From Michael Platt's place- painting by Sam Burwell. I like how it plays with light and dark color values. What do you think it is? Hint is in the title.
There are lots of ways to interpret the meaning of decay.
It can mean the process of something being ruined, or the thing itself being ruined. It can indicate a decline in standards, of faculties. It can be eye catching, and beautiful only as an accident, not end goal.
This piece, by Titus Kaphar, mummifies a vague approximation of our Founding Fathers, their identities and secrets wrapped up tight. Since they're blind to the world around them, they stumble forward, playing a part while falling apart.
We Are One/Never Again (redux.) The world today needs to relax and love, and forget hate.
Who would you guess the woman in the middle is? Oh, I'll just go ahead and tell you- it's Misty Copeland!
Special thanks to Hedieh Illchi , Adam Chamy, Negar Ahkami , Josh Uresky and Zoe Cohen for helping me find the words. Showing at Susquehanna Art Museum , in 'Vessels' show (co-juried by Sun Young Kang), next month.
Thank you, Mochila Review, for featuring my artwork for your special issue with Nikki Giovanni! I feel incredibly lucky and proud.
First off, I haven't written anything like this in nearly two years. I wonder why I didn't do this sooner. I feel excited to show you an overview of my greatest hits. As for the title, it's an attempt to capture all of the ways I've experienced the world. When I think of the seventh sense, it really isn't connected to a physical or social appendage or boundary- instead, it's more or a feeling, a form of self-discovery, that I was very lucky to develop during the course of this past year.
So, I've traveled miles in my inner and outer world: starting and completing a 360-degree mural within 5 months, making and publishing new works out into the world, and all-too-briefly contributing to the opening of the greatest monument to African Americans in recent or distant memory.
I'm still looking for a permanent studio location, but I'm happy with the things I've made while on the run!
And next- pictures!
The first set shows the outcome of a community mural I did in partnership with Arlington Arts Center (www.arlingtonartscenter.org). The mural, in a nutshell, is a partial autobiography on my past year and shifting of physical place, in visual/allegorical form. Loosely put, there is chaos at the very beginning, then a period of intense confusion and liberation of past demons and situations, all leading up to a gradual lifting of my spirits and my inner life. I left Philadelphia with very little to show for it; with the help of new friends and experiences down in DC, I've found a new, better outlook to replace what I've lost.
A friend of mine once compared the progress of the mural to Scherezade and the 1001 Nights- that every dawn, in order to keep her head, she needed to tell a new and interesting twist on the story that she paused the day before. With my own visual story, I wanted to focus less on factual objects and more on the subjectivity of memory, the passage and creation of energy- and ultimately the shaping and direction of a constantly evolving living narrative. After I finished it, I painted over and destroyed the various elements of the mural on August 28th, 2016. The mural, like so much of my work, has passed on into digital memory (photographs below).
Each person that helped me create this mural, who ventured to add their own individual voice to it, has my gratitude. Rachel, Diana, Sam, Adam, Leo, Gyasi, Yuri, Minna, Alanna, Hillary, about a hundred or so others, and last but not least- my very excellent friend/mentor, Meei Ling Ng- were alll crucial to the making (and destruction) of this piece. Main takeaway of this is- when people work together, wonderful things happen!
About the senses- they help me understand the world on an factual level- the five senses can smell the air, hear a bird call, attempt to touch the sky, recognize itself in a mirror, taste a new dish. The sixth sense is the title of a movie, and also calls to an intution that goes beyond what we can recognize empirically- that of the spirit. And the seventh is basically the moment when you see all of these senses together, and say, "Oh! This is me!". Self-awareness, in other words.
Most of these works in the next slide show were done in the last 2 months, and are avaliable for sale. Contact me if interested.
Finally, serendipity played a big part in how I received a commission with National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)/Google.
Back in June, I hosted a live concert in my studio- the same studio with the large mural above!- which was part of an music series called Sofar Sounds (www.sofarsounds.com/washington). They play in different private venues all over DC (and the world!) and the local team chose my studio at Arlington Arts to play one night. Cue 3 hours of violin, guitar, voices that swelled and soothed. Also, I met a person there that was connected to the opening of the NMAAHC, and voila! I was offered a chance to design a skin for Google's new virtual reality unit, Google Cardboard. One thousand total units were made, and distributed during NMAAHCs opening events. I'm very humbled and grateful to be a tiny part of black history.
All told, the past few months were amazing, wonderful, full of growth and change, and an overall push for me to be the best version of myself. Once again, I am grateful for all of the things that developing my seventh sense has helped me obtain, and I'm looking for future means of development- as well as more projects!
After a year-long hiatus, I come away with a new home, a new city, and a perspective on a challange that I came up upon when I decided to relocate to a more expensive location.
The studio crisis. It’s a multi-leveled thing.
And it sucks. And it’s relentless, and it’s a symptom of the larger change that regulates the death and life of our American cities . President Obama, in 2008, talked about change that we could believe in. Eight years later, artists in particular are seeing that such change is a force that we can direct and influence, but not completely control. The accelerated production rate of the world now, as opposed to in our ancestors’ time, means that huge changes that they would anticipate over the space of decades can happen now within a few years. And through these changes, we hold on to the belief that we have first realized in childhood- that we can make our inner worlds and fantasies real for others to see.
Over the past year, there has been a great deal of change in my life. I’ve been forced out of my last place in Philadelphia because my landlord wanted to raise the rent and leave the broken apartment locks and window in disrepair, and I lost the roommates that was helping me pay for it all. I also lost most of my possessions (except my art) when I made the move down here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I came to D.C. wearing little more than the clothes on my back and some of my works strapped there along with them.
Being here, despite the greater opportunities, does not necessarily translate to less injustice. The larger forces that influence the daily lives of all great American cities- economics, politics, social justice- all seem to be amplified in D.C. The stakes are higher, and the losses potentially steeper. And with the heightened nature of the situation, the results are wider spread and more drastic for those less inoculated against the forces of change.
Kurt Vonnegut, in his book Breakfast of Champions, illustrates this by using islands and air balloons.
Every bit of land...was owned by only about forty people, and...those people decided to exercise their property rights to the full. They put up no trespassing signs on everything. This created terrible problems for the million other people on the islands. The law of gravity required that they stick somewhere on the surface. Either that, or they could go out into the water and bob offshore. But then the Federal Government came through with an emergency program. It gave a big balloon full of helium to every man, woman and child who didn't own property. There was a cable with a harness on it dangling from each balloon. With the help of the balloons, [landless people] could go on inhabiting the islands without always sticking to things other people owned. (101)
At this particular moment, we artists are being handed out balloons, filled with hot air, meant to take us far, far away.
I honestly don’t know much about the inner details of the gentrification process in D.C. I know that it is disproportionately affecting people that look like me and have deeper roots here than I do. I know that there are white, brown, and tan people that are also facing low-priced buyouts and high penalties of moving and restarting somewhere else, away from the places and communities that they know and love. And I can personally attest that losing your sense of home, being rejected and ejected from the place that you put all of the time and effort into building, is hard, hard indeed. But survivable.
As it is right now, I have my beautiful studio in AAC until June 20th. After that, I will have to put my stuff in storage once again, strap what I can onto my back, and keep moving. Somewhere. *
Knowing that I need to move on is hurtful, but freeing. It reminds me that the things I hold dear are just that, things. Not me or my ability to create. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been illustrating this cycle of creation and destruction with a mural in my temporary studio, that will be completely painted over when I move out. I have decided to dedicate it to gentrification. Not just because it will be crowdsourced by a community of people that visit the wall to contribute art, and tended to by me; but also because, like the sprawling neighborhoods and cultures that have grown up along with them, it will change form and structure over time, and finally be rolled over and remade into someone else’s image. I have a limited amount of control of when that will be, and how that will happen- a joke compared to the levels of control that people in gentrifying communities face. And I won’t pretend, once again, that I am intimately entrenched with the landowner/renter struggles here. Instead, I can only offer the empathy of seeing a work that I and many others put a great deal of time and love into be eroded into nothing for us, and something new for someone else. This is not happy or sad. This is change.
With this loss, however, comes a new challenge, the opposite of comfort, safety and stagnation, a new opportunity to create and to believe in the future. Artists often create under pressure and few resources, and are the ones that can truly transform a place of fear and raw potential into a thing of beauty. It is a gift that we give to the world, that works in favor of the landlords and landowners that are the agents of this change. However, it is also the thing that no one can take from us, and the thing that, deep down, our opposites wish they had. And we also have the ability to change the way we advocate and own for ourselves. Without belief, we have no hope to manage change. Without change, we would have no need to believe and forge new boundaries. One regenerates the other, and the cycle continues.
*Update- I have worked out a plan with the staff to continue staying at the AAC, part-time, until the end of the summer. I will keep the mural up until September 2nd- I hope to add great things to it and expand the conversation about change, art, and audience participation. Thanks, AAC staff, for being awesome!- LP
Short Version- A debate about what realism and expressionism means to me, and how I made the decision to designate myself as an expressionist.
My view of art has expanded significantly, and unsurprisingly, since I first started being an artist. With my work, I've danced the dance between realism and abstract art, starting out with the preconceived notion that realism, for its more established provenance, had a stronger claim to my devotion. However, part of my maturing into an artist was making the realization that I draw more to express feelings than taking down the facts- letting the emotions overflow and take me to places that don't exist in this physical world. It's probably a reflection on how I think of things, in general- unnamed possibilities contain more facination than concrete details.
Short Version: Art imitates life, and the legal system promises justice for all. How can we as artists reconcile the fantasy of those words with the reality of creating within and living with unevenly applied laws?
In a sense, I am both dreading and anticipating the volley of art, books, and tee shirts this whole Ferguson ordeal is going to inspire, and the billions of dollars in commerce that it’s sure to produce for both individuals and corporations. Art imitates life, so it goes. On one hand, the politically passionate have a way to make their voices heard, and the creative their ideas spread. On the other, financial majorities can get even more ammo to forge stronger alliances with their respective local governments. There is a sense of dirty, flirtatious cynicism in the whole cycle that I’d rather not condone, but cannot deny the effectiveness of. The essential problem is one of survival and emotional honesty. How can we artists and makers advance the spiritual, visual and intellectual power of our creations while reacting against participating in a process that increases our dependence on a corrupt system? It's a hard balance for an artist to strike, but as artists Molly Crabapple and Damon Davis show, it can be done.
For the past few months, I took some time off to discover how to write and express myself as an artist. I read a lot of philosophy, and understood almost none of it. I painted and drew, and liked almost all of it. But with writing... ah, that's another story. It's like painting a picture, with clumsily-shaped words, with the most unappealing of mechanical tools to work with. There's something about the keyboard, uniform across devices and places, that denotes a lack of actual soul.
This desire for soulful writing, whatever the hell that is, is an ongoing struggle for me to both take seriously and to actively work on cultivating. I now keep a daily journal of my thoughts and such, but I'm not at a point where I'd want to type any of that stuff down. I also am not sure if I wish to go the other route, and do a whole artistic manifesto every time I write the blog. For one thing, I do not wish this online space, such as it is, to be just about my thoughts and doings, but about my thoughts as applied to the world around me. In a lot of ways, I'm an isolated person, but I don't want to be one that draws from the environment around me without leaving something of equal or greater value in its place. I extract various resources from fans of my work- and besides producing work, talking about our modern times and how they affect all of us is a big way for me to I can give back.
Anyway, welcome to fall and back to my blog.
TL:DR- Vending is a rites-of-passage for most professional artists in Philly. What energies and exchanges result from the experience?
Let's start with a number- 4. That's how many years I've been a pro (an adj. that implies a level of mastery and presumption). Art vending has to be both my least and favorite thing to do. I experience the open air and strong sunlight, and I see with my own eyes how a real-world art display stacks up to how I show it online.
When I vend on First Friday (8/1/2014), I hope absorb something new from the energy around me and the people I meet.
Artist by way of academic. A long journey, partially written about here.