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.
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.
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
The initial inspiration for this image came from Simone once saying she fancies growing into a head full of beautiful #gray hair. The hair also serves also as a thought #cloud, filled with a myriad of ideas, feelings, thoughts that are complex and sometimes #tumultuous. The look on her face is unbothered, knowing and unapologetic all at the same time. Also, a literal shoutout to the #Marvel comic book character, Storm, one of the most iconic #blacksuperhero characters.
I've been listening to Sade's Soldier of Love on heavy repeat, not only marveling at the gravity of the song but how dope the music video for it is. If you've seen it, you can see the connections and how I was inspired by the #grayish ##landscape and the red smoke.
The song is powerful as it speaks to the resilience of spirit in the face of recurrent disappointments in love and the determination to soldier on it spite of it all. I've been clinging to this song in light of all the crazy shit I read in the news, particularly in light of the daily reports of sexual assault/harassment allegations. These are daily reminders of how tough is it to be a women, a women of color, a Black woman in a society that increasingly tries to make you feel powerless. I'm grateful for the reminders of the women who put on a brave face when they are battered and can face the #storm. I say that at the risk of further the perennial "strong black woman" stereotype that is tiresome and unhelpful. There is a power in the willingness to be vulnerable by taking off the mask of invincibility.
A modern day cameo. This Inkscape portrait was inspired by the elaborate old whiskey boxes that my dad used to have that were decorated with ornate cameos and portraits of men and women sipping whiskey from teens and 20s. The succulent rose crown gives off Frida Kahlo vibes and was a last minute touch. Thankful for Myongii for bringing regal #blackgirlmagic to this look.
Trying a different approach to this Inkscape #portrait. I took a ton of pictures of my model Erika during our session but some of my favorites involved shots of her back because it looked so graceful, like a dancer. Adding the Inkscape as a trail behind her was giving me Degas vibes too. I've also been dying to incorporate geometricshapes to my portraits so I'm happy with the way this one came out.
One of the inspirations behind this newest piece was one of the promotional posters for my new favorite show Queen Sugar featuring two of the lead women actors Dawn Lyen-Gardner and Rutina Wesley. The show is shot with such indescribable beauty and sensitivity that it's hard not to be inspired by it. What stays with me about the show is how the characters, in spite of their very relatable flaws, have such capacity for hope and growth. This capacity for growth is what we have to hold on to these days when the news seems so seemingly stark and replete with bad news about hurricane aftermaths and mass shootings.
This piece is also the latest in my series featuring Black women and I was excited to create a work featuring two women together, reinforcing the importance of unity and solidarity and how when we come together, what we create is phenomenal. I'm also continuing with my continued intrigue with an interstellar theme because I think it also signifies limitless possibilities. A good friend told me that he likes to study cosmology and the nature of the universe because it puts things in perspectives when it comes to our place in existence, an idea which I love. Looking to the stars helps keep my sanity and the concept of incorporating Black imagery with it lends to the idea of possibility of expansion.
Thursday's reception for the Artist Co-Op Exhibition was a success. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me and all the other exhibiting artists!
The exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2017 at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.