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.
I'm so happy and proud to say that Harlem for Flint was a success. We met our fundraising goal of $10,000 and there was an excellent turnout of so many people who wanted to support Flint, Michigan.
As an artist, I was thrilled to be able to use my work to help spread the message of determination and hope. I met such incredible people in the process; all of the volunteers had such positive energy that it felt like a family get-together. There's nothing that compares to people coming together in the name of compassion. The performances were tremendous with each artist bringing such passion and beauty. The end of the evening culminated in a troupe of tap and African dance against a crescendo of song.
Of course it was a tremendous thrill to have a video installation of my Inkscapes to serve as a backdrop for the whole night at the National Black Theatre. It added so much to the mood and so many of the spectators were really impressed by it. This is something I definitely want to do more of in the future because I love how the motion of the Inkscapes can create serenity and infuse tremendous energy at the same time.Please be sure to check out the Youtube video featuring Ali Bradley's rehearsal performance against my video installation (it was actually one of my favorite moments of Sunday afternoon).
A big thank you to all those that attended and contributed! I'll be adding more video over the next few days so be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel to see more.
"I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said."--Ida B. Wells
It's Black History Month! While I think Black History should be everyday and not just relegated to February, I did want to commemorate it with a series that I recently started. My newest Inkscape portraits celebrate trailblazers and icons. They are my Black Superheroes.
I found images that were in the public domain (because getting sued for copyright infringement is not something that is on my bucket list) and merged them with previous Inkscape photographs that I had taken. It was somewhat of a painstaking process because I really had to dig to find the right Inkscape for each portrait. I wanted them to feel magical and ethereal and used color to reinforce the mood that each portrait inspired.
I deliberately decided to start my series with the amazing Ida B. Wells because, quite simply, she was a bad-ass and she simply doesn't get enough credit. In spite of being born into slavery, Ida seem to have a firm understanding of her rightful place in this world and refused to let her race or sex relegate her to sub-human status.
After being orphaned at the age of 16, she supported her younger siblings by becoming a teacher in a black elementary school. By the time she she got to college, she was keenly interested in the rights of black people and women. Incredibly, over 70 years prior to Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a train in Tennessee and was forcibly removed. This sister didn't stop there, though; she she also sued the railroad company and initially won a $500 through the local circuit court, although that ruling was later reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
As an investigative journalist, Ida B. started an anti-lynching campaign and revealed the correlation between local economics and lynchings in articles that she published in her newspaper, Free Speech and Headlight. Because of the constant threats against her life, she was forced to arm herself with a gun and the offices of her newspaper were eventually destroyed. She would later go on to write Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, a pamphlet that pointed out that whites lynched black men not because of supposed allegations of rape committed against white women, but rather out of fear of black economic progress.
I admire Ida's ability to reveal the hypocrisy of the suffragist and liberal movements that not only ignored continued violence against black people, but also failed to include blacks in suffragist and temperance movements in the South. To learn more about how Ida B. Wells butted heads with Frances' Williard and how she also went on to read her for filth, please read the Root's article on racism in the suffragist movement. Her confrontations with such movements precedes the still ongoing problem of feminist movements frequently ignoring the plights of black women.
Ida B. was a fearless lioness that did not let fear, racism, or sexism get in the way of her beliefs, even when her own life was under constant threat. I wanted to highlight her bravery by creating a glowing light emanating from her center, her soul. Her convictions were her guiding light. I cast her in deep purple because her fortitude and pride instills a feeling of royalty.
To say she was a pioneer who was ahead of her time is an understatement. Ida B. was everything.
Last week I had a chance to go to Michigan for some much needed R&R. I appreciate the stillness and the quiet there now that I have been living in New York for over ten years.
Michigan is known for it's gray days but it also has some pretty fantastic mornings and evenings too. On our way back from a family gathering in Frankenmuth, we drove by an open field and marveled at the hues of lush hues of the sunset; purple and blue merging into one another to make space for the moon. It was breathtaking.
The mornings are also lovely. Near my parents home there is a lake that sits below a great skyscape that is something to behold in the mornings. I always liked the idea of morning holding the promise of a new day and new beginnings and Michigan mornings are an awesome depiction of that.
As I continue to experiment with different colored background for my Inkscapes, I wanted to share this latest offering with you with the hope it offers you tranquility and a reminder of the potential of tomorrow.
I'm continuing my exploration of Afro-futurism with this Inkscape compilation featuring my model Gabby. Picking up from the previous Inkscapes I worked on that had a more interstellar appearance, I created a realm where my model reimagines herself as universal and surpassing ordinary characterizations of black culture.
For me this piece is a much needed contribution to a dialogue where too often, Black people are still presented in narratives touching on slavery and other subservient roles. As a person who was weaned on magic realism and science fiction, I'm hungering to see ourselves included in more daring, futuristic themes. It's my hope that this offering will engage my audience in the infinite possibilities of the African Diaspora.
I've noticed lately when I make my Inkscapes, especially in the late evenings, I tend to have very vivid dreams when I turn in for the day. Not only do I dream in color but I dream in a way that feels like a fantastic sci-fi adventure. One night as I was working on one of my Inkscapes, I remember seeing a preview for the movie Interstellar on tv. Later that night I remember having a powerful dream where I was traveling through an interstellar wormhole made of a brilliant turquoise and blue whirlpool. I remember diving through into a pool of light that felt absoltuely exhilarating.
Maybe this is why I am addicted to making them.
In the midst of my hiatus from art-making, I've decided to re-read an old Paulo Coelho favorite, The Zahir. I have returned to this book various times ever since I first read it several years while I go through different obstacles and turning points in my life. I have returned to it again as I deal with turning points, milestones and changes in interpersonal relationships. But no matter my reason for revisiting the Zahir, I find that it speaks to me for the following reasons:
The Zahir was a fixation on everything that had been passed from generation to generation; it left no question unanswered; it took up all the space; it never allowed us even to consider the possibility that things could change.
In other words, conform, conform, conform. If you do not, you will be punished and expelled from your tribe. I love how Paulo Coelho questions this notion in his books and I think this is why he resonates with so many people. Throughout my life, I've felt like a salmon swimming upstream, trying to find my own path that isn't the one laid out by society. When I graduated from law school and realized that I didn't want to be a practicing attorney and told people about my desire to be pursue my passion for art, some thought I was crazy, others were horrified and others even distanced themselves from me. Years later, I'm lucky enough to know that people admire me for being true to myself and feel inspired to do the same for themselves.
I feel that I'm at another crossroad in my life where I feel the shroud of monotony and conformity trying to overtake me and I'm going through my own personal quest to shake myself free of it. Needless to say, I haven't figured it out but am grateful that I'm aware enough to stop and question things.
So as I meander my way about things, I recommend picking up The Zahir, with the sincere hope that it speaks to you in a way that is fulfilling and eye-opening.
There are definitely days (today is one of them), where the dream world is much more appealing than reality. This is probably another reason why I make art.
But in the meantime, I present to you one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite all time bands, The Brand New Heavies. Enjoy.