Art is Good Medicine

Untitled_2015

Those who know me well, know that I make art as a coping mechanism. I always have. These last few days/months/years have been traumatic for Black Americans, to say the very least, and even more so for Black women. Many of us suffer from deep depression, anger, and often, overwhelming feelings hopelessness. These feelings and their violent effects on our bodies block creativity, hinder productivity, and crush any will to get up in the morning (let alone make any renewed attempts to live). Can we just live?

As I’m tasked with completing a dissertation, an extremely isolating pursuit, lack of motivation and fear of failure plague me everyday regardless of what is going on out in the world or in the media. But it is these recent events’ particularly uncanny ability to debilitate and silence even some of our most vocal, our most brilliant, and our most passionate minds is what haunts me most. We are so tired. Before I too am completely silenced (spent), before I can no longer get up each morning to put fingers to keyboard, I try to create something out of this weight on my chest. So I can breathe. Art is the best medicine. So while I did not complete my current chapter draft last week, I did do this: I woke up. I got out of bed. Sometimes, I need to let that be enough.

20150609_142908.png

Please DO NOT use this image without the written consent of the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting “A Gentleman’s Genocide”

In May 2010 as I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at CU, Boulder I completed a short mixed-media film titled, A Gentleman’s Genocide. A course I took in my final year taught by Professor Luis Valdovino afforded me the opportunity to create a visual piece which incorporated my passion for paint, photography, and spoken word.

I revisit this piece now in this blog as I continue to think about the phenomenon of American patriotism and also its various continuities and disconnects from larger sociocultural and historic legacies of this nation. Within this work I take up the symbols of 3 distinct flags and a self-authored and performed spoken word narrative of genocide in order to create a complex space from which to engage in a dialogue around patriotism.

A Gentleman’s Genocide seeks to complicate common-sense notions and practice surrounding patriotism and various forms of country worship by firmly planting these sentiments and practices within a historical memory of trauma and genocide. America in many ways displays a kind of historical amnesia as it launches itself out of the past and into a future that refuses any critical, constructive or even generative re-membering.

As James Baldwin put it: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”

Here I have decided to say something terrible and take the time to remember something longer and larger than our patriotic impulses.  Creatively, I have chosen to do so through the enticingly beautiful and horrifying imagery of these signs of bigotry, hatred, freedom, and pride which is always present and stitched into each flag.

*This short film is copyright protected, and the link embedded within this post is only a private and protected version of the original short film piece. PLEASE DO NOT copy or distribute this short film outside the context of this blog. For rights, viewing privileges, and access to fully edited and finalized version of this piece, please contact the author. 

100 White Dresses

100 WHITE DRESSES

Nothing is as enchanting as your wedding day. At least this is what they assure you page after page in every bridal magazine, on billboards, internet sites, and other mass media locations pimping matrimonial harmony. Bliss is unavoidable if you have the right dress, shoes, bridesmaids’ dresses and gifts, invitations, décor, color scheme, flowers, venue, DJ, photographer, videographer, caterer, and the list goes on. You do not even need to be tying the knot with the right man or woman; as long as you have an open bar and some wedding insurance, your “big day” will be one to remember. This is absolutely our consumer reality, however, most critically thinking individuals and anyone who has been to a wedding in the last 10 years understands this pastel and watercolor portrait of happiness becomes more complicated once you close your bridal magazine or pull off that white dress.

The watercolor series, “100 White Dresses,” subtly confronts one of the most visible realities within the narratives of lifelong partnership, the white wedding. As a scholar/artist, I am constantly seeking out creative ways to bring into critical dialogue various environments, social norms, as well as notions of equality, citizenship, and American identity formations. I argue that art can be used to grapple with the answers status-quo society gives us to our most profound questions, including our most unsettling thoughts around wedding culture.

Within this large series of 120 plus 4.5 by 3in mini-collages, I renegotiate my own value as a bride within a fake or perverse representation of an originary ad context. Harnessing notions of marital bliss mass marketed within the guise of consumer culture, I construct my own wedded reality, albeit a fake reality, by cutting, pasting and painting over an original advertising narrative. This original advertising narrative is one from which my black/biracial body is predominantly excluded, or purported to visual niches of the perpetual bridesmaid, party go-er or service member. As a black woman using mass produced images, phrases, and symbols extracted from bridal magazines and catalogues, my wedding actuality, marital bliss, and dreams for a healthy, if not normative relational reality is inherently fake; as fake as my own imagined likeness parading around in 100 White Dresses.

This piece seeks to probe the boundaries of originality. Context, marital imagery, and ideology are swiped and appropriated in a way that creates another visual presence. This visual presence is one that still comes attached to the culture of selling life-long bliss, but is now in conversation with an alternative ‘real.’ This ‘real’ is concerned with my own visual positioning within the master narrative of who can make an acceptable bride, and ultimately, who can don 100+ white dresses throughout the entirety of a popular bridal magazine?

In this collection, I attempt to disrupt and draw attention to the master narrative of marketed happiness through wedding culture. This work seeks to interrogate how this master narrative functions and collides around advertising and the politics of representation and invisibility. The fact that within this popular publication only one or two black women were presented wearing a wedding dress out of hundreds of ads and images is telling. Using mixed media, I assert my own visual presence, using the problem of black womanhood within the visual field to draw attention to the veneer of white wedding culture.

Several images within this watercolor series can be viewed below. More of this series will be available for viewing on my website which is forthcoming. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Medium: Photo-paint collage on watercolor paper. 4.5x3in mixed media magazine and paint arrangements.