Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of working with two wonderfully creative souls for a brainstorming session. The goal of our meeting was to help my friend develop a business plan and a vision for her gallery/studio space. In the process of developing ideas, it quickly became apparent what a transformative experience her studio would create for all those who would come to visit. I admired her drive and her absolute passion for what her art and what she wanted it to inspire in her audience and patrons, as well as fellow women of color artists. It also made me realize how out of touch I have felt from my own creative process in the past year.
For the past year and change, I had been working long hours at my day job and at the end of the day and on the weekends, I felt physically and mentally depleted. This, of course, left me little energy to really pour into my creative work. Sure, I was creating and remaining committing to making the art but what lacked was the mindfulness behind the process. It was mostly: create something, then share on Instagram with a short caption and then move on to the next thing. I wasn’t putting as much into writing on my blog to give more context behind what I was doing and it was starting to feel soulless. I was just another body on the internet just throwing stuff out there.
It wasn't until I received the exhibition opportunity through Rutgers and the curators inquired about doing an artist talk that I started to slow down to pay attention to what I really was saying with my work. It was immensely gratifying that people were interested in knowing more about the person and the thought process behind what I was creating.
Thankfully, I have had a chance to slow down and take time off to focus, really focus, on my work.I’ve decided to recommit myself to my long-range goals and how I want my art to be impactful. I already know that I don’t want to limit myself to just art gallery shows; they’re too fleeting and sometimes feel more like a “scene” instead of an immersive, thoughtful experience. This is another reason I’m excited about my collaboration with Rutgers because the exhibition will include a discussion with a professor and their class I’ve always longed to create something cerebral with my work and this opportunity is the perfect springboard for that.
I also promise to write more. I was pretty good with blogging and then fell off and fell into the trap of just relying on clever Instagram captions to get by. In hindsight, I realize I was limiting myself. I wasn’t really sharing my creativity with the world and I was missing out on that problem solving and hashing-out that writing brings forth.
So with that said, my promise to myself and to you is that I will recommit myself to my work and to my audience.
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.
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.
Solely living off my art is a luxury that I can't afford. Having a day job, however, doesn't make me any less of an artist. Bills and responsibilities are real. So is my passion for what I create.
Every day it's a new scandal with the new regime in The White House. I don't know we are going to get through the next four years. In the mean time, I'm just offering this small commentary on his latest disaster...this one involves him leaking classified info to the visiting Russian ambassador.
I created this latest Inkscape in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It never ceases to amaze me how there is blatant disregard to people's right to clean drinking water, whether we are talking about the Sioux Nation or the people of Flint, Michigan Environmental warfare always falls on the heads of people of color around the world.
I used an old portrait of Sioux member Amos Two Bulls available in the public domain because I was in love with the strength of his profile facing forward steeped in dignity.
Since the election of Trump, I am committed to creating Resistance Art as a way of amplifying the voices of marginalized people. The fight continues.
Still can't imagine a world without you in it, amazing us with your gifts and talents. You will live for an eternity through your music and inspire countless generations to come. Light up the heavens, Prince.
Limited edition prints of this work can be purchased at http://shop.jaimeetodd.com