ART PARTY: We’ve arrived at the end of the night.
On the final installment of Art Party Sai Chang gives us some serious wisdom before departing to LA. I highly suggest you pay attention.
Amina: How was the show (Runway to LA), was it everything you were hoping it would be?
Sai: The show turned out amazing, especially considering it was planned and put together in 2 months! We had so many people there to support us and received so much feedback; everyone really liked it. There are little things that we’d change about how the show turned out, but it’s okay. Because of those mistakes we learned so much, and we know our next show will be even more successful.
Amina: What kind of work needs to be put forth to bring a show like this together?
Sai: A LOT of work needs to be put forth to bring a show together. Contacting is probably one of the biggest areas that took up the most time. Communication is vital, and designating duties and making sure everyone knows exactly what they are doing is also important.
Being organized and setting deadlines is also very important when planning an event such as a fashion show. It’s also easy to lose sight of what your original goal was for the show, so you have to write it down and keep going back to it to make sure that you’re still accomplishing the same goal and same purpose.
Amina: One of the reason you put on this show was to help you and stylist Alex Thao move to LA. If you don’t mind my asking what was your reason for choosing to relocate?
Sai: Our reasons for choosing to relocate is because we felt that LA would be a stepping stone to our career paths especially because there is such a great resource and network down in California. It could really help guide us in the right direction and open many doors for us.
Another big reason is that we feel that we are so comfortable being in MN around our family and friends, and the things that we know so well, that we feel like we need to be put in a position where we are almost forced to step outside of our comfort zone so that we challenge ourselves to be greater. Moving to L.A. is going to give us such a new inspiration and motivation to be greater and we’re excited to see what we are capable of doing. Being complacent prevents you from challenging and pushing yourself to do things that you otherwise would never do.
Amina: How do you think your career with change once you make the move?
Sai: Just putting on this fashion show has already opened up new doors of opportunities for us. We’ve met so many new people and have learned so much. We never imagined or ever even thought about putting on a fashion show or thought we’d be capable of doing it, and…we did it. It’s given us a new sense of confidence and we’re realizing more and more, that it’s not about not being able to do something, it’s about just doing it.
The biggest thing that we took from this show isn’t that we now know how to put on a fashion show. The biggest thing we learned is that if you push yourself to do something, and you trust it, it will happen. We learned that if you’re not afraid to reach out to people you will receive the support that you need. We’ve also blossomed greatly in our communication skills, personal and social skills, leadership skills..and business skills, etc. It’s very cool.
We’re always so afraid of failure that sometimes we don’t even give something a chance. I totally believe that L.A. is going to change our careers dramatically and we’ll grow and come across experiences that we never would have otherwise if we decided to stay in MN. And that’s not to rip on MN or say MN isn’t good enough. What I’m saying is there are certain experiences that you get from different situations that you won’t get in another because it’s not the same situation. It’s a different time, and a different place; if that makes sense. The world is such a big place. Why stay in one place?
Best of luck to Sai and Alex on their new lives in LA. I hope that great success and inspiration await you both.
As for me, it’s time that I depart as well. Se ya’ Space Cowboys.
Photographs by Jaded Blue Photography
How do you keep from holding a grudge against someone? How does one turn the other check, take the high road and be the bigger person. I’m well aware that in some instances these acts make you feel better, like you’ve wiped your hands clean of this person and they’re drama so you can move on. Other times it just seems unfair; it’s like ‘why does this person get to treat me like crap while I have to be the better person? Why can’t I be the jerk for once?’
My mother told me that it’s my destiny to be the bigger person, that the high road is my predetermined path in life. That pissed me off, it means I never get to be the rebel and tell people off. She then said that people who carry a pocket sized Art of War in their purse don’t hold onto conflict; they resolve it and let it go in order to keep with the flow (because Sun Tzu disapproves of going against the flow). Taking the high road sucks, but I can’t help but take it; it’s like my subconscious thinks that at the end of the high road will be a lifetime supply of cupcakes.
I hate that people who do wrong to others get to move on with their lives while you’re stuck with the impact of their selfish actions. And because they’re so self centered they’ll never understand that what they do has an effect on others. Sometimes you just want vindication; I know that revenge is a dish best served cold, but sometimes cold dishes can be delicious (ice cream, for example). There’s something twisted and cathartic about feeling as though this person’s action have consequences and that it’s fitting that you be the one to implement those consequences if no one else will. Karma can take so long to catch up to a person so why not speed up the process.
But that sounds just as selfish as the kind of people in question; it makes you just as selfish. I hope I’m not like these people; I never want to be that kind of person.
So, I’ll quiet any urges for that type of self serving satisfaction and realize that treating people the way I want to be treated makes the world a better place and keeps me honest. If we give into the terrible ways others treat us then we let those people win and their selfishness should never be rewarded by giving them our souls. I’m allowed to be angry, anger is okay, but I can channel that anger into more productive things. Those people will never understand my feelings and I can’t change them. All I can do is distance myself from them because they don’t deserve my time or energy.
Besides, the greatest revenge is to outlive your enemies.
Words by Amina Harper
ART PARTY: Where we know that terms like “fat free” and “non-toxic” are fictional at best.
Today I interview Liz Miller who I’m gonna convince to make my wedding dress if it kills me.
Amina: What it is about felt that draw you to work with it?
Liz: I have always been drawn to materials that are not typically art materials, and materials that are tactile. Stiffened felt was appealing to me because it has many of the same properties of paper (the ability to be folded into intricate forms and take on a dimensional quality), but it is much stronger than most papers. The stiffened felt I use is associated with crafts, but felt also has many industrial applications (like sound dampening, for example). It is both beautiful and tough. It can withstand lots of abuse…and I really test its limits with my process! I appreciate its versatility and resilience as well as its aesthetic qualities. It’s fun to make installations that are large and structural out of a material that is not often associated with that type of work.
Amina: You mentioned that your work is structural (and I noticed some pictures of cathedrals in one of your albums). Is there and element of architectural design in your work?
Liz: I have always been interested in architecture, but have no real background in it. I think the interest in architecture is a natural part of creating work that is dependent on architectural spaces. But my interests also go beyond that to include a focus on architecture that is obsessive or immersive—architecture that is overwhelming in terms of the degree of pattern, decoration, and ornament. I have recently been researching examples of Baroque and Gothic architecture in an attempt to translate some of these immersive and overwhelming qualities to my own work. I am interested in architectures where the degree of ornament threatens to overtake the structure, where it’s almost hard to see the structure because of the degree of intense repetition. Repetition can both create structure and dissolve it.
Amina: The first time I saw your work it was being shown at the MIA and I really enjoyed how playful and colorful it was. It created it’s own little world in an already existing space. Tell me how you plan and plot all of that out when creating and installing your work.
Liz: My process for mapping the choreography or path a work takes through a space involves both careful planning and improvisation. I certainly study the space beforehand and attempt to figure out a general plan for how the work might move through it…but I also try to be responsive to the space while on-site. I sort of think that’s where some of the playfulness comes in. Whenever I try to over-plan an exhibition, it fails! I love on-site improvisation, the ability to really change course when I get in a space. For me, that’s the joy of doing site-specific work. That said, I increasingly think about environments that are immersive—that the viewer can not only look at, but step into, walk through, and be a part of. As the work has grown larger, that does take more planning. I am still trying to strike the perfect balance between careful calculation and being carefree!
Amina: Final question. Naturally, because of the material you work with your artwork could very easily lend itself to fashion. Have you ever thought about creating maybe an evening gown collection? I’d totally wear those.
Liz: I love fashion from afar…but have no talent for actually designing things! I am definitely interested in the idea of costume and dress, and even in the concept of one of my installations being part of a larger performance piece. But I think I’d have to collaborate with someone and, through collaboration, expand my skill-set!
If you would like to see more of Liz’s work head over to her website HERE.
BROWN GIRL ABROAD: Part 2
In the second part of this series guest contributor Kiya Edwards tells us what her life in Kenya has been like
Kenya has been a trip. I’m on the craziest adventure of my young life, and I feel old. My heart is heavy. I just celebrated my Kenyaversary— one year in Kenya. I felt unhappy from a series of unfortunate events until last week. I’ll begin at, well, the beginning.
September 2011 started off in an awkward environment. I was living with my ex fiancé. The first lesson I learned in Kenya is to never live with your ex fiancé. We met in 2009, when I was an exchange student for one university semester and fell in love like a fool wearing rose-tinted glasses. I had to go back to Minnesota to finish school, and so we tried a long-distance relationship for a year and a half before I ended it. Too many miscommunications, two too many visa denials.
I still felt called to come to Kenya and pursue media right after graduation. So, I did, with no job lined up and about $400 in my checking account. Adventure? Indeed. The Society of Professional Journalists’ Minnesota Chapter did award me a scholarship, which covered my one-way ticket and gave me confidence. When I arrived, my ex and I couldn’t even speak to each other. He worked 12-hour days while I had these two options: 1) Watch dubbed telenovas for hours with his brother, or 2) Show up at as many TV stations as possible with my resumé and fresh, foreign blood.
I lasted three weeks living with my ex. I moved out at 2am on a Saturday and stayed with some people, strangers, I’d met earlier that evening. The next morning, I moved in with my former host family, who’d moved into a smaller place since I was their exchange daughter. I shared a room with my 10-year-old host sister and the house help, who slept on a mattress on the floor. There wasn’t room for me there, but I ended up staying for four months because I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t afford to pay rent anywhere else. I’m grateful for them.
Five weeks into my journalism journey, I started my unpaid internship at Africa 24 Media. Fastest interview ever. Actually, I thought I was there for a company tour. But, ten minutes after meeting the CEO that Friday, he told me, all right, that’s it, we’ll see you Monday. A few weeks after that, I was hosting a new fashion TV show that, long story short, still hasn’t made it on air. But I was learning so much so fast about the realities of TV production and could tell right away that this was the ideal first job. I began weaving my way into “Africa Journal,” the company’s pride. The weekly TV show airs on 48 networks in 33 countries and is powered by Reuters. After I finally became an employee, I moved out of the family’s home and into one of Nairobi’s ghettos. I lived in a shack for five months. I’m not exaggerating. I’m talking bad paint job, inconsistent water flow, hole in the ground toilet, iron-sheet roof, unfurnished and paper-thin walls. Despite the harsh living conditions, work was going well. I became co-host for “Africa Journal,” and it has been a joy to present pan-African stories to a global audience. I got to field produce Olympics stories in Rwanda and a CCTV documentary in Uganda. I can produce a Kenyan story any day, too.
Yet the low salary and living conditions made me feel sad for a long time. I was having troubles making meaningful friendships. I’m a social sorority girl and expect great things from the people who call me friend. Here, I find it hard to trust folks; men and women alike. Many women don’t seem to like me and the men are skilled at heartbreaking. Wow, did I get burned. So, I had a serious case of Nairobi blues and even wrote a song about it that I’ve performed at a few night clubs and restaurants, along with some other tunes.
Actually, music has been going well here. I’m pleased with that. There are many moments when I need to forget about loneliness and count my blessings. It has been easier to do so since last week.
One month ago, someone broke into my shack while I was home, hiding in my bedroom. It was the second scariest moment of my life but I’m physically unharmed, thank God. I do have PTSD from an incident in 2010 and there was no way in hell I was about to go back there. I moved my stuff into my neighbor’s place, which felt good. But then I realized that I was homeless, which wasn’t cool. I was staying at around five different people’s houses in total and felt like a burden although they were welcoming. During this time, I realized that I do have friends. They took care of me and didn’t judge.
I kept praying for an affordable home in a nice, secure area. God and Karma must’ve had some wine because my desire was fulfilled. As of last week, I’m living in a beautiful place with a garden, refrigerator, wifi, running water, power, furniture, decorations, a maid and an awesome roommate from the UK. His company owns the house, so my rent is quite low considering all of the perks. I’m happy. I haven’t been able to say that for one year. My goodness. It feels great.
Things are finally looking up. I have a career and leadership roles at work. I have people who want to see me succeed. I have a home. My company is sending me to Italy this October, and I get to go home for the first time this Christmas. The blessings are bountiful now, and I think I’ll be okay for the next two years I’m scheduled to be in Kenya.
Words by Kiya Edwards
ART PARTY: I went to an actual party last week, but I can’t remember it… so it must’ve been AWESOME!!
Today I interview Vinyarie Smith, my very first interview with a model and hopefully not my last.
Amina: I’m one of those people that think that life can be like a giant runway show, and you are one of the most stylist people I know. Describe your personal style.
Vinyarie: I like to think of myself as a unique individual. I can be casual sexy dramatic and edgy all in!! HELL, GIVE ME A TRASH BAG SOME COWBOY BOOTS IN A RUNWAY AND WACH ME ROCK THAT! Well with that said my personal style is versatile.
Amina: What does it feel like to be on a runway for you and what’s going through your mind in those moments?
Vinyarie: When I’m on the runway I can honestly say that it’s a natural high for me. The lights the music and the camera is what really tops the atmosphere off. There for the only thing that on my mind is take your time, you look good and you got this!
Amina: What kind of advice would you give someone who was thinking about going into the modeling industry?
Vinyarie: All modeling agencies are not legit; never allow anyone or anything to change who you are and say humble!
Amina: If you could model any designer’s line or walk any designer’s runway, who would it be and why?
Vinyarie: I don’t know if Victoria’s Secret would be a designer or not but what the heck, I would rip that runway any day! I fell in love with Victoria’s Secret in 05; it was Tyra last runway show for VS and I was 13 at the time and that was when I decide I wanted to model. Tyra did her thing on that stage with the big VS cane or stick whatever she was holding. The theme would be fun and sexy; who wouldn’t want to be a part of that magic!
Earlier in the season we got a post about the complexities of ‘friendship’, and though in my opinion there was a lot left to be desired in that post I will say that it is true that such relationships are tricky. Friendship is a strange enigma to me sometimes, and is something I didn’t realize I knew nothing about. We are all sort of expected to understand friendship and what it means to have friends, and supposedly, there are certain rules and procedures that are involved in getting another human being to like you enough to not want to kill you. But truth be told, most people don’t know what true friendship really is and before this summer I was one of those people. So, let’s start by presenting the definition of friend and friendship courtesy of the dictionary on my iphone:
· A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
· The emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.
Now, to me, these definitions make sense in the same way that any basic, sterile dictionary definition would. But we all know there’s much more to it than this. I spent a lot of the summer confusing encounters where one is ‘friendly’ with actual ‘friendship’; I also confused pleasant professional relationships with a more personal relationship that naturally evolves into friendship. I’m sure this seems juvenile and immature, but to someone just coming into their own and realizing they are likeable and perhaps even lovable these types of emotional mazes are a lot of work to meander through. It can be embarrassing since it’s somehow implied that such confusion should have been figured out in childhood. Friendship is mutual, just because someone thinks you’re friends doesn’t mean you actually are if you don’t reciprocate those feelings. Because of this, there are many different kinds of friendships.
Work Friends: People that you work with at a job or collaborate with on a project. You manage to get along well while you’re working, but that doesn’t mean you trust them enough to let them into your personal life and vice versa. These relationships get confused with friendship ALL THE TIME as you may work closely together in stressful situations where you depend on each other for support.
Family Friends: These are people that are probably friends of your parents, friends of your siblings or the children of the friends of your parents (or their siblings). You see these people at family functions or dinner parties hosted by other family friends. You make idle chit chat here and there, but you won’t be calling them up to hang out and they probably won’t be doing them same.
Facebook Friends: Those you friend on Facebook, whether you know them or not. And you probably don’t.
Friends of Friends: People you share a close mutual friend with but the two of you have yet to close the gap between friend and acquaintance. You’re nice to one another, you may even be friends on any number of social media outlets, but you have little to no experience with each other outside of the one mutual friendship you share. In fact, without that friendship neither of you would know the other existed.
Friends with Benefits: Nuff’ said.
These friendships can fill voids, but they generally aren’t the real thing. I’m a firm believer in calling a spade a spade, so now that friendship is becoming a formidable part of my life I have to learn to distinguish what is what in order to avoid any unnecessary confusion. I’ve encountered each of these relationships at some point and as much as I wanted them to blossom into something special I couldn’t help but feel like something within them was missing. They all needed something that would’ve made them more of a worthwhile investment and taken them to the next level. Because these aren’t complete friendships; they are relationships that can only exist in specific social environments and at times when we obscure parts of ourselves in order to function in these social environments. We know that this relationship has to have certain restrictions if we are going to get what we need out of it. This isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t friendship.
Fortunately, learning about what friendship isn’t gave me room to figure out what it is. I realized that friends are people you feel comfortable with and people you can trust; you prove this by being honest with them about who you really are and what you really think. Yes, this may cause an argument every now and then, but communication is also the foundation of any good relationship. If you’re mad talk about it, if you’re sad talk about it, and if you need help you can always feel safe to ask; because friends want to help. Friendship means being there for someone when life throws storms their way; the measure of a true friend is someone who can stick it out when times are tough because they don’t want you to have to go it alone. They don’t expect anything of you and you don’t feel obligated to give, you share with each other because if they need something you want to be able to provide. Friends don’t judge you for wearing grubby sweatpants or for eating nothing but pop tarts all day; they’ll just sit back and join you while you continue your Toddlers and Tiaras marathon. They support you, they’re there for you and they celebrate you without letting your head get too big. Friends are people you want to escape to, not escape from because with friends you don’t have to hide. However, friendship is conditional and not everyone deserves to have friends if they treat the ones they have poorly. All of this stuff is great but IT CAN’T BE ONE SIDED; you have to give as good as you get or you’re just being selfish.
If you want friends treat the ones you have with respect, empathy and appreciation. Because they don’t have to stick around and everyone needs friends.
Words by Amina Harper
ART PARTY: There’s a real party happening somewhere in the world; so I say it counts.
Today I interview Nate Vincent Szklarski who tells stories with ink on flesh.
Amina: You and I have talked previously about the darkness within your work and how you want to delve deeper into that. How has that process been going for you so far?
Nate: It comes and goes. There is something to say about being a creative individual every single day. There is never a day I don’t create something. And with this, as is life, it is a roller coaster. Some days my work delves very deep into the darkness, and other days I find a bit more fun with what I am doing. I believe over all you can find something a bit uncanny or odd about any of my pieces but it might be hidden away or a bit cryptic.
Amina: Your work has a very distinctive style based on the line work and color pallet you use (I can recognize once of your pieces a mile away). How did you develop this style and what is it inspired by?
Nate: My style is definitely influenced heavily by tattoo culture. A lot stemming from the older traditional style mixed tastefully with the new traditionalist style pouring out of Europe right now and the entire world around me. I like to use a lot of complex imagery and completely strip it to the bone. Much like the methods a classic Western tattoo artist would use at the turn of the last century. And for the development process, it is a constant. It’s ever changing and always growing; which is a great thing for an individual. I believe if you find one thing you are good at and never come out of that comfort zone you are cheating yourself. Make mistakes and take risks with art.
Amina: Tattooing is an extremely powerful form of expression. What about it draws you to it as an art form?
Nate: That is a bit of a hard question. Ever since I was young I was interested in tattooing and the art behind it. I made my first rotary tattoo machine out of an Erector set my dad bought me at age 14 or 15. I tattooed an entire dragon half sleeve on my step brother with a bottle of black India ink I stole from my middle school art room. (hahaha) I got tattooed straight out of high school and moved to Minneapolis just to hang out with a friend that tattooed. I think it is just something I was born with I suppose. And you can’t deny the tremendous amount of skill it takes to do a tattoo well. The challenge of this intrigues me.
Amina: Can you explain, in your own words, the natural desire to mark the flesh with ink that has been an indelible part of every society and culture on this earth?
Nate: I cannot speak for anyone else but myself as to why you would suffer to adorn your body with tattoos. I can’t even fully answer the reason why I do it. Whatever the personal reason for the tattoo, it is definitely a rite of passage. Anyone who sits through a tattoo will come out a different person. And like you said, it has been around since the dawn of man and practiced by almost all cultures. So my reasons are probably a bit more humble and prone to vanity.
Nate will be curating the Gods and Monsters 4 show at Cult Status which opens on October 27th. If you would like to see more of Nate’s work (and there is plenty more to see) go here.
Dear person who spends way too much time comparing themselves to others,
STOP DOING THAT!!!
First of all, I think you should know that you’re awesome. I think it’s pretty cool that in a world full of billions of people that you’re the only you that there will ever be. I mean, sure, you probably share the same name as a couple thousand people and those awkward Christmas socks you grandma got you were probably given to a couple thousand other people too, but no one will ever wear them quite like you do.
It sucks that you make yourself so sad by telling yourself you’re not good enough because someone else has better clothes, or a nicer car, or a more successful career; perhaps you were previously unaware that you have a lot of great qualities yourself. You’re funny, talented, and smart and you give so much of yourself to others that I’m shocked you have any time left to be as amazing as you are. It breaks my heart to think that you feel you’re not good enough because you’re not like someone else. For what it’s worth, I like you just the way you are.
We all have moments when we think someone’s life it better than ours or when we think our accomplishments are being overlooked in favor of those of others, but the truth is we don’t know what those others are really going through in life. Sure, everything may seem rosy on the surface, but for all we know they just got dumped or their boss is giving them a hard time at work or they’re having family issues. Maybe they don’t see themselves as being as pretty, successful, funny, smart, or talented as we see them. Maybe they, like you, are comparing themselves to others; which is sad because they, like you, are awesome.
There will always be someone that does something better than you, but it doesn’t mean you’re less skilled, less talented or less successful it just means you’re unique and only you can do what you do the way you do it. That’s what it means to live your life for you. It’s important to be at peace with who you are and learn to love yourself because without that you’ll spend your life in a constant state of self imposed competition with everyone you meet. And that sounds exhausting.
I know this sounds cheesy, and it totally is, but we all need to hear this sometimes. We all need someone to say “Sure, that person is awesome, but you’re awesome too. Now stop comparing yourselves and celebrate each others awesomeness before you drive yourself insane!” Realizing how great another person is shouldn’t inspire bitterness and jealously; you should be happy that you’re sharing your life with other wonderful people who probably admire you as much as you admire them (but you were so busy comparing yourself that you probably didn’t notice, did you). We’re all different and we all have different paths in life; so what if that thing you do really well also happens to be something someone else also does really well, there will always be someone who has something you don’t no matter what stage you’re at in life.
So, chin up. I promise that whatever you’re worried about, whatever you think you’re lacking, whatever you want that you don’t have isn’t a problem because everything will be okay. You know why? Because you’ll work your ass off to make your dreams come true, that’s why! You’re just a boss like that and everybody knows it. No one is overlooking you, no one is thinking less of you and no one is comparing you to anyone else.
The only one who’s doing that to you is YOU.
SO STOP DOING THAT!!!
Now back to our regularly scheduled programing.
Words by Amina Harper.
Soooooo, it’s official.
I have become a woman… or at least something remarkably similar to one. I not only learned how to put on make up, but I got my first little black dress… a month ago… at the age of 24.
A long time coming is an understatement.
When I say little black dress I don’t mean just any old black dress. I mean, I have a black dress but it makes me look pregnant (not that there’s anything wrong with being pregnant, it’s just feels like false advertising on my part). This new little black dress show off the curves I didn’t have for the first 23 years of my life, and most of that time was spent shaped like and uncomfortable boy child. So, the womanly form was a nice discovery.
Unfortunately, I currently have no place to wear it and it’s gonna be quite the task to shave my legs for such an occasion should it arise. I asked my mother what the hell I’m supposed to do with this thing and as mothers often do; she gave me her brand of useful yet slightly antiquated advice that eventually veered off into an inappropriate direction.
“If you’re going to wear a dress like that make sure someone is giving you a ride regardless of the weather. Obviously it gets too cold in the winter, but in the summer you don’t want people to think you’re a hooker. I swear, in this state you could wear a sh*t colored rain coat and someone would still manage to mistake you for a hooker.”
Little black dresses are important in a woman’s fashion arsenal, and although I’m still not sure why yet it feels good to have one.
As for the make up. I wish someone had told me how much fun it is to put on, but I still feel weird about wearing it. I feeling like I’m misleading the world by hiding the pimples and blemishes; for some reason, despite being well aware of the contrary, I feel like I’m the only woman in the world wearing make up.
Don’t judge my naivete.
It is super exciting to blend the foundation into my skin and cover the imperfections even if it’s only for a little while. I’m extremely fortunate in this respect, there was a time when black women didn’t have make up that complimented our varying skin tones. If you wanted make up you had to mix and match with different brands and hope to one day find something that would maybe match your tone. Today we have options. I don’t wear it often anyway. It was all so expensive that I want to ration it for special occasions.
I also got my first pair of Victoria Secret panties. But that’s a another story - a story that will probably involve Neosporian.
I never really got it before, but I’m starting to. These feminine rituals are a lot of fun. Choosing an outfit, putting on make up, fixing your hair. It’s a transformation, like going undercover or becoming someone else entirely. It’s strangely magical.
Ah, womanhood, how I’ve waited for thee. And how late were you, jeez! I guess this means I’ll be going on a date soon. God, it’s been a while; I kinda miss the awkward romantic fumbling.
What other things do women do? I’ve also been making cookies lately, does that count?
Word by Amina Harper
full of color -
Last week I was involved with a music video shoot for Minneapolis own, Ecid. It was a really fun time, mostly because I got to throw paint everywhere. This photo is a very small portion of the aftermath, which ultimately created a really cool work of art. (you can see a photo of this space before the shoot here)
ART PARTY: Where I’m over the moon about being under the weather.
Today I interview Brenda Bell Brown who does EVERYTHING and probably does it the best.
Amina: You’re a writer, actor, visual artist, arts educator, arts administrator and the list goes on. Where did such a love for theater and performance come from?
Brenda: Play-acting was one of my childhood pastimes growing up in Walker Homes, a historically Black American suburb in Memphis, TN. The children along my street used to showcase our talent in backyard revues. I mostly played the MC, but also stepped out as a lead singer ala Diana Ross and poet reciting the work of James Weldon Johnson, Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes. Seeing my first stage play as a guest of Jackie Nichols, Founder and Executive Producer of Memphis’ Circuit Playhouses, reeled me into theatre. For the two years prior to entering Brown University to study Theatre Arts, I was courted for the art through my work with Circuite Playhouse Youth Theatre, Beale Street Repertory Company and Memphis State’s Red Balloon Players. Oh, yes. The first stage play was “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Amina: You went to this year’s Sundance Film Festival and The Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis. What were those experiences like?
Brenda: Ya’ know, I am losing track myself, Amina. Thanks to winning a sweepstakes drawing (the likes of which I have never won before), I and friend Assata Brown were guests of the Sundance Institute during the closing days of its 2011 Sundance Film Festival. I loved the energy, information and opportunity that I was afforded at Sundance. So much so that when festival volunteer Brenda Berliner shared the volunteer application for the 2012 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, I applied, was selected, and attended. It was very fortuitous that the MVAAFF dates dovetailed on the time of the First Annual Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis. The latter was held in my hometown and, most significant, put on by some of the women who influenced my artistic beginnings over 35 years ago. Assisted by my daughter Naima, I was honored and extremely humbled to present a one-women performance excerpted from my full-length play “Angelique Watt: My Release.” Both recent ventures were personally rewarding — I was operating on funds provided through a successful KickStarter campaign. My primary patrons were high school friend Rapunzil Drake and MN friend and colleague Shada Buoyobe-Hammond. They and several other supporters affirmed these ventures as standout, pivotal moments in my career.
Amina: Wow, that’s a lot of greatness and 35 years of experience. What would you tell others who really want to work hard within a creative field to accomplish their goals?
Brenda: You are asking me that question at a key moment in my professional life; a time when I can truly respond with undeniable clarity. When it is evident that you cannot live without expressing yourself repeatedly through the artistic medium(s) that you have chosen, recognize and declare your vocation. That vocation is not your job — the work that you do to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back. Nahhhh. Your vocation is the CO2 that you expel after breathing in the goodness that is art to you. Produce, seek recognition, receive recognition and rewards, collaborate to expand your pontification, acquire the credentials and licensure that help you leverage due compensation for sharing your art with the public-at-large, and, above all, rejoice in your expression. Twist the list to make it work for you. Envision, you, an artist.
Amina: Final question: Explain your creative process, how do you go about making your art?
Brenda: Of all my arts loves, poetry has remained first and foremost. It is from my love of writing poetry that I honed my creative process because, for me, everything begins with breath (see http://www.oprah.com/own-docclub/blogs/Louder-Than-A-Bomb—-Poet-Breathe-Now—-Adam-Gottlieb). First, comes the inspiration. Then comes the heartfelt urge to share a message in its most effective conveyance. If through poetry, then there is the consideration for form. if scripted, then consider the genre; if visual, the technique. Research, compose, share the message, consider the criticism, revise, reprise, rest, repeat. Most importantly, share the message. Others, including other artists, depend on you to use your talent(s) to give voice to what they have not been inspired to do, so, it is incumbent upon the artist to do so, whenever charged.
BROWN GIRL ABROAD: Part 1
This is a small essay series where I ask people (brown or not, girl or not) about what it’s like to live in another country.
Today Barbara Simmons will be giving you a little taste of what life in Japan is like for her.
Living in Japan has been a roller coaster for me. There have been days where I thought to myself that I never want to leave, and then their are days when I just want to go home. But over all I like it here, I think living here is one of the most challenging things that I’m experiencing EVER! If it wasn’t for my good friends and my boyfriend that I love I don’t think I could survive living here alone. I didn’t know any Japanese when I moved here so I always felt handicapped when I tried to do something on my own..I couldn’t! Its frustrating when you always have to ask your friends or, in my case, I had to ask my boss to help me out. For example, I had to go to the doctors with my boss one time to have a translator. Do you know how uncomfortable that is? But I’m happy I’m past that stage.
I’ll have a moment like that and wish that I was back home, but then I’ll experience some of Japan’s culture and never want to leave. Japan has so many different kinds of festivals through out the year my favorite is (Sakura) Cherry blossom festival where you have a picnic with friends and family under the Sakura trees. Its so beautiful! Or the fall festival where you celebrate the fall leaves and their beautiful colors. I could go on and on about the Japanese culture, but I would end up writing a book.
Living here you have to have an open mind and experience different things to adjust. As soon as I got to Japan I got on a Volleyball team and played once a week, I take Karate lessons twice a week, I started hip hop dance classes, and I’m always trying and experiencing the different foods and traditional clothes. I’m so busy I don’t have a lot of time to think about wanted to move back home and my Japanese is improving from talking to other people.
Words by Barbara Simmons
I’m used to being a fly on the wall in terms of the more emotional side of creative expression. It’s not that I feel negatively about these emotions I just feel as though you have to be seriously invested in a project in order to get truly emotional about it (otherwise your emotions become nothing more than a dead weight to what you’re trying to accomplish). But this doesn’t mean that the emotional expressions of others cannot be touching, moving, and deserving of appreciation and acknowledgement.
At the launch party and reading of The Saint Paul Almanac last Thursday I found myself extremely moved to the point that I came to illuminating realizations about what writing is and what it can be. I was originally there to support my friend and collaborator Saymoukda Vonsay as she has two lovely poems featured in the Almanac and I knew she would be presenting in the reading of these poems. I enter the fundraiser for the almanac at AZ Gallery unsure if I was supposed to be there; the sign out front said “private” and maybe I was too much a part of the public that day. There was a lot on sale at the fundraiser include a day in next year’s almanac that would be printed with any message you want (Mooks was kind enough to purchase a day for me, look out for January 7th in the 2014 almanac).
When the readings began later that evening I listened as people read their excerpts; poetry and short stories about the heartache of loss, and the sadness of times past. I had a hard time understanding why all of these stories just had to be so depressing; why were there no stories of triumph, humor or pure joy. The experience of Saint Paul cannot be only comprised of melancholy (however, I don’t visit Saint Paul often enough to be sure of that). I was starting to feel a little tortured by this room full of melancholy until I applied what I know about art to the medium of writing.
To this day I don’t really think of myself as a writer. I’ve been published, I have an outlet where I can write on a regular basis and I’ve been writing my whole life, and, in fact, there hasn’t been a single moment in my life when I haven’t written. But I don’t know what it means to be a writer apart from the element of writing. Sometimes I forget that art comes in a variety of different mediums and that when you choose to express yourself in a form that can be shared with others for many years to come it is considered art.
That night, the reading of those stories helped both the writers and everyone else in attendance heal. There were people crying and hugging with friends and family and standing ovations abound. It occurred to me that I no longer wanted to be a fly on the wall anymore; there is no power or glory in observing powerful human moments instead of sharing in them. These were more than just stories of heartache, they were stories of honor and remembrance.
I think I’m going to submit a piece for next year’s almanac. If you would like to submit something or purchase a copy go to The Saint Paul Almanac website.
Words by Amina Harper