Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael, Thanks for the Music and the Memories

DC Folklife Festival Opens

WASHINGTON (Map, News) -
Under a hot sun, hundreds of artists and visitors on Wednesday weaved through venues featuring everything from barbershop stories to clog-making for the opening of the 43rd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.
Others stood in line for a taste of cawl, a Welsh stew and a bite of Southern style peach cobbler, or were lured to a dance floor by the lush rhythms of a Colombian currulao band.
This year's festival celebrates African-American oral traditions, the industrial past and new technologies of Wales and the diversity of Latino music. The free event runs Wednesday through Sunday, takes a break and then opens for its second leg July 1 through July 5. Officials expect a million people to attend.
As Smithsonian Institution Secretary Wayne Clough walked through a Welsh exhibit Wednesday, he acknowledged that the festival's featured cultures may seem to have little in common. But he said when he looked around, he realized that all three represent "groups that have had some oppression in the past, and have used their culture to maintain their humanity, their dignity and the continuity of the generation."
Celebrate folklife, make your own peach cobbler. The recipe's right here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Barkley Hendricks

Post Soundtrack: Stevie Wonder, Creepin’

So, art is my thing. I love to paint and serve on a few boards and committees for arts organizations, the purpose of which is to promote and support the arts in my community.
My passion is making sure that people of color are included, and that our percentage of the audience at shows, performances and openings increases. If we aren’t present, we are silenced. And, when policy decisions are made concerning the arts, we’ll always be left in the cold and relegated to Black History Month and gospel plays. OK, maybe that’s a strong statement, but it’s how I feel.
I like to time to time post about artists whose work I really enjoy.
One of my favorite painters is Barkley Hendricks. I have always been fascinated by depictions of the everyday man or woman in paintings, and Hendricks is a master in this genre. I love his work because in his paintings you can see folks who remind you of lovers, family members, neighborhood thugs, and teachers; and, he is so technically gifted.

From Wikipedia, "While he has worked in a variety of media and genres throughout his career (from photography to landscape painting), Hendricks' best known work takes the form of life-sized painted oil portraits. In these portraits, he attempts to imbue a proud, dignified presence upon his subjects, most frequently urban people of color. Hendricks’ work has been noted as unique for its matrimony of both American realism and post-modernism."

You can also see that he influenced one of the most celebrated Black, gay, contemporary artists – Kehinde Wiley. Wiley recently discussed his sexuality and his painting in an interview with the Advocate.

Hendricks' work is so representative of the times in which he painted. His backgrounds are amazing, and play a supporting and informative role to the main subject. You can compare this to an artist like Wiley who now often uses brightly colored patterns as a foundation for his portraits.
I have included a couple of images of Hendricks' paintings, including his iconic self-portrait in a white kangol and tube socks – a favorite of mine.
What do you think?
Check out the travelling exhibit Barkley Hendricks: Birth of the Cool.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Artist Spotlight

Check out Kennis Baptiste.

All About Me!

Birthday: 5/13/72
Birthplace: Tennessee
Current Location: At Work
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Height: 6’3”
Right Handed or Left Handed: Right
Your Heritage: African American
The Shoes You Wore Today: Tommy Bahama Low Boots
Your Weakness: Cheezits
Your Fears: Praying Manitses
Your Perfect Pizza: Spinach, lots of cheese and olive oil, ooh and lots of garlic.
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: Finish the new house renovations. take a historic preservation course.
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger: LOL. Ok right.
Thoughts First Waking Up: Thankful to wake up another day.
Your Best Physical Feature: For those who like the big teddy bear type, everything is perfect.
Your Bedtime: 10:00 PM
Your Most Missed Memory: Spending time talking with my Dad.
Pepsi or Coke: Diet Pepsi.
MacDonalds or Burger King: Neither, Arby’s
Single or Group Dates: Single
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Lipton
Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate
Cappuccino or Coffee: Coffee
Do you Swear: Yes, but I’m trying to control it.
Do you Sing: Only when my fans request it.
Do you Shower Daily: Of course!
Have you Been in Love: Yes
Do you want to go to College: No, I’m finished; now I just want to pay for it.
Do you want to get Married: Maybe.
Do you believe in yourself: If I don’t who else is going to?
Do you get Motion Sickness: No.
Do you think you are Attractive: I guess, I’m OK.
Are you a Health Freak: Um, that would be a no.
Do you get along with your Parents: Yes
Do you like Thunderstorms: Yes, love them.
Do you play an Instrument: Does the tambourine count?
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: Yes
In the past month have you Smoked: Yes.
In the past month have you been on Drugs: No.
In the past month have you gone on a Date: No.
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: No, I hate malls.
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos: No, not a whole box.
In the past month have you eaten Sushi: Yes
In the past month have you been on Stage: No
In the past month have you been Dumped: No.
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping: No, but it sounds like fun!
In the past month have you Stolen Anything: Does copy paper count?
Ever been Drunk: Yes
Ever been called a Tease: Yes.
Ever been Beaten up: Not yet.
Ever Shoplifted: Yes, when I was a teenager.
How do you want to Die: Hmmmm, use your imagination?
What do you want to be when you Grow Up: Able to retire.
What country would you most like to Visit: Egypt.
Number of Drugs I have taken: Four.
Number of CDs I own: maybe 300, but I only use my iPod, now.
Number of Piercings: Two.
Number of Tattoos: None, do stretch marks count?
Number of things in my Past I Regret: Nothing, I’m not getting the past back, so I just move forward.
In a Boy/Girl…
Favorite Eye Color: Brown/Black
Short or Long Hair: Short
Height, Tall or Short? Doesn’t matter
Physique you like -Muscular, Athletic, Slender, a Few Extra Pounds, Large, Obese: A few extra pounds, large.
Hairy or smooth? Grizzly.

Tagged by DarkTomahawk at Wielding the Axe

Mark Making

Check out this new blog from time to time. It's called Mark Making and is about public art in Chattanooga, TN.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day

Thursday, June 18, 2009

RIP William Hemmerling

Jill Scott = Emmy?

Those who know me know that The Number One Ladies Detective Agency is one of my favorite TV shows.

Three-time Grammy champ Jill Scott may have something to sing about when Emmy nominations are unveiled July 16. As the critically hailed star of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," she could be nommed for best TV drama actress and, if she wins, make Emmy history as the first African American to claim that category.
In our podcast chat, Scott shares her view of her role as an unflaggingly upbeat detective determined to right everyday woes in her African homeland: "She wants to heal Botswana's ills. She's a woman of substance. She's a lady. She doesn't curse. She isn't violent. I personally think she's got it going on! And I think it's inspiring for all of us. Everybody, all the people who aren't so cool. She proves an average person can actually make a difference."

In its review of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," the L.A. Times hailed Scott's performance as "a revelation" while portraying "Precious, an earth mother in brightly colored batik, with her abiding belief in the basic goodness of life." The HBO series is so good, insisted The Times, that it is "clear that this show will restore the premium cable network to its former stature as the most surprising place on television." Such huzzahs mean that the program is a real contender for best drama series too.
Listen to our podcast chat to hear Scott reveal what it was like to work with baboons ("they smell terribly and I was about four and a half months pregnant — I had to shoot quick and run to the trash can") and the late, great director Anthony Minghella (Oscar champ, "The English Patient"), who championed the series and helmed its pilot before dying of a hemorrhage while battling cancer in early 2008.
"He was so generous with his energy," Scott recalls, and he was tough, but when things got really heated under the African sun, "he would sing" and everyone would join in crooning Motown songs. "He only got angry at me once," she confesses. Why? Listen to her tell the tale of the day "my shoes melted on my feet" and production had to halt.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guess Who's Back?

Click photo for more information.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Chemistry of Color

Aug. 21-Nov. 1: The Chemistry of Color: The Sorgenti Collection of Contemporary African American Art. The 70-piece exhibition traces developments in African American art through the 20th century. "It allows us to compare the vivid work of late 20th-century African American artists with that of their predecessor (Robert Duncanson) who left murals at the Taft," says Ambrosini. Organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Painting by Robert Ducanson

Friday, June 12, 2009

Top 10 Reasons why Art is Essential to the Human Spirit

From the Huffington Post by Maria Rodale.

I am staying in this really cool hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, called 21C. It's a museum dedicated to 21st century art, so as you can imagine, there is art everywhere. As I ate dinner by myself in the absolutely yummiful hotel restaurant called Proof, gazing at amazing and bizarre horse photographs (with a wonderful video loop of a kid eating soup projected onto a painted table and chairs on the wall), I was reminded that art is so inspiring and important. It is essential to the human spirit, and here's why:
1. Art makes you think. I thought about what the artist was trying to say. I thought about how he or she did that. I thought about why I like some things and not others. Even art I don't like makes me think about why.
2. Art takes you places. There was a huge color photo of a South African man and a little girl. She was resting her head on a hyena. He was pulling back the hyena's gums to show its teeth. I could almost taste the dust, sense the heat and the smell. I was almost there.
3. Art makes you feel something. I have felt so many things while looking at art--longing, lust, empathy, anger, disgust, desire, connection. Even art-induced ennui, which is rare, a certain feeling--a feeling of not feeling.
4. Art makes you look. It's hard to walk by art and not look at it. And then it makes you really look at it and wonder...everything from "what were they thinking?" to "who were they?" and "why did they do that?"....
5. Art makes you laugh. Well, not all the time, but sometimes.
6. Art makes you realize people are fundamentally the same around the world and throughout all time. Sure, a lot of stuff is different. But pictures of children, naked women, pets, and pretty landscapes have a universal appeal. All people from all cultures seem to have a desire to capture those things and hold onto them, remember them, because...
7. Art lasts longer than most things. It certainly lasts longer than a good meal--unless it's a painting of a good meal. I love those little stone statues of fat naked women from 40,000 years ago because...I don't know, even back then, people liked art of naked ladies. Long after we are gone, people might see paintings or photos of our faces and feel a connection to us. I love miniatures for that reason: Before photography, people carried little paintings around. Just images of normal people who were loved enough to have someone paint them. Sweet.
8. Art feels so good to make. The other day, I bought a drum from a Native American drum maker. He asked me if I was an artist, and I stumbled on my answer. I wanted to say yes, but don't know if I deserve the title. Then I realized it doesn't matter...if it feels like I make art, then I am an artist. And it feels good. Whether I am planting an outdoor landscape, painting (which I occasionally still do), or drawing a design for something, I know it's one of the best feelings in the world.
9. You don't need language to understand it. Walking around with one of those museum iPod things can be helpful in understanding art, but it's not really necessary. Sure, it's good to understand context and history. But sometimes it's just good to look. And whether the art is European, African, Asian, Australian, American, or Icelandic, it doesn't need words. In fact...
10. Art says things that words just can't say. Art shows things that words can't say: How a sunset really looked 300 years ago, how people dressed 1,000 years ago, and how they carried their bodies; how an anonymous woman might have felt about an anonymous man or anonymous child in a strange land. What pain looks like. What heartache looks like. What desire looks like. What love looks like. What the world did look like and what it could look like.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.
Painting by Kerry James Marshall

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

RIP Robert Colescott

TUSCON, Ariz.—Prominent African-American painter Robert Colescott died on June 4 at his home in Tuscon at the age of 83, the New York Times reports. Colescott, who had battled Parkinsonian syndrome for many years, is best known for his paintings exaggerating and making fun of racial and sexual stereotypes, most notably his George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page From an American History Textbook.

Colescott began to mature as an artist in 1949, when he lived in Paris for the year and studied with French cubist Fernand L├ęger. His career was celebrated when he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1997, becoming the first African-American to do so. Colescott’s relatively early embrace of racial issues in his art paved the path for contemporary African-American artists such as Ellen Gallagher and Kara Walker. His work is in several major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

5 Women Artists: 5 Takes on Islam

NEW YORK, NY June 05, 2009 —Islam is in the air – from Barack Obama’s big speech, to a festival in New York this month of Muslim arts and ideas. Among those voices are five young women artists who have a show at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art in Brooklyn. WNYC’s Siddhartha Mitter spoke with them.
REPORTER: The multimedia artist Nsenga Knight grew up Muslim in a black family in Brooklyn, and her video piece features voices from that community.
KNIGHT: It’s an oral history project that uses photography video and interviews to discuss the lives of African American women who converted to Islam prior to 1975.
REPORTER: The women speak of finding their way to Islam in the era of black nationalism. It’s one of the sometimes overlooked stories of local – American – Islam. By contrast, the work by Fariba Alam suggests far-away origins, shrouded with nostalgia. Alam is Bangladeshi-American. She imprints old family photos onto ceramic tiles. There’s a recurring image of a young girl. Alam says it’s a kind of response to the way Islam often obscures women’s bodies:
ALAM: I think very subconsciously I wanted to see in a lot of my works that female form where I didn’t grow up seeing it.
REPORTER: Alam says she’s an artist first, Muslim second, but that the two can’t be disentangled. You feel that same tension in the pieces by Mahwish Chishty, who comes from Pakistan. She says her installations are influenced by Islamic architecture -- but she also likes to use wood and metal, asserting her strength and autonomy. Still, she says, she doesn’t mind serving as a cultural ambassador.
CHISHTY: I feel like I have a responsibility if somebody’s asking me about Islam, I really want to tell people what I know.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Madi Comfort

Works of late Whittier artist Madi Comfort are included in an exhibit titled "inside my head," running now through Sept. 27 at the California African American Museum, 600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The exhibit is closed Mondays. Admission is free.
Parking at 39th Street and Figueroa Avenue is $8. For more information, call (213) 744-7432.
Comfort died five years ago at the age of 79. She moved to Whittier in 1970 following many glamorous years as a movie actress-singer and associate of legendary band leader Duke Ellington. It was after moving to Whittier that she honed her artistic talent in the class of Jerry Romotsky at Rio Hondo College. She was 59 when she enrolled.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tank Man

OK, this is not about Black visual art, but it is about one of the most iconic images ever. I remember how much this photo affected me as a young person. When I saw this lone man stand up to a line of tanks, I knew that human beings were able to reach down deep for courage that I never imagined existed.
So as we celebrate the anniversary of Tiananmen, let's remember this solitary, strong, freedom fighter and pray for human rights worldwide, and at home.