Saturday, January 14, 2017

Best of 2016: Mickalene, Her Muses, & The Dark Brown Girl

Trinity of alluring afros (ala Foxy Brown or Cleopatra style) resting on a sporadically patterned carpet, slick legs on fleek.
2016 was a great year for art.
A most memorable exhibit was at Chelsea's Aperture Foundation. Mickalene Thomas's Photographs -- now on current view at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore-- turned large space into a sensational glamour cosmos. Glossy, high resolution images of stylishly sophisticated women attached seamlessly to walls. These brazen, dolled up, dignified faces stared out at viewers, seeming to have escaped from Vogue or Cosmopolitan, gloss leggy figures embodied a sensuous grace among challenged patterns and hot pulp lights. The fiction couldn't be any more sweet and visceral, relying on interests in Blaxploitation films and Hudson River School artists.

Viewers are submerged into carefully maneuvered layout while framed works have that picture in picture context. This is the very set, with a 1970's - 1980's vibe, that many of her subjects are placed.
In particular, centralized installation in the middle of the gallery recreated what Thomas' photographs envisioned-- a homely environment appeased by trademark distinctive decoration. With its wall to wall wood paneling, warm, bright bulbs, and hardware floor, the breathe-in space feels rich and inviting, as though one could revel in browsing through the library shelf over a cup of tea and celebratory television whilst admiring bold, colored compositions discretely performing measured symmetry on the walls.   

Thomas sews most of these fabrics together, bringing a full blown fulfillment to pleasurable three dimensional experience.
Method to a seemingly DIY artsy madness--Thomas stitches varied fabrics together and layers these collage efforts on this found couch-- also repurposed with funky integrity.
Aesthetically, mitch match design should clash and burn.
Library includes Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," Alex Haley's "Roots," and Richard Wright's "Native Son."
The lampshade is a vessel of the light that emits triangular shaped brilliance from both ends, dawning on the desk's objects and the couch's yellow and brown floral arm.
Beautiful negatives.

The many faces of Sandra Bush.
The triptych honoring Sandra Bush, Thomas's fashion model mother is one of several pieces indebted to a wondrous alluring, empowered kind of beauty. This tragic, bittersweet homage is a poignant testament of a daughter's loving attachment, a relationship that would never fade regardless of time.

Another woman, legs crossed, sharply dressed, residing in Thomas's signature set.
Negress with Green Nails, 2005.
Facial closeup.
Nail closeup.
Green Negress with Green Nails is especially infectious, bursting with charm and innocence. Giddiness sensory overwhelms picture plane, the bright red opened mouth, sensuous and inviting, shows candid set of bright, smiling teeth. Sparkled shimmer of green eye shadow coated on eyelids plays along with long, curved nails, necklace, and the ribbed short sleeve blouse. Is there something alien, a little bit foreign about the woman in white barrettes dangling from two strand twists with big gold hoop earrings and an attractive Cheshire grin? Perhaps her otherworldliness comes from within and not necessarily from this highly florescent green hue. Vital cues piece together an affectionate narrative of this vibrant, centralized dark brown figure-- the demure way her hands are gingerly clasped, the captivated awe in her eyes staring out at the viewer, the childish gleam yet womanly curve.

A still from Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman happens to be a rhinestone collage of a photograph. Nicely done intimate documentary laced with so much love and art. Looping on a vintage color television of the installation space, one couldn't help but be thrilled to see this piece inside of the piece itself-- utterly genius!
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Top 7 AfroVeganChick Posts of 2016

2016 was a strange 366 days of good and bad. I graduated from college for the third time with an MFA in studio art at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. On the local front, Dottie's Donuts and Tasty the vegan diner, opened their doors to us hungry vegans. I frequented other Philadelphia hotspots, explored NYC a few times (including having a grand ole time with my Toronto pal), and pit stopped to Paris and Amsterdam just getting to speak at the seventh Black Portraiture [s] Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Yet through all these wonderful moments and milestones, I lost a sweet, young, infectious sister that I never got to physically meet. It's still tough subject matter. I cope everyday with her loss. I want to cherish her memory and continue making her proud-- making art and writing everyday, always thinking about her tremendously positive spirit. It's constantly flowing through me, offering stagnant support and peaceful love.
Thus, these were the top most viewed blog posts of the year.

7.  Soulful Casual Dining at Nile CafĂ©

This little black owned Philadelphia hotspot in the Germantown area was definitely a delicious soul food dining experience.

6. Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts


With love of Dottie's and Vegan Eats, I entered the doughnut foray with healthier, baked doughnuts with my favorite flavors of fall season-- apples with cinnamon.

5.  The Best Sweet Potato Pie in Philadelphia

Rekhati Bakes crowned my heart with their exceptional sweet potato pie.

4. Why?

No words except Rest in Peace, my dearest angel....

3. A Good Night's Sleep at Colored Girl's Museum


The Colored Girls Museum seemed to be this whimsical, historically built place birthed from deepest dreams.

2. Adventures in Rockland

I came to Maine for a doughnut themed art show, but came back with so much more-- a great little trip!

1. Fabiola Jean-Louis at Harlem School for the Arts

Fabiola Jean-Louis was my artistic find of the year. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this amazing artist!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 5th Anniversary AfroVeganChick (Blog Post #500!)

Celebrating the big anniversary with guilty pleasures-- a Pacifica gift set (on sale at Ulta Beauty for half off), seeing "Fences" with friends at Roxy Theater, and dessert (white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and a soy milk Chestnut Praline Decaf Latte).
It's officially my fifth year and 500th published blog post. Two special milestones that wouldn't be possible without endless kindness from family, friends, and strangers in cyberverse. I couldn't be more appreciative of frequent blog visitors and commenters and simply cannot thank people enough for investing a smidgeon of time reading a vegan artist thoughts on food, beauty, and art.
This year I plan to continue challenging myself further, posting more innovative recipes, delightful eating out vegan adventures, and thoughtful reviews on the art scene. One of my eating goals is to incorporate Dr. Sebi's philosophies into my lifestyle, slowly breaking away from processed and into pure ingredients.
In the meantime, I will be posting art related articles about excellent visual arts shows from 2016-- Mickalene Thomas's Muse at Aperture Foundation, Studio Museum in Harlem's 2015-2016 Artists-in-Residence, and Kerry James Marshall's Mastry at Met Breuer (still up until January 29, 2017) as well as the top most read features. Also be on the lookout for deliciously new exciting recipes like hot chocolate chili and chickpea "tuna" melts-- dishes I'm uber thrilled to share.
Thank you all for the support. Let's make 2017 another great one!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Black Portraiture [s] III Conference

The official booklet of "Black Portraiture [s] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures" contained proposal outlines of panelists and participant biographies. Artist Kudzanai Chiurai's "Genesis XI" has the cover.
Last month, something monumental happened-- life changing to be exact. Attending Black Portraiture[s] was definitely one of the most incredible experiences of the year.
For three marvelous days, a thundering triumphant intellectually rousing echo loud and proud in varied areas of Turbine Hall with profound black visual artists such as Hank Willis Thomas, Wangechi Mutu, Zanele Muholi, Sanford Biggers, Rashaad Newsome, and more in attendance. The Glass House, The Steam Room, The Engine Room, The Coal Hopper, and The Power House served as safe spaces to speak on art, activism, and scholarly research. This great doing must have been a frothy pipe dream coming true for a forum in its seventh cooperative, held previously in big cities such as New York City, Florence, and Paris. Fronted by Tisch Photo Department Chair Deborah Willis and Cornell University's Visual Studies Director Cheryl Finley, this juggernaut of a conference crashed down for the first time on the African continent, igniting provocative conversations marginalized bodies needed to have.

Johannesburg's historic Turbine Hall set stage for inevitable discussions.
A near packed house await opening remarks.
Black tote bags honor Africa and those traveling from North America.
Imperative short speeches snatched reality into its clutches, letting attentive audience become fully aware of present problems facing all brown individuals-- seeded problems that have hindered us throughout displaced history. Speakers called out for respecting diversity of disenfranchised humanity, disregarded majority speaking up for marginalized bodies, worldwide colonialism phenomenon, and understanding transcendence.

Deborah and Cheryl giving welcoming remarks.
U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard quoted Zora Neale Hurston, "adorn and transform outside world art can illuminate." He praised black women writers and artists: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorna Simpson, Mary Sibande, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis, and Zanele Muholi. He also addressed critical concerns about issues pertaining to South African women. They were more likely to be exposed to diseases (more than 2,000 a week) and not receive medical assistance.
Artist Hank Willis Thomas says, " I think of blackness as a state of mind, not a skin color."
Zanele Muholi was coerced onto stage to sing the South Africa anthem.
"We often accept our racial naming without retort," said plenary speaker Dr. David C. Driskell, "racial naming does not define us." He spoke about various experiences coming to Africa continent. First, he came to represent William H. Johnson, curating his works at a South Africa gallery. During this experience, however, Driskell was subjected to strangely delusional apartheid reclassification-- that African Americans are considered "honorary white" due to their American citizenship, which was another way of dehumanizing. 

One of Driskell's self portraits, depicting a "positive trajectory of self."
Dr. Nikki Greene compared Maria Magdelena Campos Pons and Kara Walker's works based in the sugar plantations.
A few standout highlights:
In The Steam Room, "A Continent as a Woman" featured panelists discussing feminine roles in the arts. From Celia Cruz to Grace Jones, scholars and essayists presented brilliant reflections of their respective roles in the arts, their grand importance beyond using beauty.

Adrian Loving examined the power of Queen Grace Jones. She is a bold, brazen, colorful, risk taking, androgynous, beautiful piece of glamorous history that is always ignites a fiery dialogue.  
A promo shot of BAPS starring Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle Reid from Maisha Stephens-Teacher's "Africans As Original Hairdressers" presentation.
The For/Four Women Panel led by Jessica Rucker and Tia Thompson explained gatekeepers of blackness, acts of defiance, and rejection of surveillance. Their joint collaboration featured recorded documentations using still photography-- a unique way of capturing textures of skin, wrinkles and showing intimacy, Nina Simone's "Blackbird" in mind.
Alicia Bonaparte and Andrea Chung bridged a relationship between research and art, focusing on Jamaican midwives and the OBGYN's battle to dismiss their importance.

Another shot from Stephens-Teacher's presentation. This featured the elaborate sophistication of braided crown hairstyles-- the pure artistry and majestic design.
ArtNOIR Panel included Fhatuwani Mukheli, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Milisuthando "Mili" Bongela (moderator), Lina Viktor, Itani Thalefi, and Mpumelelo Mcata.
ArtNOIR's “Universal Blackness” panel, which was on day two, discussed agency of importance, body transcending identity politics, hair braiding as technology, and conceptualizing idea of home for those African descendants residing all over the globe. They were focused on keeping Africa as part of their artistic narrative, some finding no sense of kinship in one specific place.

“At the Goodman Gallery opening last night, someone said to me, 'I want our city back',” Mili mentioned, saying that this person wasn't enjoying black American "coming home" philosophy. It was interesting, somewhat expected topic. Particular point of discussion was tough yet not packed with brutal punches. The artillery wasn't hurtful missiles launched at foreign travelers. In fact, they compared tension filled phenomenon to an awkward first date. Honest candid confession about black Americans seemingly taking over Johannesburg, with “homeland” speeches put a toll on local intellects. Yet Mili heroically salvaged the statement by insinuating that all African descendants share a mission-- to dismantle chains of colonialism ideals spread throughout the globe.

Transcontinental relationship between African American and South Africa: South Africa is "depicted as imbibers whereas diasporic African Americans are exemplars of modernity that Africans want to emulate."
Lupita braiding Nontsikelelo Mutiti's hair from Vogue Magazine.
Nervous Conditions: Representations of Black Femininities was this colossal final act set spearing heart, surging so deep inside an abyssal pulpit one hadn't realized existed within. Women came up to the mic, spilling uncomfortable confessions that made attentive souls feel only great empathy.  Bittersweet and dark and raunchy and broken, these opened scars delivered to listeners. In the audience, uncontainable weeping and tear droplets seeped from eyes, mouths wobbled and trembled, polished hands frantically wiping evidence .We were being reborn together, our seeds smoothly massaged, taking away damaging dirt and weed.

In every nook and cranny, gatherings were afoot.
Overall, fierce determined allegiance spread throughout, a sweetly contagious affliction brewing with splendid ideas and creative possibilities buzzing in thick air. Relationships began to form-- friendships, kinships, camaraderies. Everyone latched on to resonating words being spilled and gutted out, these triggering words igniting something rarely experienced.
For a painfully shy observer, reluctance seemed to come away at the seams, tearing away to let inside new people to cherish and support; these carefree artists, these young revolutionary thinkers. 
To say Black Portraiture, one of the best moments of my life, was well worth the travel is a great understatement. This mere wonderment provided more than originally hoped. Something viscid and engaging remains inside me like a precious gift. I had slowly unwrapped and kept its contents.
I truly cannot thank my supporters enough for the opportunity let alone the organizers who chose which candidates should share their wisdom and words with such an eloquent audience, what an unforgettable pleasure.  Thank you to my friends, my family, Black Portraiture [s] committee ad its attendees for making my year special, for granting beautiful memories to cement forever.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #20: Beter + Leuk

In my Vegan Mofo 2016 Finale, which is better late than never I suppose, from Africa to the land of the Dutch, I had this amazing five hour layover in Amsterdam. My good friend met me at the airport with muffins as mentioned in Notes from the Plane.  We went to Rijksmuseum to check out Veermeer and Rembrandt paintings.
Vermeer is one of my favorite painters of all time. Of course, I relished being able to stand by four of his works, especially 1669's The Milkmaid. Like most of his works, small scale and intimate, this showcases precise technical precision in ways figure's skin, her clothing, and every item on the table is rendered. The quality of Vermeer's painting skills profoundly captivates the mind.
Conveniently enough, Rachel Ruysch, one of few women painters in existence here, had a gorgeous, impressively blooming painting seeming to burst from its simple golden frame. Entitled Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, painting has signature alluring beauty to assure a viewer that it is indeed a Ruysch. She was last year's focus on last year's Vegan Mofo post-- a theme on female painters.
Fresh flowers, sugar cubes, and teas decorate our painted green wood table.
For cafe lattes, cappuccinos, and other stylish hot drinks, they have options of almond and oat milks for dairy free alternatives. Other vegan treasures include smoothies, acai bowls, pancakes, sandwiches, and desserts.
She got the latte. I got the mixed berry smoothie. (Yes, I love mixed berry).
We munched on fantastic Dutch Weed Burgers-- a savory delicacy found in select Amsterdam locations! Don't worry these babies are drug free. On The Dutch Weed Burger it says, "with seaweed as the key flavour maker. The juicy patty is made of briny soy shreds and Royal Kombu, a tasty and healthy winter weed, sustainably cultivated in the Dutch region of Zeeland. The crispy O-mega bun colours bright green, due to the superfood chlorella, a microalgae packed with nutritious proteins and Omega acids. The finishing taste touch is done by our Weed Sauce, enriched with Sea Lettuce, a fresh summer weed that brings a nice freshness to this healthy snack. The burger is vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal." Thus, the patties are moist, tender, and juicy with crisp fixings and an irresistible secret sauce better than anything McGarbage invented. Plus the buns are superb. I loved the heck out of this unique meal experience-- very artistic in a way. Plus, my friend and I discussed possibly traveling next summer-- looking at art and eating vegan food! I think this would be a solid plan. I'm on board.
Not just a foodie and coffee haven, Beter + Leuk also serves as a mini thrift shop. Sweaters, jackets, books, magazines....
....cards and little handmade gifts galore surround the shop.
Traveling companion seated on the pretty table.
They also have high tea and brunch.
Right nearby is their other location-- a larger shopfront dedicated to indie Dutch loving needs.
There we are! A year and nine months ago, we met in Philly and enjoyed Vedge. Now we spent an amazing day in Amsterdam, but it's definitely not the last time for this dynamic intersectional vegan duo!