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.
The excitement and support for Mfon is growing! Vogue did a lovely write-up on the upcoming book featuring editors Laylah Amatullah Barryn and Adama Delphine Fawundu. In it, they discuss the motivation and inspiration behind this labor of love.
Copies of the book are still available for sale with an upcoming book signing in New York City on Thursday, November 16th at the Magnum Foundation. I'll be there to sign copies and celebrate so if you'd like to attend, you can reserve your free tickets here!
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 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.
"I'm a real rebel with a cause."--Nina Simone
For too long I've taken Nina Simone for granted. It didn't hit me how prolific she really was until I realized how often and how much of her work has been covered and many times appropriated. It hit me when I tuned into my Nina Simone Pandora station and heard her perform her own work and I found myself saying, "Oh, she was the one who originally wrote that? I didn't know that was her."
I'm embarrassed to admit that.
But I still didn't know enough, really. I read about her and how tumultuous her life was but I still didn't really know or understand her. Thank god for the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? that I really began to get an inkling of her depth and complexity, how much she raged to just be, even when mental illness made it unbearable to her and those that were around her.
Like Ida B. Wells, she was a bad-ass from an early age. One of my favorite anecdotes about her was when she was a young girl in North Carolina and was about to perform an piano recital in front of a segregated audience. When young Nina realized that her parents would be pushed to the back of the audience because they were black, she refused to play until they were brought up front. It might seem like a small gesture to some but to me that is pretty ballsy for a young child to be willing to defy such injustice, seemingly without fear. That a child was so unaware of such injustice at a young age is also remarkable.
It seems say that her gift was salvation from the temptation of deadly rage in the face of anti-black hatred of the 50's, 60's, and 70's. It has to be soul-wrenching to be a witness to such unrelenting ugliness but yet still feel deeply satisfying to write something as blatant as "Mississippi Goddamn" to bluntly express the rage that so many black people feel after the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that took the lives of those four precious little girls. Nowadays, I feel myself humming that song whenever I hear about another deadly episode of policy brutality, the neglect of a mostly Black town, another senseless killing of the innocent.
I believe it takes superhero strength to be able to channel that anger, survive an abusive marriage, the music industry all the while battling with mental illness for the majority of her life. Most people would have ended themselves long ago but Nina somehow persevered even when she seemed to becoming undone. I am grateful that her struggle with this illness has come to light in that highlights the importance of protecting and attending the mental health of black women.
When making this portrait, I wanted to use an Inkscape that reflected Nina's passion, and fearlessness, hence the red tones. I liked the idea of reflecting the expansiveness of her talent by adding interstellar images in her profile. The contrast of red and black tones speaks to her own complexities, her layers upon layers.
I am grateful that there is a world where Nina Simone existed, and still endures through her music.
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!