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.
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.
I'm noticing that fire is an underlying theme in this latest round of #Inkscapeportraits. Maybe on a subconscious level, I feel like every woman has something burning within her, be it #desire, rage, #vivacity, etc. I find this especially to be the case with the #women that may seem to be reserved on the surface but if you take the time to look her in the eyes, you see something powerful within.
This is my latest on the series I'm currently working featuring people of the African diaspora, with emphasis on black women. During these increasingly tumultuous times, I find solace on celebrating the multi-dimensional aspects of black womanhood, which has been the backbone of so many social justice movements. Our often celebrated resilience comes at a high price that frequently leaves us feeling depleted, forsaken and overlooked. With this yet untitled series, I endeavor to present images of black women that are soothing and energizing reminder of the importance of self-care, self-love, and celebration of our womanhood. The above image is the most recent image of this series. You can see other portraits that I've done on my online portfolio or Instagram.
I'm currently looking for models who may be interested in participating. No experience is needed and I look want to celebrate a diverse representation of black women. Compensation will be in the form of free head shots and a free print of the final work.
If you or someone who know lives in the New York City area and would be interested in participating, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This latest Inkscape portrait is a part of an ongoing project that I want to dedicate more time to. This image in particular was inspired by an old Ramsey Lewis Sun Goddess album, which my dad had a copy of when I was growing up. I used to love studying how wondrous it looked. Similarly, I wanted to created a sense of inner luminescence, which is why I wanted to make sure the face of my muse was awash in #gold.
I want to experiment more as I get more comfort with this series. I tried several different versions of the image, layering the portrait with lots of #Inkscapes but I felt like something simpler was better, so as not to overwhelm people with detail.
Before there was Sister Maxine (Waters), there was Shirley. Before there was Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley was not only the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968, she was the first Black candidate for President for a major political party and the first woman to run as a Democratic candidate.
Before becoming a public servant, Shirley was an educational consultant becoming a leading authority on child welfare and early education issues.
After going from being a State Senator to a US congresswoman, she eventually decided to run for President of the United States in 1971 campaigning under her legendary slogan "Unbought and Unbossed slogan". Not surprisingly, her campaign was met with tremendous obstacles based on race, but she also met even more intense resistance for being a woman running for President (some things never change, eh?). Not only did she receive little support for her Democratic colleagues, she received little support from her Black male colleagues and later stated: " "When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men....They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn't mean the black woman must step back."
After her unsuccessful presidential bid, Chisholm continued to serve in Congress. She worked to improve conditions for inner city residents and social services, opposed the Vietnam War and advocated against the military industrial complex. After retiring from Congress in 1982, she returned to her beginnings as an educator and lectured extensively across the country and taught undergraduate courses in politics, women and race at Mt. Holyoke college. She was nominated to serve as ambassador to Jamaica by President Bill Clinton but declined due to health issues and was later inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. Nine years after her passing in 2005, she was posthumously awarded by the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014.
May Shirley's persistence and determination inspire us all.
"I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad."--Josephine Baker
Before there was such a thing as a "carefree Black girl", there was Josephine Baker. She didn't give a damn before not giving damns was fashionable and after all of these years, we are still here for it. I write this piece a day after Beyonce dropped her Formation video, a new empowerment anthem that has inspired so many in the Black community and pissed off many others. At this point, Beyonce has reached the point in her career where she can do as she pleases without giving a care what others think and to me, that is so Josephine Baker.
I was introduced to Miss Baker through the wonderful biopic film The Josephine Baker Story and I was entranced by her story. How tough and strong willed for a Black woman to be to survive the horrific race riots of St. Louis, take care of herself on the streets and then decide to pursue her love of dance and freedom by moving to Paris! And what freedom she experienced; she marveled at being called ma'am and not having to enter buildings through segregated entrances, of being to exude sensuality, be brash and still be herself and be Black. I'm under no illusion that Paris was a post-racial utopia, but compared to the United States I'm sure it came pretty damn close. It's also easy to imagine that she experienced a massive reality check when she decided to America in the 1936 to perform in the Ziefield Follies and received a hideous racial backlash. She was called a "Negro wench" and criticized for having little talent, which was false. They just weren't ready. It's amazing how this tired trope of diminishing Black women for being different and powerful never ceases to end. Did we not see and hear similar comments being hurled at Beyonce for her Super Bowl performance?
Never mind the haters, Josephine continued to persevere. She became a freedom fighter, an agent in the Resistance during World War II. She returned to the United States to speak out against the oppression of Black people. She refused to perform in front of segregated audiences, she worked with the NAACP and was the only female speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, just to name a few accomplishments. A little known fact that I didn't know of until recently: after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Coretta Scott King approached Josephine to take her husband's place as the leader of the Civil Rights movement. She declined the offer out of fear of her children losing her to assassination as well. In spite of all she did, she was still never fully embraced by the American Black community, let alone the rest of America. She eventually returned to her beloved France.
But after all this, I'm leaving out one of the most amazing things about Josephine to me; how captivating she was as a performer. She was magnetic! She sparkled, she absolutely did. Thank god for Youtube, which allows me to view incredible performances where she commands the stage. When I look at Josephine, I see original Black Girl Magic and I wanted to make her look magical with my Inkscape portrait of her. I centered a glowing star in her center; she bares her glowing soul and forever shines. I clothed her in a golden Inkscape like it was an off-shoulder dress in a gown that I like to think she would find befitting of her. The stars that illuminate her face make me think of her as a constellation, which what she was; a free Black woman that lights up life.
My latest Inkscape portrait features my cousin Atari, who was kind enough to pose for me while she was visiting me in New York over the summer.
When making these portraits, I tend to go through my archive of previously shot Inkscapes to find the right one for my subject. I gravitated to using a reddish, orangish one for Atari's portrait because she is so effusive and enthusiastic. Her trip to New York City represented a number of milestones for her and opened her eyes to new new unique experiences, so I wanted to use colors that represented the energy of her experience. As I created a composite of the two images, I thought about the whole "girl on fire" motif that was a popular when the Hunger Games came out and when Alicia Keys' created a song of the same title. I added some brighter tones to the final portrait to create the feeling of an inner glow.
I also like the feeling that her face is materializing out of thin air so I had fun experimenting with using a partial portrait. It lends nicely to the fluidity of the Inkscapes. I also enjoy how Atari's afro blended so well with the textures in the Inkscape; it accentuates the feeling that her hair is her crown.
I had so much fun putting together this girl on fire and I can't wait to do more. Many thanks to Atari for being such a great model!
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.