down and take time off to focus, really focus, on my work.I’ve decided to recommit myself to my long-range goals and how I want my art to be impactful. I already know that I don’t want to limit myself to just art gallery shows; they’re too fleeting and sometimes feel more like a “scene” instead of an immersive, thoughtful experience. This is another reason I’m excited about my collaboration with Rutgers because the exhibition will include a discussion with a professor and their class I’ve always longed to create something cerebral with my work and this opportunity is the perfect springboard for that.
I also promise to write more. I was pretty good with blogging and then fell off and fell into the trap of just relying on clever Instagram captions to get by. In hindsight, I realize I was limiting myself. I wasn’t really sharing my creativity with the world and I was missing out on that problem solving and hashing-out that writing brings forth.
So with that said, my promise to myself and to you is that I will recommit myself to my work and to my audience.
She's cosmic......I'm just now getting a chance to catch up on making new Inkscape portraits, thanks to having some downtime from the holidays. I'm still experimenting with incorporating Inkscape photography as hair with some of my models and I really wanted to explore the idea of creating a gold and bronze colored nebula as a crown that is punctuated by stars. Can you spot the comet?
Just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know that my work will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition at the Center for Law and Justice at Rutgers University, courtesy of the Paul Robeson Galleries. Fluid Resistance: Heroism in Two Acts will be featuring selected works from my Belle Noir and Black Superheroes projects and will be a celebration of heroism, resistance and Black joy.
At this time, there will not be an opening reception but I'm looking at scheduling an artist talk at some point during the exhibition which runs from December 20th, 2018 to May 24th, 2019. If you are interested in attending an artist talk, please drop me a note via my contact form.
I'm looking forward to sharing this experience with you all and as always, I am grateful for the love and support that you have shared with me throughout the years.
"rise up fallen fighters
unfetter the stars
dance with the universe
& make it ours"
~ Ntozake Shange