Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First A La Carte event at the studio

This has been a dream of mine for quite some time; to have a lecture series of African-American artists in my studio presenting their art to the public. With the help of Sandra Campbell, Brenda Lauderback-Wright and Garcia Williams, we are about to pull off the first one.

I met Michaela via facebook and later met her in person at the opening of the Triennial Revisited exhibition. I absolutely love this woman and her art. Very provocative and informative. She is the perfect artist to set the tone and pace for the artists I want to bring to Charleston. I hope the audience is ready for her!

Charleston City Paper Article

Many local black artists struggle to fit in at MOJA
This Ain't My FestivalMy original intent was to write an article about the MOJA Festival and its impact on the African-American arts scene in Charleston. Makes sense. MOJA is atop us, I am an artist, and I like talking to other folks in the arts. Easy, right? Wrong. I've had more off-the-record conversations in the last week than I ever anticipated. There is disenchantment with the lack of local performing artists being featured. There is a sense, as one anonymous source put it, that "This ain't my festival." And according to a number of people — from musicians to thespians to technicians — the local buy-in from our community of African-American artists is about as flat as the economy.

But let me start with the easy, non-confrontational stuff. This is the 28th year that the festival is celebrating African-American and Caribbean arts. Those of you who have been in Charleston for any amount of time at least know that during MOJA, the culture and history of African-American and Caribbean people is celebrated through art, music, theater, dance, and literature. There are loads of free things to do, including the popular Caribbean Street Parade and the Reggae Block Party.

Brooklyn transplant and Mt. Pleasant resident Marlene Gaillard, an avid arts fan and longtime MOJA supporter, is torn about the festival this year. News of the 2011 schedule wasn't announced until just a few weeks ago, and Gaillard is disappointed with the seeming lack of organization. "First and foremost, could you explain to me why I just received my program booklet yesterday?" she says. "September 20 for a large event that begins nine days later? How does one plan for that? And there are enough 'TBAs' in this booklet that I had to ask myself if it was the name of a group I'd never heard of but was increasingly popular from the amount of times it's listed." The major R&B concert that's usually a highlight of MOJA was one of the TBA casualties.

The Office of Cultural Affair's Ellen Dressler Moryl explained that a number of factors, including a diminished staff, promoters backing out, and other events like the 9/11 commemorations, got in the way of planning. Perhaps most significantly, the MOJA program coordinator position was vacant this year, and a programming committee was tasked with the planning. Elease Amos-Goodwin, who formerly held the position and recently retired, served on the committee. "This year it has just been an occupational hazard that things didn't happen as one might want," Moryl said.

Gaillard also bemoans the lack of local talent represented at MOJA. "Why aren't there things in local venues with local musicians? Happens all the time during the big festival," she says. Moryl responded that she'll address that concern next year. "That's an interesting perspective," Moryl said. "I'll address it with the committee. As you know, we don't dictate from this office what should or shouldn't be in MOJA. We offer advice, give input, and support."

Colin Quashie is one local artist that has had some negative experiences with the festival. He's been a screenwriter, sketch comedy writer for television (MAD TV), a filmmaker, novelist, and contemporary artist. He's a bit of a provocateur, both in his work and his thought process. From the moment I met him in 1996 at my first MOJA, in which I performed with a San Francisco theater company, he has intrigued me. There he was at the end of the table, angry and loud and ready to spar with anybody crazy enough to challenge him.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Art - Plantation Digest

I have been in the process of using a 3D architectural program to put together the Plantation exhibition at REDUX Studios. I wanted to include the J. CROW Advertisements but somehow they didn't seem to fit within the overall context. After staring at all of the pieces with a couple glasses of wine for clarity (in vivo, veritas!), I understood what was wrong and what needed to be done. Needless to say - 1 piece was destroyed (Black Tie Affair) and another modified (Blaccessories). The logic behind the destruction and rebirth was simple: if the stand alone panels were to be combined as one piece they needed to support an overall narrative which was missing. They needed two other pieces in support. If these were indeed intended to be ads in a fictional magazine that may have existed in that era - then what was the magazine? Enter ---> Plantation Digest!

Plantation Digest
36" x 48"
Gel and acrylic on board

As you can see - one of the teaser articles on the cover is 'J. CROW - Dressing for Succession' - which relates directly to the fake ads. The overall piece will have five panels with the cover going first, followed by 'Look Solid With Stripes'. It is meant to represent the first five pages of the Digest as though you were actually reading it. The next missing piece is being planned as I write and will be a letter from the editor. The corresponding text will help to shed some insight into the piece (not too much - let the viewer bring something to the piece!). I am finally happy with the display and can't wait to see it completed! Now I just have to figure out where it should be hung in the exhibition.