I coulda did that!

 

 

 

 

I attended an art opening over the weekend and you can always spot the people who have never been to an art opening before. They stand by the door or by the bar the majority of the night, they are inappropriately dressed (usually dressed for the club. Side note: You can be an art lover and be dressed for the club, but the folks I saw over the weekend were dressed for the club AND awkward because they too realized they were the only folks dressed for ladies night at the Boomboom room), they make only make conversation with whoever accompanied them to the shindig, and most of all they don’t look at the art!They don’t look at the art! OR they look at the work and utter, arguably one of the most disrespectful phrases, “I coulda did that!”  Yea, you coulda but you didn’t.

My problem with the “I coulda did that” phrase is not only is it inconsiderate of art history, the artists’ concept, and the piece but it establishes a value system. A stupid phrase does all of that and it is uttered by artists and non-artists alike. Now, there is no doubt that we all have those “What the hell is this?!” kind of moment but at the same time there are more things to consider instead of whether or not you missed your chance to create a Joan Mitchell-esqu painting just because you think you can when in reality you can’t nor did you.

Its interesting to me that people only want to be amazed (Ron Mueck) or plain ol’ pleased (Bartolome Perez). They don’t want to think too much about the work (Felix Gonzalez Torres), nor do they want to be confused (Janine Antoni). Viewers want to feel good. They want to view nice, aesthetically pleasing paintings from Europe because obviously that is the only real art left in the world. Duh!

So today I got to thinking to myself. I said to myself, SELF- There are two ways to look at art: You can look at a piece without really looking of course and say “I coulda did that”. In doing so, not only have you failed to form a critical opinion, but you have discredited the artist’s labor, knowledge of art history  and concept with 4 words (one of which that really doesn’t exist.. so more like 3 1/2 words).

– OR –

You can look at the work, say “I coulda did that… but I didn’t. So why did he/ why did she create this?” You can read the damned didactic placard (that gives you someone else’s opinion about the work) as a base of understanding why there are green candies on the floor. The placard also has a title that sometimes gives a little insight to a piece, a date and the name of the artist. As  Talib Kweli says “Information is the new religion”. So instead of writing someone off as an idiot who got lucky, google ’em!

Cindy Sherman Retropsective at DMA

This another one of those quick posts that will have bad grammar, ridiculous spelling and FULL of my unfiltered opinions. A few weeks ago, I had woke up one morning and decided that I wanted to go to Dallas. Seriously. I woke up and thought, “I’m going to Dallas today. I have a tank of gas, family that will feed and house me during my stay and time to do so.” For the first time in YEARS, I have time to do things, yet I don’t want to do anything. I want to watch Weeds and lounge around in my birthday suit eating Nutella…. but I digress.

After driving through the Tornado watch that spanned from Waco to DFW, I arrived in Dallas and immediately went to the DMA. FYI the DMA has made changes to their admission fees. General Admission (permanent collection) is now free, but to see anything on the ground floor you have to pay $16. So in actuality you’re still paying General Admission plus the fee for special Exhibitions…. SIDE NOTE: The permanent collection at the DMA has not changed since I was in Elementary school so I understand not charging people to see it, but charging twice the amount the see the special exhibition is… a pimp move… kudos to you DMA! Make that Money Honey!

Cindy Sherman’s Retrospective opened my eyes to a few things: 1) Homegirl is a hell of a photographer. She works! From her college years in the 60-70s to 2012, were photographs of Sherman’s many faces, set designs, costumes etc not only exhibit the changes she has gone through as an artist but also exhibit the changes in art production. From Gelatin Silver prints to Ink Jet images 3’x4′. In earlier works, she “handled” the prints more through the use of  collage and hand coloring versus and in later works, Photoshop (or other design/editing software) is used to enhance and layer the images. Sherman rolled with the punches and changes of our time to continue to produce the work she wanted to make.

The size of Sherman’s works also surprised me. Seeing her images in books or magazines do not do them justice. While her earlier works were smaller (no larger than 9.5×11) her later works range from 3’x4′ to mural sized (12′-15′ x 20′). I personally enjoy work that confronts me physically. Meaning, I enjoy work where my body (or perhaps the audience’s body) has been taken into consideration. However there were a few people (older ladies and gents and people probably not familiar with her work ) who became uncomfortable and felt that they were “too close” or the work was “in your face”. Its always interesting to see how people react to some work. Sometimes they are amazed, indifferent, uninterested because their wife dragged them along and never underestimate the buffoon that utters ” I coulda did that!”

Lastly, seeing Sherman’s retrospective enabled an inner dialogue within myself where I yelled at myself for not working enough, eating Nutella in my birthday suit while watching Chopped, Weeds and other schedule programming. What am I doing with my summer?!?!

I’m so ashamed! And just when I was about to kick myself in the arse again, I got into my car and looked into the back seat. Instead of clothes were all 3 volumes of the Black body in Western Art, catalogues, magazines, art history/critical readings, photo copies of Rosalind Krauss text and sketchbooks… maybe I’m not so awful after all. But I still need to put on some clothes and get some work done. 

So  I drove to my grandmother’s house ate Blue Bell Key Lime Pie flavored Ice cream and watched Project Runway re-runs while planning my trip to the Modern of Ft. Worth to see Barry McGee’s exhibition the next day. It was amazing. Books all over the floor, Project Runway (Tim Gunn: Make it Work!)… and key lime pie ice cream…. AND I was clothed!

 

 

My Daddy’s Generation

Kerry James Marshall’s work, specifically his Black Painting currently on display at the Blanton Museum of Art has made me think of my Daddy’s generation (yes, I call my father Daddy) . Black Painting is a black on black painting on fiberglass. Through the use of cool and warm blacks, Marshall constructs an image of a  bedroom. I watch viewers wrestle with this painting. Some don’t take the time to look twice and some spend up to 10-15 minutes (which is a lot for museum viewers) actively searching the surface for hints as to the subject matter. First, the heels off center in the foreground of the painting are “picked out” first. Then the books on the night stand, one being Angela Davis’ If They Come In The Morning and then the figures in the bed. Are the figures having sex? Are the figures awake? Are they rising or laying down? The Black Panther Banner that hangs in the upper right of the canvas is usually one of the last items identified before the semi-interested viewer walks away. This is in part due to the ignorance, fear and construction of the Black Panthers as militant and the “black version of the KKK” (yes, I heard escape someone’s ignorant mouth). Not many people take the time to know the history of the Black Panthers and their involvement pass the infamous quote “The Revolution will not be televised”. Nor do many know that Huey Newton is actually Dr. Huey P. Newton with a Ph.D in Social Philosophy or that Bobby Seale is still alive and kicking or that Angela Davis absolutely HATES the fact that the Black Panther/Black Power Movement is often reduced to a hairstyle (i.e the Afro).

But back to the painting. Black Painting is a depiction of the home of Fred Hampton. Killed at the young age of 21 years old, Hampton was the deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. On December 4, 1969, the Chicago Police (with help from Cook County Attorney General and FBI), raided Hampton’s apartment. With over 6 police officers from 4:45 am to 4:52 am, each fired into the home Killing Hampton and Mark Clark. Hampton’s body was then dragged outside where he was shot two more times at point blank range in the head for “safe measure”. I found out from Chicago native and artist John Yancy, that the Black Panthers opened to apartment for tours days later and he actually saw the bullet riddle home and  the blood soaked mattress with his very own eyes.

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My Daddy was born October 30, 1962. Before he was ten years old a multitude of black leaders and activist were imprisoned, beaten and killed. And don’t forget that all of these leaders had varying approaches of how to liberate black people within U.S. In other words, not all were preaching Jesus, or Islam. Some wanted to educate people of their “inalienable rights” as U.S. citizens.  Can you imagine the state of mind of Black people at the time, when their major leaders were being assassinated with a 10 year span? The question What do we do now?? is an understatement! And after these leaders, who were the next set of role models? Gangsta Rap? NWA? TuPac Shakur? The minister?

For the past two months, Black Painting has been more than a painting to me… and this blog is the best way to explain what or perhaps how I think about it.

A few weeks ago, my Daddy came to visit me and I didn’t tell him what the painting was about or who it was by and within 2 minutes of looking at it he said “Its Fred Hampton”.

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CHICAGO BOUND!

I  know I’ve been a way for a minute. My apologies. It was not my intent to neglect my wordpress baby, however graduation, work, senior-itis and the sheer lack of anything “goings-on” in Austin that tickles pickle results in me not writing too much. But THATS ALL ABOUT TO CHANGE! Cuz I’m moving to the CHI!

Now. I know the title pulled you in and you thought, “Ohmylord! She’s goin’ to the Chi?!” Yes, I’m going to Chi-town, but not for the weekend… for 2 years!!!!! Yep. That’s right.

Black girl in Austin will be moving to Chicago for Grad school so the title of this here blog may have to change… A very good friend of mine said, “Why don’t you just change it to Black girl??” and me being me said, “Oh my god, I never thought of that!” Needless to say, I am incredibly excited and incredibly nervous, similar to how a hooker must feel in church . It will be a good change to say the least. New city, new people and MORE ART. ART coming out the ying yang! Art on the subway, art on the bus, art from the homeless man, art in the park, art art art!

So as I make this transition to a new city, new experiences are bound to happen and new blogs are going to sprout like Texas weeds. In the meantime, there are plenty of art exhibitions coming up in the summer (and some current exhibitions I have yet to see) that I plan to attend, marvel over and meet new folks:

 

CAMH _Zilkha Gallery

Perspectives 182: LaToya Ruby Frazier

On View: June 21 – October 13, 2013

Opening Reception:  Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 7-9PM

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I’M SO EXCITED! LaToya Ruby Frazier’s work explores the psychological connections of intergenerational relationships within her family and community through photographs and videos that blur the line between self-portraiture and social documentary. Frazier’s work is informed by late 19th- and early 20th-century modes of representation in documentary practice with an emphasis on postmodern conditions, class, and capitalism.

MORE
Mar 31, 2013 – Jun 02, 2013

The city provides the context for the visually packed work of San Francisco native Barry McGee. Since the mid-1980s, when McGee was a teenager, he has lived in the city’s oldest neighborhood, the Mission District. At that time, the Mission held a colorful, somewhat seedy, antiestablishment atmosphere with a thriving culture of youth, alternative musicians, artists, and thinkers. The vibe of the Mission influenced the artist early on, and he began to infiltrate the area’s flourishing graffiti boom with images that he created to reflect his surroundings.

 
México Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990
 
Sep 15, 2013 – Jan 05, 2014

México Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990, one of the largest and most ambitious exhibitions in over a decade examines contemporary art of central Mexico and Mexico City from the 1990s to the present day. Organized by curator Andrea Karnes, the exhibition is the first of its kind to be presented in North Texas.

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Cindy Sherman

March 17–June 9, 2013
Barrel Vault and Hanley, Lamont, Rachofsky, and Stoffel Galleries

The Dallas Museum of Art will present the exhibition Cindy Sherman, a retrospective survey tracing the groundbreaking artist’s career from the mid-1970s to the present. The touring exhibition, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, brings together some 160 key photographs from a variety of the artist’s acclaimed bodies of work, for which she created myriad constructed characters and tableaus. The first comprehensive museum survey of Sherman’s career in the United States since 1997, the exhibition draws widely from public and private collections, including the DMA.

*** If I can scrounge up a few extra dollars to travel and live the art viewing life of luxury.

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Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video is a major retrospective that is composed of more than 200 objects–primarily photographs but also written texts, audio recordings, fabric banners and videos–that will provide an opportunity to trace the evolution of Weems’s career over the last thirty years.

Schedule

  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts
  • 21 September 2012 to 13 January 2013
    • Cantor Center for Visual Arts
    • Stanford University
    • Stanford, California
    • 16 October 2013 to 5 January 2014
    • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    • New York, New York
    • 24 January to 23 April 2014

 

 

 

 

Value and Masterworks

Oil wash on paper40 x 26 in.

Kehinde Wiley. Oil wash on paper40 x 26 in.

    Hello World!
I know its been a minute but I’m back like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Check out what I’ve written below.

Not many people grow and mature into tax paying adults with art on the brain. Time and time again, schools cut art programs, galleries close, museums beg for donations and every blue moon the local newspaper prints an article that brings into question the value of art to an economy. Don’t believe me? Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback eliminated all state funding for the Kansas Arts Commission and even Gov. Rick Perry has targeted federal spending on the National Endowment for the Arts during his bid for president.

We live in a society of ready-made, to go, and overall convenience that stresses the importance of a quick dollar. How to Stretch Your Money, How to make an extra buck and Are you broke? are a few examples of how we are bombarded with language that stresses our need for more and more money. Naturally when one graduates from a university/school with a degree in studio art or art history,he or she is the subject to questions such as, “ So…how do you plan to make money… I mean, what are you going to do with that?” Rarely is the graduate greeted with excitement and proclamations of future success such as “ WOW! Way to go, you’re going to make so much money and be incredibly successful!!!” But I digress.

Although we live in a culture that does not value art in the same regards as football, basketball, or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s love child, there are a few of us who would still spend our last dollar on art supplies. And there are even some who will buy the artwork we created in the wee hours of the night, broke and hungry because they believe in the work.
Every artist has had to defend their work and fight for it to be valued in some form or fashion. Some are lucky enough to be valued and incredibly successful in their lifetime and some are not.

Georgia O'keeffe

Georgia O’keeffe. Oil on canvas
Overall: 48 x 84 in. (121.92 cm x 2 m 13.36 cm)

Works such as these from ancient to contemporary  are on display at The Blanton Museum of Art in their new exhibition titled, Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from the Alumni Collection. With over 150 works of art organized by theme (portraiture, landscape, etc), artworks from artists such as Claude Monet, Petah Coyne, John Singer Sargent,Luis Jimenez, Charles White, Edouard Manet, Andy Warhol and Kehinde Wiley are on display together without categories of race, art movements, or gender as dividers. In exhibiting these works together in the same space, viewers are able to experience the great range of experimentation, concept, art history and value. Not monetary value but the value art has to our society as visual markers of history, referencing conversations on beauty, love, structure, power, class, protest, peace, hate, death, life, and eternity.

Through the eyes of Texas:Masterworks from the Alumni Collection opens to the public on February 24, 2013 and closing May 19,2013.

My TOP 5+++++ Texas Exhibitions of 2012

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, watching re-runs of Living Single (I have always loved Queen Latifah) and drinking Green Tea. I’ve also taken a liking to Yoga and consider myself on the path to “yoga-dom”. As you all know, I live eat and breathe art. Cliche, I know, but true nonetheless.

Today, I thought of exhibitions that I have seen this year and I would like to see again if given the chance.

Lucien Freud- The Modern Ft. Worth

www.themodern.org

 

What moved me about Freud’s work the most, hands down, were the eyes. Eyes never lie. The build up of textures reflect time, change and at times abstraction. There should be, if there are none, books over the eyes rendered in his paintings. He painted the reflections of light from nearby windows, shadows and liquid! The eyes alone, held viewers into place and had conversations with other portraits across the gallery. Freud was truly a painter. A photograph near the end of the exhibition by David Dawson, shows an old Freud, facing the viewer, as if facing a mirror, and applying shaving cream to his face with a paint brush. Like his paintings, his eyes reflect so much life and history. He was a true painter.

Glenn Ligon, AMERICA- The Modern Ft. Worth

Glenn Ligon’s mid-career retrospective was one of a kind. I’ll be honest though… When you love an artist’s work like I love Ligon’s… and you research it with deep interest, you read his books and all articles written… It spoils the work! It was as if I over-saturated myself with knowledge on all things Ligon! So much so that I was not as amazed I thought I would be, however that is not to say that I did not enjoy the exhibition. What I enjoyed the most about this “mid-career retrospective” was the retrospective! I saw early abstract paintings that “faded into a mass of other things just like them” and that is why he moved to text… leaving the brightly colored oil and acrylic paints behind for someone else to pick up. Thank God he did!

El Anatsui When I Last Wrote to You About Africa- The Blanton Museum of Art

El Anatsui is a quiet man. I’d be willing to guess, given my brief oh so brief, exchange with him, that he thinks alot but does not necessarily talk alot. He is a extremely nice and down to earth. Akua’s Surviving Children is a sad piece, but hopeful all at once. The viewer could literally smell the char of the wood and see the barnacles and mussels still attached. I read a story by Maya Angelou once, where she speaks on the first time she visited the Ivory Coast. She says that women in the marketplace gave her food and told her “welcome home”. Never having been there before, she assumed the women had confused her with someone else. The story goes, that when the slave traders came to their village, women ran into the woods with their children and some women beat their babies against trees and killed them (versus having them taken) while others ran to the nearest village. Those that ran and survived are believed to return one day and Maya Angelou was one of them….

 

Nick Cave: Hiding in Plain Sight- AMOA-ArthouseNicCave11-FULL

Still on view, the soundsuits of Nick Cave are amazing! I’d seen his work over the summer and I could not get my fill of Nick Cave. The work put into the suits is endless and I appreciate work!As an artist, I want the work to be perfect on the first round. I want a masterpiece. Over the last year, every piece I’ve redone at least twice…or have big plans to redo… probably twice. I recently listened to a podcast from the Anderson Ranch Art Center that featured Nick Cave and I recommend it to all of you. Most Importantly, he performs in 2 of his suits, he also speaks on the wall pieces he has created and his online store (www.soundsuitshop.com) .

There Is No Archive In Which Nothing Gets Lost- MFAH Glassell School of Art

Curated by Sally Frater, the small video exhibition featured work from Wangechi Mutu, Lorna Simpson and a collaboration from Sonya Boyce and Ain Bailey. There is No Archive  is a success due to the questions it enables a viewer to ask not the answers it forces the viewer to accept. It is in my opinion, that if you leave an exhibition without your ideas challenged or perhaps something learned, then the exhibition was not a success. Each artist enables the viewer to contemplate ideas of race, gender and class in our contemporary culture as well as in our history. For the last few years, especially with the inauguration of our first black president in 2008, the idea of a “Post Racial” society has quietly been circulating. Many argue that people no longer see race and race/ethnicity no longer matters however I find that hard to believe. Frater is aware of the “post racial society” conversation and created a small show that oh so simply proposes the question: On whose terms? When does race not play a part in one’s life? When does race play a part? On whose terms are these decisions made? And when are they accepted or ignored?

I wrote “TOP 5” But I kinda lied. There are several more exhibitions that are still ongoing that I am actually going to see again. Here are a few more, that moved me beyond words.

 

The Progress of Love- The Menil Collection

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit The Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art- The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Happy New Year!

Review: the Progress of Love

The Progress of Love exhibition at the Menil Collection made me wonder about the beginning of relationships.  We’ve all been there haven’t we? The butterflies in your stomach, the warmth of first kisses and hugs or that hunger for the other person that is damn near on the brink of obsession.  Greeted by Yinka Shonibare MBE’s, The Swing (After Fragonard), 2001, and Mary Ellen Carroll’s neon pieces Me Like Blacks/Blacks Like Me, 2007, the mood is set. With The Persuaders 1971 hit single Thin Line Between Love and Hate playing on a loop from Nadine Robinson’s “sonic painting” Light, Version III,2012, in the next gallery, the viewer has no choice but to think of love in stages of beginning, middle and end.

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

Curated by Kristina Van Dyke, Director of Pulitzer Foundation and Bisi Silva, Director of the Centre of Contemporary Art, Lagos Nigeria, The Progress of Love explores the formation, dispersion, and expression of love in a variety of cultures through varying media. With over two dozen works from Contemporary artists of Africa and its Diasporas, the viewer is not overwhelmed by the number of artworks present but excited and welcomed to explore this little thing called Love.

Zouhlikha Bouabdellah, Cheri, 2007. 30cmx30xm Sheets of Paper and Lacquer , http://www.zoulikhab.com

Zouhlikha Bouabdellah investigates Love in the Arabic language in her 2007 work titled Cheri.  Consisting of over 300 sheets of paper with different Arabic words for love, scrawled and dripped onto crisp white sheets with red lacquer, Bouabdellah enables the viewer to question their own native language used in expressing love.  Organized in a grid like fashion, Cheri harkens to education, literacy, love letters and language. How did we learn about love? How do we learn to express our love? What words do we use?

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

Eaten by the Heart is an hour long video installation by video artist and filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa exploring the question “How do Africans Kiss?” Couples of Africa and its Diasporas kiss on screen for up to five minutes at a time and inadvertently become more passionate from beginning to end. As a Black American, I never thought of kissing as a European practice versus a universal practice, which brings into question the performance and diverse cultural practices of love. I noticed that Eaten by the Heart made many viewers uncomfortable. Not many sat down for more than five minutes, almost anxious and nervous about viewing such an intimate act, especially as couples grew more passionate.  Whether couples were same sex or heterosexual, giggles and pointed fingers from the back of the space made me think again of how we learn about love. How do we learn when to express, give, receive or reciprocate love in a private or public setting?

 

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

And how do we learn to end a relationship?  When does the thin line between love and hate disappear? Growing up with three brothers and raised by a single father, I witnessed someof their relationships simply fizzle out. No arguments, No call and no ridiculous facebook posts. Similar to Felix Gonzalez- Torres’ “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1991, two battery powered clocks are set at the same time. In unison, they click-clock throughout the exhibition eventually losing power as time continues. One will fall behind the other, causing both to then be out of sync and no longer perfect but inaccurate or unmatched.

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

During my drive to The Menil Collection, I wondered about how over two dozen artists throughout Africa, America and Europe, could have a conversation about love without the conversation being too literal. Television and silver screen has brainwashed many into thinking about love in a very black and white terms. The complexities and cultural differences in expressing love are not present in popular culture creating very narrow perspectives about what love is and how it can exist in our increasing globalized world.

As I went through the exhibition, my perspective about love grew and I thought more about how I have defined, received and reciprocated love in relationships, or with family and friends. How did I learn to express love? When did I learn what were “proper” expressions of love and which were “improper”?

At the end of the day, The Progress of Love is about connection. Whether Nigerian, British, or Texan, we share the need for our existence to be acknowledged by the love from another person.  

Are we fighting a losing battle?

I went to the White Horse, a bar off of East 7th street. Very country western with the typical mixed group of people. By “mixed” I mean, people from all walks of life and all ages. My friends and I grab a table and begin to drink our beers and whiskey, and talk about whatever come to mind. You know what I mean. Anything and everything that comes to mind is out on the table and up for conversation. My guy friend, Will**, excuses himself, and goes to the restroom. A middle aged man with a vest made entirely of Christmas lights, has been circulating throughout the bar, dancing with random women and drunkenly makes conversation with strangers. He also goes to the restroom (coincidentally) behind Will.

Will returns to the table:

Will: What do you think of the guy with the Christmas vest?

The Table: I dunno… drunk and middle aged…drunk

Will: He came into the bathroom after me and said, ” Damn… Its packed in here like Amistad!! Hahahah”

The Table: What the fuck?!

Me: Oh hell no! I got somethin’ for his ass!

Will: C,don’t say anything! Don’t cause a scene. He’s drunk that’s all.

Me: He’s not that damn drunk. Who the fuck knows about Amistad?!

Will: Yeah I was the only Black man in there…. I said to him ” Really Man, Amistad?!” And he just kept laughing.

 

Are we fighting a losing battle? Or better yet, how many times do people who have been at the receiving end of an idiotic joke, just shrug their shoulders and say, ” Oh they’re just drunk.” How many times and for how long? I want a number. I want to know for how long am I supposed to ignore when I am offended. How long am I supposed to ignore when my friend is offended for taking a piss in a restroom?! How long? Can somebody, anybody, give me a number? In this “post-racial” society, can somebody give me a time frame and a number?

Are we fighting a losing battle? Plenty of artists, curators and historians are tackling race, gender and politics. We all have similar ideas to “dismantle the Master’s House” (Lorde 1984) however I wonder, are we really doing it? Or is it like Kerry James Marshall once said in a lecture,I’m paraphrasing, The cannon was established before we [Black people] arrived on the scene and it will not be undone in my lifetime or the next.

Ah. And around Christmas time… yet another made up holiday to celebrate “Jesus’ birth” in actuality is derived from Pagan ideologies… Just sayin’.

Damn, the future is bleak…Or is it?

Throughout the rest of the night, I thought about the man in the lit up vest. I should’ve given him a piece of my mind. Or better yet, I could’ve copied down Adrian Piper’s “Calling Cards” of the 1980s and made his drunk ass read it and realize that no matter how drunk you are, that is not an excuse to be a racist asshole with ridiculous jokes. AND that will be THE LAST, THE LAST THE LAST, time I don’t stand up for what I believe in because we are not losing the battle… I don’t think we are at all. But Every once in a while we all have to be reminded that the fight isn’t over. We have to be reminded that when we have children, cousin and nephews of color come into this world, we have to educate them on this world. We have to educate them on racism, hatred, segregation, just like we teach them their ABCs.  This is not a post racial society. If anything its just post-modern.

Yourself in the World

Pinot Grigio and a good book... Ah the little things in life.

Pinot Grigio and a good book… Ah the little things in life.

One of my favorite artists is also one of my most favorite writers. Now, many many people know that I have a love for Janet Evanovich but she’s not a a visual artist… Yet she is quite artistic with her Stephanie Plum Mystery novels… On book 19 myself… Ahem ahem. But I digress.

Glenn Ligon is actually the artist/writer to which I was referring. A year ago the Whitney Museum of American Art published selected writings and interviews to coincide with Ligon’s retrospective, AMERICA. Edited by Scott Rothkopf, senior editor at Artforum, Yourself in the World is a beautiful book.  When I was a child, my mother often would tell her friends and our other family members “C, is going to be a writer when she grows up”. She said it so matter-of-fact, without question, hesitance or wonder and I (being a child) kept writing. I didn’t think about being a writer until my freshman year of college and that’s when “My mama used to say…” came flooding back. Sometimes people need reassurance that they are on the right track. You never know when, how, where or in what form reassurance comes, but it always comes. And don’t be fooled, when you’re wrong, there is reassurance for that too. But AGAIN, I digress. Reading Yourself in the World, the first time, reassured me that I was on the right track as an artist and as a writer. Ligon writes, ” …realizing that my writings and interviews, like my art practice, were a record of who I was at a particular cultural moment, and that the insights, contradictions and incomplete thoughts expressed in them were an important part of my story”.  Writing is something you do for yourself as well as others. And the same can be said about art. The catch with writing and art, is that you need to do it because you love it. And if you make money doing what you love, you’re a lucky devil!

Ligon reviews works by David Hammons ( he actually says Hammons’ artwork is “freaky deaky” LOVE IT!), Wardell Milan II, David McKenize, Kelly Walker, Felix Gonzalez-Torrez, Rodney McMillan and various others. He writes about travels to New Orleans, his navigation through childhood and moving throughout the burrows of New York. All in which have added to him as an artist and as a writer. All in all, I found Yourself in the World so moving because it reminds me alot about myself and the artist I will become.

How do you keep track of your personal growth, your contradictions, insights or incomplete thought? Is it in your work? Your writings? Your Hairstyles? Your clothes? What are your breadcrumbs?

My breadcrumbs are the work. My writings, my art, and sometimes my memories. And just in case I get lost ( its inevitable. We all get lost in our own confusion) I have breadcrumbs to look over and think to myself, “My Mama always said…”

My Artistic Awakening

Artist Awakening. Beginning of my life as an Artist. Earliest art making memory…. whatever you want to call it, I began thinking about how art was first introduced to me as a child. My father was quite the artist in his day as well as his father. One of my earliest memories was asking my grandfather to draw a coffee cup. He would draw a very simple cup with liquid, steam and a cast shadow. And at 8 years old, I would copy his drawing  until I became frustrated that it did not look like his. He has left this side of life and gone to that other place, where I’m sure he’s looking down on me, laughing hysterically.

While my grandfather was my teacher, my father was my critic. He would always say “Draw what you see. Does that look like that? Is that a hard edge or a soft edge? Does a nose curve like that or like this?” He would pop off questions that would aggravate the hell out of me…And I would try to give up, walk away in a huff but of course… I always went back to the drawing.

My great- aunt was incredibly short. Looking back, I highly doubt she cleared 5 feet. Everything in her house was short. But the most important item in her house was her gas heater that sat in the far corner of her living room. On top of the heater, were maybe 20 candles of Jesus and Mary…. possibly some saints. I would sit and stare at the images on the candles, 1) trying to figure out how they were attached to the candle (sometimes I was…slow. The word “Sticker” never even occurred to me) and 2) admiring the beautiful images glowing from the lit wick.

My grandmother and my father were my pushers. Enablers. Connections. Hook Ups. Sources. The ones with the s***. They supplied YEARS of art supplies, colored pencils, chalk pastels, a plastic pottery wheel, watercolors, coloring books, sketchpads, craft sets, scissors, paint brushes, paper, paper and more paper. And Books!! Some of the best days were Thursdays when the downtown library stayed open late with free parking and my Dad would drive us when he got off work. I spent hours on a bean bag chair, reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer. ( Don’t judge me)

My brothers provided the competition because I could always “do it better !”

I remember aunts and uncles asking, ” C, what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I always had a different answer. 1) An artist was never one of the answers! Can you believe it?! At any given moment, I wanted to be a hairdresser, a police officer, a nurse, a teacher or…. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Regardless of the answer my mother would chime in and say, “She’s going to be a writer.”

A few years ago, I asked her how did she know that I would be a  writer versus being Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And her response, I’ll remember forever,” You were always writing little stories all the time. So I bought the composition books and you kept writing. You wrote all the time, these little stories.”

So… what is your earliest art making memory? Who was your enabler? Who was your critic? Did you want to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Looking back what led you to be an art educator, artist, critic etc? Feel free to leave a comment. I won’t kill you with a stake to the heart.

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