Last Tuesday was the premiere of the incredible photography book Mfon at the International Center for Photography in Manhattan. I had been aching to finally see the finished product and I was not disappointed. Editors Adama Delphine Fawundu and Laylah Amatallah Barrayn created a compilation of beautiful, powerful and touching photographs that celebrated black womanhood and the power of Black women photographers. Given the level of talent featured, it would be an understatement to say I was honored to be included.
The book signing event was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was exhilarating being in the same room with all of this excitement and positivity. I felt like I was swinging between a giddy high school girl and rock star signing copies of the books and getting to know the other photographers and asking them to sign my copy as well.
I finally got a chance to settle down with the book over the weekend so I could study each image and read the touching essays and tributes to Mfon, the book's namesake. I shed tears over the power and intensity of her legacy.
So, please, please, support this book and support Mfon's legacy. Copies are still available for sale by making a donation at http://mfonfoto.org/.
So tonight was the gallery opening at Azart and I figured I should still write about it while I'm still wired off of white wine and the good times I had..
Gallery receptions are euphoric and wonderfully hectic at the same time when you're an exhibiting artist. Most of the time it feels like a whirlwind and I wish I could be in several places at once. You find yourself trying to catch up with your long-time friends and supporters but want to make enough time to answer questions about your process to people who are new to your work.
Tonight was no different at Azart. The crowd quickly swelled and I had met so many new faces that were enthusiastic and curious about my Inkscapes. I love listening to people's perspectives and I always come away learning something new from my audience. Tonight, several people told me how the art looked so three dimensional that they wished that they could crawl inside each piece. People also had a strong response to the amount of color, especially my Inkscapes speckled in yellow and they were soothed by the blues of my Steely Gray
Azart Gallery is a beautiful space, so if you are in the NYC area from now until the 19th, please do go by and check out the show. I feel privileged to share the space with such talented photographers. The gallery is located at 51 Orchard Street in NYC.
It looks like 2015 is going to be an exciting year!
In addition to participating in the annual Postcards From the Edge exhibition, I will also be having another solo show featuring my Inkscapes this spring. From April 28 until May 29, I'll have photographs displayed at Midoma Gallery in New York City. I'm so excited about this new opportunity and I hope to share it with many of you.
It's never too early to make your calendars. More details soon.
Today most of the country is celebrating the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and while that is certainly on the forefront of my mind today, I'm also reflecting on my own milestone. September marks my ten year anniversary of living in New York City.
Moving to New York had been in my plans since I was a teenager in high school but I was only finally able to commit to that dream by the time I was finishing up law school and signed up to take the ferocious New York Bar Exam. So, months after graduating from the University of Miami, on a early September 5th afternoon, I found myself lugging a 70lb suitcase up five flights of stairs to a new apartment that I wold be sharing with two complete strangers. It was a far cry from the sterility of Michigan suburbs that I grew up in and the homogeneity of Coral Gables neighborhoods that I lived in as a law student.
Over the course of ten years, I've had my share of growing pains and triumphs, from dealing with eccentric roommates, to learning how to master the subway and its accompanying etiquette, braving harsh snowfalls, blistering heatwaves to enjoying beautifully crisp autumns and rejuvenating spring times. I went from being a wide-eyed Mid-westerner to a tougher, more seasoned urban survivalist.
In spite of all these experiences, what's most remarkable about my experience here was learning to find my own voice and being able to be completely honest with who I was. When I decided to identify as an artist and to claim it as a serious practice, I started to live authentically. I don't think it would have been possible to come to this point in my life had I not made the decision to live here. I guess this is probably why I decided to make my first solo show about New York when I produced my Visions of New York exhibition. The theme was a fitting tribute to a city that had given me so much.
Living in New York City is often compared to being in a romantic relationship. You come to it willingly, and for the most part you are happy to be here and you wonder how you managed to live before you encountered such an amazing place. There are also days when feel more challenged than what you are prepared for and you wonder if you will make it. There are days when you aren't so in love but somehow you find your way back to it. The city grows and changes and you grow and change along with it. I wouldn't have had it any other way and certainly no terrorist attack was going to tell me otherwise.
Happy Anniversary, New York. I love you.
Throughout this tenth year, I will be reposting images from my Visions of New York collection and re-telling the stories behind them.
Yesterday, I finally made it out to the Gugenheim to see the Carrie Mae Weems exhibition. I'm so glad that I did. I never had such an emotional and cathartic response to an art exhibition before and I am still left contemplating what I saw.
Carrie's weight carries a lot of emotional gravity because she directly confronts issues related to racism, womanhood, stereotypes, exclusion, marginalization, love and loss, and beauty, all of which are themes that are of great interest to me as well. The staging in her photographs is simple; she puts herself in each image as a way of narrating a sries of complex emotions and feelings that are so universal that when I saw her series of works, I felt like she had been inside my head.
There's so much to say and I'm not sure where to begin but I'll start with two series in the show that stood out to me the most. The first one was a story of a relationship between a man and the woman, from their sweet beginnings to their bitter end. Each image that represented a stage in their relationship was beautifully narrated by Carrie's words (she writes beautifully; if she ever writes a novel, I'll be all over it.). The story told the dance that couples often do their relationships; trying to find that happy medium while still holding onto their own uniqueness and desires, all the while fearing they will be devoured by each other. I was amazed by how much she could convey these sentiments through such simple staging in her photographs. Each vignette took place at the kitchen table like the above image.
The second series that really took me was a collection of old photographs from the 1800s that she had discovered. Originally, the photographs seemed as if they were meant to portray black people in an unflattering light but Weems flips this attempt on its head by presenting the images in a red tint and writing words across them in glass that express the heart and soul of the subjects of each image. Her words not only challenge the racist implications of the photographer and bu they also restore dignity to the subject. I loved this series because she plainly calls out the ugliness of racism and its impact on people who are constantly under the boot of discrimination. While I was at the exhibition, I kept wondering how non-minorities reacted to these images. Did it made them think deeper about their own stereotypes or inaction when they bore witness to racial discrimination being inflicted on others? Did it affect how they saw black people and black women?
I think the thing I like the most about Carrie Mae Weems work is her directness and how she creates on her paper the change she wishes to see in the world. She's willing to use herself as a subject as a way of addressing the marginalization that black women often feel when they are represented in society. She discusses colorism in the black community by playing with words and tinted photographs. All of these images were empowering because they insisted, "I matter. We matter."
So, if you haven't gone to see the exhibition and you live in New York City, I urge you to walk, run, or gallop to see this it at the Guggenheim up until May 14. You will be so glad that you did.
When I first started to re-immerse myself into making art again, I was dazzled to have stumbled upon the art mecca of Pearl Paint. A multi-tiered art supply behemoth in Chinatown, I always marveled at the endless rows of delightful products that I could buy (and ultimately not really know what to do with all of them), the settled-in smell of paper mingling with a touch of dust and old paint, and the expertise of the staff, many of whom were artists themselves.
Shopping at Pearl Paint made me really feel like an artist. I could find anything I needed for my projects and experiments. It also made feel really young because they cashiers always assumed from looking at me that I was still a student in art school without having to produce any ID.
I dutifully visited for years but then within the last several monthsI noticed the store seemed to go into decline. Inventory seemed to thin out and the place looked increasingly thin. I was concerned and asked some of the employees what was going on. Were they going out of business? They shrugged and said that wasn't the case but I wasn't convinced. It go to the point that I had to start shopping elsewhere to get the things I needed.
Then a few weeks ago, articles in the local papers started speculating about whether Pearl Paint would be the latest casualty in a steadily gentrifying New York. Places that seemed like cultural bastions in the city were being erased from the landscape to make way for the steady march of chain stores and high rents.
On Monday, it became official and my art home was shuttered for good. I was terribly sad. I will miss fighting my way through the Chinatown throngs of tourists and knock-off purse vendors to see the iconic Pearl Paint store sign shining like a beacon in the distance. I cringe at what will take its place, though those of who have been around long enough know that nothing really will.
Farewell my dear Pearl.