Monday, March 2, 2015

History, Diaspora, & Political Smorgasbord In NYC

Freedom Journey. 
Black History/Herstory is not over just because twenty eight day month passes at midnight. Stories go on each day. Stories of life and death. Of people making history before February 1st and after February 28th. Us vegans, artists, writers, performers, creators of every waking hour not only vow continuance of to making our dreams come true, but that of others thirsting for eye opening change and awareness- awareness of creativity, health, and strength. We must engage our minds and hearts with nourishing truth and beauty within ourselves. Then we shall see a light that shines so bright.
On this final day of short month granted to celebrating African descended ancestry, I share Thursday's overwhelming haze of glorious endeavors. A challenge to visit three museums seated in different parts of NYC, I met goals to fruition, determined to see what was set out to be seen. It was a most esteemed journey granting influential discoveries and a new crop of artists all over the globe branching out and sharing origin complexities. They've widened the meaning of art- tying creative vision with anthropology, science, and narrative together. Sewed origin threads remain stagnant in my mind, flowing with a fluid poignancy gratifying thoughts and dreams.
I got to New York City at 1:20 PM on Thursday. Missed the earlier bus and would have been there three hours prior. Still, nothing stopped determination to visit three museums. Three. Three before the clock struck 11:10 PM. If I missed the 11:10 Megabus, I would be stuck in chilly NYC until 6AM. Then again, they do have a 24 hour Starbucks/Sephora so....

 I tried the new coconut milk by the way. The perfect afternoon lightning bolt to get my feet ready for a lot of moving. Whilst sipping, I mapped out my intended destinations starting with New York Historical Society Museum, then New Museum, and finally ending at Studio Harlem. 
It is a challenge being an artist, knowing that MET is across the street, seducing good intentions. I ignored the little voice and came right inside New York's Historical Society, a place filled with New York history. I learned that slavery was abolished here long before Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. Yet the grisly details of violent deaths of a people seen equivalent to animals, sometimes less so, hurt me like a cut that never goes away. 
Miniature watercolor portraits of former Haitian born slave Pierre Touissant and his wife Juliette Noel. Artist Anthony Meucci, famous for rendering George Washington and so forth painted these little treasures. That means they were well worth cementing into history. Their distinguished, quality clothing showcases their esteem and privilege after being freed in NYC. At 42, Touissant is profiting big as a hairdresser, but eventually began sharing the wealth, becoming a major philanthropist alongside his Mrs.
I almost missed the clock. One has to kneel down and stare at fine white ivory, marred by dirt and minor melted damage, with its devout hands stopping at Roman numeral 9:04 AM. So piercing to the finder of this object, to behold witness to such a monumental catastrophe that still resonates in the minds and hearts of millions. 
Part of a fireman's truck, melted and torn apart by the devastation. Photographs behind document traumatic events of unforgotten 9/11.
Second floor awaited. Having seen Ava DuVernay's Academy Award winning film a few times, I can honestly say that Stephen Somerstein's long vaulted Selma photographs fulfilled excited expectation. It was like being behind the scenes of documented black and white footage the end of DuVeray's film hinted. Here in varied sizes, untitled images of people united for justice and equality. A great leader and his legion of devoted followers of all races, economic backgrounds, religion, and creed walking along promised land, singing and praising, hoping that "we shall overcome." Sights were wonderful to behold and treasure. 
A tender moment captured between Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. In a room filled with other candid moments from that triumphant third march from Selma to Montgomery, there were pictorials of Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, James Baldwin, and countless other historical figures tucked inside these clean, immaculate white mats and black frames. 
If you have seen Selma's film poster, a film that has recently crossed the 50 million box office dollar mark, you will know this image and its pivotal meaning. 
I also crept inside the Chinese American Exhibit where there were reconstructions, original documents, inspired paintings, and photographs of Asian immigrants bringing families and culture into America. Here select few not only blossomed their own roots they made it their life's commitment to helping others whether it those still overseas or those already nearby needing assistance learning adaptation to new world.
First dilemma. My Metro Card was low on funds. All the machines were "out of order." Thankfully, the nearest station was another walk away. And this station wall paved in dirty shoe imprinted art form naturally caught my attention. 
I imagined people with purpose, just stamping their damp shoes here, leaving territorial "my feet was here" markers.
Directions are confusing instructions on Google. I had to stop inside a gas station where the man said two streets upwards to Bowery Street. Yet two streets upward I found Blick Art Supplies. An employee indicated that it was two blocks east. Yes! At near four PM, among thrift shops and furniture stores bringing life to old, dated construction, I found ship floating over New Museum. Founded by the late remarkable Marcia Tucker in 1977, a wonderful woman highlighted in the !Woman Art Revolution documentary, I was enthusiastic to spend time in the latest exhibit promising to be epic and profound. 
Fifty one artists from twenty seven different countries embody five floors of gallery space. Diversity and culture have been a celebrating part of New Museum's incredible history, a definitive mastery unlike most NYC museums celebrating male dominance. Here many are joined together in an amazing, unprecedented world that is both overwhelming and majestic. One feels like a small seed implanted in the richest soil and engaging art quenches curiosity and thirst for unknown. This exhibit engages viewers to perform more than typical tasks of deciphering art visually. We are encouraged to read, to listen, to feel. These notions are not entirely new, but it establishes a connection between the digital age of now, of being thrown so much information and having difficulty translating which deserves to be absorbed into broadening human mind.
Some unphotographed highlights includes Oliver Laric's compelling video Untitled metaphoric morphism animation. Images of characters familiar and otherwise shift and form from human to creature repeating and transforming roles of heroism and emotional layers. Daniel Steegman Mangrene's virtual reality, Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name) places viewers in false dimension of a beguiling forest setting. We must trust intuition as well as hold created imagery into highest regard. Under the glasses, our eyes look up, down, and all around. So captivating to be suspended in a space whilst also having to simultaneously pay attention to true predicament. I must have bumped into walls several times.  It was well worth seeing how art, science, and technology continued this teasing bridge. Definitely a fantastic must see!
Juliana Huxtable was definitely queen of the exhibit. First piece that greeted me on the second floor of Triennial: Surround Audience was Frank Benson's "Juliana," a work Huxtable herself posed for. It is sleek, metallic, stylish nude that embraces cultural identity and the world Huxtable invents in her prints and poetry. The braids and partly shaved scalp boldly showcases that hip nod to natural hair movement and the experimentation shouting hello to afro wearers and Poetic Justice braid lovers. 
She lies casual like a sphinx, curved and arched sophistication seeming like an exotic species arriving fresh off a shell like a Botticelli.
Nails of fingers and toes are expertly painted in this sapphire blue.
Huxtable's work stripping natural order of color and placing feminine figure dressed in psychedelic pants and yellow sports bra emerged in a surreal alien space. It calls to her interest in Octavia Butler's scientific fantasy world, a place not of earth, but of something far more utopian.
Green She-Hulk fleshy figure with thick, super long yellow braids and black lipstick. Again placed in an abstract world of atmospheric clouds and strange salmon colored ground. Her pose is sleek and sensual. Whereas tilted three quarter view of her face is turned away, communicating within body and surroundings.
Poetry laid over surreal space. And yes, I read the whole beautiful piece. She told me to take time to breathe in this text, to let go of time and just engulf the words: "black unicorns run freely. Bantu knots and bald heads with thickly lined lips occasion a moment to memorialize the hood surrealism of Hype Williams and the futures of Octavia Butler (and the images that front the covers of her books). Where the ontological chains of the Atlantic triangle reverberate  to shattering point in patterns, beats, rhymes, and technicolor insistence on a new new world where the common thread is shared with Missy when she says: I Can't Stand the Rain (Me I'm Super Fly).' Beyond the mountains, Aaliyah croons 'More Than A Woman' and broken staticy clips of Angela Davis speeches play on leftist AM radio provide the 'feels like' addition to the general climate reading of the morning weather."
Njideka Akunyili, an inspiration and reason for choosing PAFA as a school to further artistic education, made her presence known in a corner of the second floor. The way she layers color and collage transfers onto canvas is thoughtful and intriguing purpose. Human body and its interactions with surroundings are teased with acrylic and transfers yet she is so wise with precision and perspective that these integrated compositions appear to be realistic sense of space and time. Narrative ties together her personal history of Africa and living in America, blending together separate autobiographical backgrounds into one cohesive replay of past, present, and future. And We Begin To Let Go is a compilation of acrylic paint, charcoal, marble dust, collage, and transfers on paper. 
Sophia Al-Maria's work is comprised of cell phone stories that resemble bitmap pixel imagery. It is a critique of the texting and "selfie" age and how young women are pressured to growing up too fast. Between the little blinking squares are girls dancing or posing seductively. It blurs lines between adolescence and adulthood in this image based age. Innocence seems to fade earlier than normal due to consumption of what the cell phone now symbolizes.
The back of Juliana emerged right in front of a captivating CGI video piece. 
Sasha Brauing creates these Magritte conversational paradoxical acrylic paintings that are genderless and geometrical. Each piece displays some mathematical equation, some complex statement about human body-- the head being primary dominance. Language between light and dark, value and contrast are sophisticated elaborations forming three dimensional space. 
Antoine Catala combines science in Distant Feel, a fascinating, dimly lit E3 (which look the same in opposing directions). Under water sculpture inside an aquarium like infrastructure feature live multi-colored coral breezes through inner fans.
Tania Perez Condova's chasing, pausing, waiting is comprised of makeup (blush), cigarette ash, bird droppings, and black marble.
Casey Jane Ellison of Los Angeles created the ultimate doll experience. A doll unique to the artist's own persona with her black t-shirt and dark stained lip.  It's So Important To Seem So Wonderful II is a CGI animated film of a sardonic, wise-cracking, self-absorbed, potty mouthed cyber doll, separately facing three components.
She comes with bald life sized bust sans hands, messily displayed wig, iPad, and this matching (fully haired) It's So Wonderful To Seem So Wonderful USB port with a lower body snapping it into protective place. First of all, I wonder if it works and secondly, if she is selling her own line of CGI inspired doll.
In Not Yet (Nobody Knows Why Not), performance artist Donna Kukuma has her face and palms masked in red paint, standing still with eyes closed as individuals walk by, some even staring curiously. Others pay no mind. Kukuma is speaking on awareness, awareness of human body and mind, awareness of that body and mind inside societal framework. Now this video filmed in Uhuru Park in Nairobi is to be fifteen minutes documenting this conscious public intervention.
Verana Dangler, Namedropping, mixed media and polyester resin.
Avery Singer's black and white acrylic paintings both Untitled.
In between walking up the floors, viewers were subjected to bright green stairwell and loud music.
Checking out Martine Syms conceptual based work on the art of sitcoms. The artist has her own space, between glass doors separate from the gallery. On one side are two large flat screens showcasing pixelated urban shows like "Girlfriends." Pilot scripts of Seinfield, Cheers, and Community lay atop counter. The other side has framed props and text facts. For example Queen Latifah's starring vehicle "Living Single" was to be called "My Girls."
The memorable fat red caps font dangling over white text imprinted on a denim jacket.
Girlfriends is playing. It reminds me of frustration. That frustration of the TV turning digital that forced every American to buy a black box and an antenna.
I admit, I almost took one, but these are not to be touched by viewers. Only draws in the longing to open book pages, feel the thin leaflet between hands to read and envision the unseen story floating into imagination.
It was a near miss. At six PM, I contemplated whether to attend or not, having heard Titus Kaphar speak briefly on The Jerome Project's mission last spring in a special lecture at PAFA. Yet some inkling whispered that attending would probably gift something stronger, more powerful than what he delivered in the past.That inkling proved to be correct.
Titus speaking on work created during his Studio Harlem internship back in the early 2000's. And yes that does include a unique rendering of Marie Guillemine-Benoist's Portrait of A Negress, one of my most favorite period paintings of dark skinned women painted by an aristocratic white woman.  It is at the Louvre and unfortunately I didn't see this in person while there circa 2009. Anyways, when Titus introduced how The Jerome Project's portrait series came about, it became a larger personal context enlightening perception. Opening my eyes to the new slavery, the New Jim Crow. He spoke rather candidly about not just strained family relationships, but on  art school world in general-- that the work he created no one could understood let alone had experienced. Here at Studio Harlem, however, was the necessary audience needed to define this new work, discuss prison systems and affect on families left behind. Each Jerome is a real person, a creation from a mugshot. Titus himself talked at length about his research, his communicating with inmates via letters to receiving a grant to film a documentary based on these interactions. The conversation gets further stimulating, further thought provoking, and moving with Yale instructor Vesla Mae Weaver tossing out cold hard facts about prison. Former imprisoned Mika'il  DeVeaux, vice president of Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc and Tina Reynolds, founder of  Women On The Rise Telling Herstory (WORTH) speak on finding life after confinement, about motivating others into finding their own paths in a system designed to make them less than a citizen. DeVeaux states the 13th Amendment, " Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." It is duly noted that prison systems are the new slavery, with communities based in low income, uneducated areas where police purposely implant themselves not to rescue but to indict. The conversation stirred quieted repression inside my mind and that of others surrounding me. It was such a gracious end, speaking to the beginning of this trek.
And I succeeded. Proud of myself for not changing my mind.
Tune in next week to see if I squeeze in the Taji Magazine Volume 2 Release Party and Studio Museum of Harlem's Artist Voice with Hank Willis and Leslie Hewitt before taking off to Canada for spring break.
P.S. Dear Webster please make "Herstory" a true, definable word. Tired of the red squiggly line telling me that it isn't so.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vedge-ing Out: Meeting Wonderful Vegans At Philadelphia's Number One Elegant Vegan Restaurant

A real gem of a Saturday.
The story of fancy upscale Vedge in photographs and minute description.
First of all, I do appreciate my vegan friends Amanda and Sawyer for allowing me to be a part of their trip to Philadelphia having driven all the way from my beloved Ohio. It meant the world to not only meet them outside of cybersphere (Twitterverse), but into the realm of reality, breaking fourth wall dimension. There is always something special, endearing even to feel kindness sparking between conversations of 140 character  limited spaces. To meet people in person and feel beyond scope of that cordial experience is overall amazing, especially when those very people are vibrant and kind. 
Amanda and Sawyer not only treated me to a delightful city gem, but to the pleasurable gift of their time and company. Time and company are gifts that we must not waste. 

Thank you Sawyer for taking this adorable pic of Amanda and me! 
And here's a little special throwback too:
Remember when Vedge's owners, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby took the time to give a demo on innovative creations like grilled zucchini & black eyed pea ice cream parfait at Philadelphia's first Vegfest
So, one day, in the middle of fresh falling snow last Saturday, after day one workshop with a renowned artist, I caught the subway. Vedge. I had heard so much about it. Read the reviews. Heard the presses. And for the first time ever, I would be eating there among great company. Just had the best vibes on the train and knew things would be swell despite the roaring snowfall. I almost passed it by. Until I heard my name being called from a charming bricked building atop stairs. 
Among inviting intimate interior atmosphere of Vedge Restaurant, dimmed lights and muted tones, were awaiting dear friends having an incredible meal and indulgent conversation. 

Pre-appetizer of thick moist bread slices and a modest bowl of appeasing herb olive oil.
Beautiful candles glowed on our meal throughout course of the evening, offering comfort and beautiful elegance. The three of us discussed animal and human rights, our social lives, and pros and cons of Twitter sphere.
From "The Vedge Bar," we started off with unbelievably incredible rutabaga fondue served alongside rutabaga salad, charred onions and pistachio and soft pretzel; pickled avocado stuffed with pickled cauliflower, romesco, "fried rice,"  and black salt; and salt roasted golden beets with side of smoked tofu, rye, capers, and creamy cucumber sauce. 
Complimentary toasted bread of some sort. I cannot remember what was on it, but it was definitely light and crispy-- in other words delicious!!!
Fingerling potatoes in creamy Worcestershire sauce, shaved and grilled Brussels sprouts in smoked mustard off the "Dirt List." Whereas off the "Hot Plates" menu, we split Braciole- smoked and roasted eggplant stuffed with Italian salsa verde,  and cured olive puree and Grilled Seitan with "neeps and tatties," pickled turnips, green garbanzos and za'tar.
Side by side spectacles of the Grilled Seitan (in the back) and Charcoal Grilled Romanesco- whipped cauliflower, shaved brassicas salad, and rouille.  
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake- a creamy rounded dessert topped with tangy sweet lemon puree sitting atop blood orange gel and a scoop of tangerine ice cream coated in chocolate-bergamot dust. 
The fireplace was charming, enhancing euphoric mood. Very wonderful quiet against our enchanted conversation, warming and healing us from Jack Frost's mild snowfall. I felt like we were tucked inside a Vermont cabin, blanketed from cold, feasting on divine food and splendid conversation. That was rich sophistication all in itself.  Although we ended Vedge on a wonderful note, our conversations and enjoyment came to heed at the nearby Barnes & Noble. Nothing like being surrounded by books to burn off the calories of a rather fine meal. Thank you so much to Amanda, Sawyer, and Vedge Restaurant for making a snowy near blizzard Saturday a beguiling memorable evening.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

AfroVeganChick Hits Harlem And It Punches Back With Glitter Dusted History

Harlem the center of African American and African artists, the mecca, the center of my dreams.
I've always wanted to be an artist. Always. I knew that even with my scribble scrabble. As I grew up, maturing and nurturing passionate craft, it was the Harlem Renaissance lighting hot fire in junior high creativity. I had to learn on cultural artist ancestors on my own. Rogue style. In school, Michelangelo, Rafael, Da Vinci, and Picasso filled our minds and canvases. Frida Kahlo for me too. I love Frida. At the library I fell in love with Augusta Savage, William H. Johnson, Romare Bearden, Palmer Hayden, Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, and others. Currently reading Zora Neale Hursten-- a sharp, brilliant mind robbed of Pulitzer. Painting, drawing, sculpture, literature, music, and everything enriched me. Everything. Back then. Now. I cannot stop being taught.
So I came to Harlem on Saturday, enchanted thoughts in mind. I had no idea that 2 or 3 train wouldn't be running and got lost along the way (thanks Google Maps and construction!). Eventually I figured it out. I walked down W. 125th Street with splendid urban romanticism and desires to fill sketchbook. Visceral inspiration surrounded lukewarm winter. Not too cold for exploration. Although there are chains like Starbucks and McDonald's, fairy tale length hair extension stores next to African braiding and barber shops, promises are kept rooted on Malcolm Luther King Jr and African Streets. It was bewildering to be nestled in the comforts of diaspora. Imagine periods of divine desperation to find paper, clay, or instrument to unleash talented prowess from within. 

I wonder if this is the same Cotton Club that inflamed Duke Ellington's career? That let Dorothy Dandrige and her sisters sing? Had Bojangles dance?  Is this that very imperative location?
Bridge on a winter's day.
Mailbox representing hardcore.
We all have dreams. And some people's dreams get fulfilled in the biggest, most globally impacting way.
The Afro Jackson lives on even in the most grittiest of street corners.
I wanna see her. But I doubt I'll be back. 
Apollo. Still known for it's Amateur Night. Started so many careers like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, The Jackson 5, Mariah Carey, and  Lauryn Hill. Risque comedians like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Headliners like the Staple Sisters, Mahalia Jackson (amazing voice!!!),  Stan Getz (was Astrud Gilberto with him ever?!), and Ray Charles. It's definitely a place enriched in history. So happy that it's one that still stands.
Hotel Theresa, the "Waldorf of Harlem" is a declared landmark. Patrons like Malcolm X, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali, and Jimi Hendrix all had rooms there. Part of Precious was filmed here too. It's now office buildings, but that doesn't stop my beguiling imagination. I will lie my head on satin pillows and relax body between one thousand thread count Egyptian sheets. Just for a night.
Mosaic mural tantalized my entire being with its fluid movements and jazzy vibrant colors and shapes. 
I wanted to move. I wanted to dance. I wanted to sing. And I can do neither of the last two things with proficient skill, but oh how wishes welled deep.
I wanted to fly to the notes of the saxophone, but my wings were clipped. So I imagined making birds jealous with my purple, teal, cerulean, and indigo feathers flowing in the Harlem breathing wind, Langston Hughes singing in my heightened ears. Beautiful dream.
Two of the most important Civil Rights leaders (the masculine ones) talking.  They are on the side of a Halal cart. The Halal cart sells falafel. I suddenly dream of buying them falafel wraps dripping in tahini sauce and crisp lettuce as we talk about glorious Harlem and the peace of uniting the American Melting Pot.
Studio Museum Harlem: stringing me along with their Museum Store display like a ravenous mouse eager for a piece of finest quality vegan cheese. 
It's exciting to have Titus Kaphar as a visiting critic this semester. Yes, I'll miss Abigail Deville. She was engaging, humorous, and understanding. Lots of ideas. Lots. I had my second visit with Titus last Friday. First time we met, I was a Post Baccalaureate student struggling with painting. Realism or abstract. Realism or abstract. Instructors wanted me to either paint academically (with trained proficiency after all it's an academia college) or go completely abstract- collaging if need be. I have since shifted towards watercolor and weird sculpture. He was surprised. I am too in a way. I love painting. Love it. Always have.
Yosef Nabil's colored gelatin silver print, Tina Early Morning, Harlem reels me in first. Beautiful colors, the yellow especially popping not just in the flowers, earrings and dress, but the model's skin's highlights are also in tuned with the vibrant hue. The curly kinky epic hair is also bathed in glorious light. She looks at the viewer with enthused confidence and affable kindness in her eyes are not threatening or challenging. Direct, but subtle gentleness. As though there is a joke she is about to utter. By her charms alone we all laugh and smile before she tells it.
To see all these names in one show..... what can say? Thank you Lord for blessing me the opportunity. These are individuals whose works reign paramount in this contemporary era. 
And boy did they speak. Communicate in a multitude of language via in text or images. Past circumstances still hinder racial identity today, perhaps always will. These artists articulate stories visualized and told in urban magazines addressed to minorities. I can remember the Jet Beauty of the Month always slender and beautiful with her hair pressed nicely as she flexed in her swimsuit. I can remember Ebony's 50 Most Beautiful People competing with People's mostly white Most Beautiful People and Sexiest Man Alive. In this wonderfully composed exhibition, I feel inclusive as opposed to exclusive. There is a unity here that quietly serenades the writer and artist brewing inside me. It moves my spirit. And now fills my eyes with tears. I still remember standing and greeting each piece in wonder and great joy. I want to tip off my Senegalese headwrap to all the artists living and passed on. The work is beyond just experienced voyeurism. It is more.
Ellen Gallagher as a whole cohesive unit. There were many parts individually admired. She uses mixed media in a way that is exasperating. Strange pieces attached to figure heads. Giving flat images three dimensional abstraction. Twisting language in a way that mirrors the Dada Movement. This was reaching urban sublime. This was my Mona Lisa. And yes, I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre ages ago. But this... Ellen Gallagher is my she-ro, one of many women I look up to as an artist, as a African American woman, as an explorer of afro hair perception.
So Natural, So Healthy. Ah, but scary and frightening how Gallagher depicts the notion right? For the Afro Woman, we better not be wearing those sinister afros. It's seen as mongrel, as demonic as the brown skin. Again the "We Love Our Natural Hair Movement" is going so strong right now, as intense as the 1970's era of Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver. I enjoyed this piece because smiling, pupil less, shiny haired woman is terrifying, strange, and humorous. Yet underneath lies a grisly truth of ingrained perception. What is "so natural, so healthy" about fear? Fear is oppressor of the freedom, of the stamped freedom of the bottom of these seemingly happy "mugshots."
Noel Anderson tells viewers site specific silk screen. 
Close up of dynamic shapes and continuous lines moving over and orbiting between one space to another. Primary colors are the intense teal, tiny red polka dots, and orange yellow. The negative space is scraped out context on top of black.
In a sea of quotes. In a sea of where I could sink to the abyss of words and never fall into fathomless depths. I feel grounded in Printmaker Ayanah Moor's Good News. They always tell us in art school not to make our "great" work on newsprint. It'll eventually disappear because it cannot hold medium long. The fact that Moor uses this temporary surface discusses relationship of viewer to media, of reader to text. Headlines do not last forever. And these "headlines" just happen to be positive quotes about race, identity, and femininity. Insincere (surface) versus congenial (assembled white over black comments).
White on black text appear like journal entries disguised as quotes by other women.
Each quote is said in a specific city, made by a specific woman on women-- how they are viewed and otherwise. Seen to be as uneducated when in fact, we are just as talented, smart, thoughtful, engaging, and beautiful. This perception of us as poor, destitute, angry, bitter, vengeful single mothers should end. It's slow, but progression is moving.
Lorna Simpson, another influence, talked about this body of collage briefly during her lecture at University of Pennsylvania last October. I was impressed by wide body of work and articulate voice. So commanding and intelligent. No part of her communication confused or perplexed me. I understood her just fine. In her latest constructions, the same chocolate toned woman centering white paper. Her body as ghostly as the composition. Yet she wears same vague expression, stays in same pose as styled hats and jewelry frame her face. Periods of the dreams I spoke of earlier, of the rich Renaissance era seem to trace these collages. The notion of being there, but not entirely absent. For her prestige and elegance are visible. I recall Simpson speaking about James Zan Der Vee (one of the most riveting Harlem Renaissance photographers) "companionship." I see them "holding hands" here too. 
There's our makeup! Foundations, lipsticks, blushes, and all. I laughed at the model on the video installation saying that she called herself, "blue." Well, if we're speaking in that way, I consider myself purple. So there. Wish I was allowed to put that down on an application. Purple. 
Glenn Ligon explores the connection between popularized hair products and African art.
Another further abstract form like a dynamic arrow pointing above. It's Pan Africanism staring. Red meaning the fiery pulsing blood flowing through veins. Green meaning the majestic wealth of African land. Some of us don't want to see Africa while others desire to touch it like it gives our hearts reasons to beat. That it'll make our ancestors shine down with pride and fist pumps. And black symbolizes skin. Skin of all tones, a myriad of brown and ebony that should stop being divided due to tone and hue. It all lies there on white paper singing a hymn of unity. I don't see a piece just about hair grease and a sculptural form seen at the Africa part of every art museum. I'm elaborating on deeper evocation. Or attempting to.
Back in the day, when the fro was fire (it has since gaining back its rightful hair throne today), the shinier the better. Like Ligon was hailing, Afro Sheen and Murray's balm were salvation at the barber shops. In Jeremy Okai Davis's piece, What Makes The Man, a floating partially present man smiles. No nose, nothing pass grinning face. But that fro. So glossed and shaped just right. 
Hank Willis Thomas's Jet People. Gouache acrylic on canvas. It was entirely unique experience for me to see him outside vein of photography and video, having recently seen his collaborative projects Question Bridge and Truth! Jet People takes both magazine fonts and places them together, stripping them to black and white contrast. 
 I couldn't wait to see Titus's exhibit having seen his lecture last year where he discussed The Jerome Project at length. This is the first time I've seen his work in the flesh. Upstairs, painted against vivid dark earthy green are these beautifully painted portraits, their bottoms encased in textured black charcoal with pieces of speckled gold.
The space is so pristine. Floor so polished anyone could do the moonwalk. Lights reflect on the fascinating portraits, each individual male realistically rendered in monochromatic brown. 
Some portraits are close to 75 percent visible.....
.....others are less so. Drowning in the rough black tar and speckled glimmer.
Across the way, I found myself submerged in thick, layered suspension. Kianja Strobert is her name and her body of fascination is entitled Of This Day In Time (she is giving a lecture in conversation with Jessica Bell on Thursday evening and yes, I must go!!!). A world of color globs on top of black, white, and gray. Interruptions are like tasty sweet taffy stretched and sticky across vertical planes. Stepping closer, I saw lines skinny and fat. Large, small, and in between spaces of smooth and gritty opposites filling gaps.
I zoomed in, but I don't think camera touches the tip of the visual iceberg.  The longing to sink fingers inside, to brush and linger is reality. Textures here are splendid. That red in the left side line just engaged my eye in the most charming way. I dream and daydream about that red. The tone, the boldness. I'm in love. I cannot wait to come back.