Thelonious Monk

Thelonius

Do you remember the first time you heard music from Thelonius Monk? I was in high school. My music teacher was an avid fan. I recall sitting in the band room waiting for the class to start and he was arranging music for the jazz quartet. It was "Strait, No Chaser." I didn't know at the time. It sounds like a lot of broken notes to me, but as a musician, you keep your mind open. As an artist, you assume that he was trying something new. 

A different student came into the band room after me and had more courage to say out loud what I was thinking. "What are you playing? It sounds out of tune?" The piano stopped, and I cringed. "That's Monk Man. You don't know Monk?" This took us into a long lesson about Thelonious Monk. His music style, his career, his life. 

Even after the lesson, it took me a moment to grasp his music, but not his life. His life was poetic, dramatic, cool, the epitome of black life in America, genius. I love that he ran by passion, not by what was accepted. He changed Jazz and what a Jazz musician feels like, look like. I played his music to get a better understanding of the man. I am genuinely now a fan. 

The other day, I attended a concert celebrating 100th birthday. I know if my music teacher was alive he would have been in the room taking it in, swinging and swaying, maybe even shedding a tear or two.  The truth is that Monk was not appreciated right away. It took years for some of us to see his greatness and contribution. It made me think how important it is to love what you do and not do it for recognition.  I find myself struggling to be seen and heard sometimes and have to remind myself that is not the point. The product, the art, the sharing, those are the points of it all.  

Balloon

I had a dream about a balloon a few nights ago. I can't tell you the details of the dream. Frankly, I do not remember them. Just the balloon. Red, of course, like in the movie, IT.  I am not a fan of balloons nor clowns so a balloon in my dream was very disconcerting.  I thought about this damned balloon all day. What did it mean, why was it in my dream. Why is it in my head several hours after the dreams is completely over. No clue but it is distracting and to remove it from my psyche I did what all artists do, took it out of my head and brought it into my reality. An illustration and a poem. 

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Floating above
Connected to the world
Only by a string and your hand
You look down at your feet, wishing you could fly, then
You looked up and with a mischievousness grin you
Released it into the blue sky. 
It will travel in your place – but where will it go?
Well first, it will sail over the grit of your city into the suburbs where everything is the same boring;
Tracking its way to the more exciting locations of the world. 

Maybe to Ghana's Accra or Egypt's Alexandria. 
London? Everyone goes there
Paris? It must go there
Berlin? Maybe there
Havana? Yes Havana

You wish it adieu and pray that it sees it all before it burst. 

Get Your Hands Out of Your Pockets

21st September 1963:  Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929  - 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant.  (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

21st September 1963: Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant. (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

I almost do not want to write this, but I have to.  It's Sunday and I am getting ready for three hours in my studio. Painting, drawing, etc.  Before going in the studio, I decided to stop by an art store to get paint for today and also tomorrow. I am working with this after school project and I wanted the students to work with different colors than what I currently have. Any excuse to go to the art store is good enough for me.   There are two art stores on Woodward Ave. that I could go to but I was closer to the one in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, so that is where I went. 

I get there and was happy to see that paint was on sale. I grabbed what I needed, took a little bit of a walk around to see if there was anything else I wanted and got in line.  As I waited, I hear one of the staff members yelling from behind the counter to someone out of my site range. She said "Please take that out of your pocket and put it back." I hear someone say something and then I hear her again – very loud, boisterous and aggressively say "I saw you take that out of the box and put your hand in your pocket."  Then I could see the person she was talking to. It was a young black guy  in a tan jacket with a cool afro. The quintessential artists type. He said back to her "Yes, I did put my hand in my pocket, but I did not put anything in it. Do you want me to come up there and empty my pockets?" She says "I saw you put something in your pocket." The young man came up to the counter and  He said "You absolutely did not see me put anything in my pocket." as he empty all of his pockets showing them all to be empty beyond his wallet.  The staff member said, "Oh, I just had to make sure." The young man walked back where he was and continued looking at markers. 

I was at the counter heated. First of all he and I were the only black people in the store. Only people of color in the store. Secondly, she is yelling so that everyone dead or alive near by could hear, degrading a person, calling them a thief in front of a store full of people. Thirdly, she didn't apologize for her horrible behavior after she is found to be wrong.  So, I looked at the young lady who was taking care of me and said "You know what?" and before I could finish that, my spirit told me to handle it differently. Don't put all your paint away and walk out in a huff. Tell the young lady what you think.  Okay, I said to myself. After the cashier finish ringing me up or almost finished,  I looked to the young lady that rudely talk to the young black man. I kept calm. I looked her straight in the eye and said.   "I need to say this. I was about to put all of this back because of the interaction you just had with that young man. I understand you were doing your job, but it would have been better if you would have walked up to him and had a conversation with him instead of the way you handled that.  You should apologize." She looked back at me, straight in the eye and said, "You are right. I could have done that differently." She heard me and I had hope that she will do that differently if it ever happens again. 

She may not even realized the perception of what she did. Her act, which could have simply been an employee protecting the product of her company, could easily been perceived as a prejudice and racist act. That is how I perceived it.  This is something most people of color deal with on a daily basis. We are profiled and assumptions are made or we are the victims of people who do not understand our history and journey and react in a way that actually is very hurtful to us which, for them, may be a normal reaction to the situation. 

This young lady, from my point of view,  assumed this young man, who is black, was stealing. Then, like many people that look like her have done over many decades, she talk to him as though he was less than. She accused him before she knew and then, just like other whites in similar situation, she did not apologize. If she had better understanding of the world around her or had experiences like this herself or even had friends she cared about that had similar experiences, she may have acted differently.  

This young man and I knew that we had to react with less aggressive nature to be heard or that issue could have escalated and we would have been on the wrong side of that situation. We have to sympathize with her ignorance to enlighten her and at the same time keep us out of danger. That is our life. That is our reality. I think of Martin Luther King and his life and how many times he dealt with perceptions of who is was and what he was doing and how many times he just wanted to show his anger towards those showing hatred and anger toward him.  He and others like him had to be absolutely strong and a little crazy. I felt myself wanting to go over that counter and grab that young lady. A quick second and it would have been over for me. Thank god for spiritual guidance. 

It may be a moment before I go back to that art store if ever. I hope that the young man is also okay.

 

Colorful Women Stories: She’s Always Right

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Which skirt should I wear?

Red. Black. Flower pattern?

This one still has the tag on it.

It's beautiful, but too revealing. Is that celluilite?

I'll wear the black one with a yellow blouse. No…I will look too much like a bumble bee.

Black blouse and black skirt will match. No…this isn't a funeral. I REALLY DON'T KNOW.

Let me call her and see what she thinks. 

 

Ring…ring.

Hey. I just sent you a photo of the skirt and blouse.

Just open the message. Click it to make it bigger.

What you think?

I know it is not a funeral. Can I pull it off with yellow accessories?

Red skirt? That was my second choice. 

With a purple jacket?!!? I will look like a complete clown. I rather look like I am going to a funeral. 

I don't want…huh?

Okay – red skirt, black blouse and purple jacket (sigh) I will try it.  

Bye Ma. 

(15 minutes later)

She was right. She is always right. 

Is that Art?

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My friend wanted me to meet a young new artist. She told me that this artist's work was different than mine. After asking a few questions to my friend, I learned that the artist's drawings and creations are more realistic than my abstract-figurative style.  Most of what was shared with my friend were school assignments and from her point a view, she did not really see the  drawings as art. You know, we all had to do the school assignments. and go through these critiques where the teacher tells you what you need to improve and what is not working. School subliminally taught me to not be as critical of other people's;le's work because I feared people being critical of mine. What you create is too personal and was hard to detach the critique from a a personal attach sometimes.  I tended to just say, I may like it or may not like it but art is in the eye of the beholder.  But, when my friend so matter-of-factly stated that she did not think of the drawings she saw was art, it made me stop and be more open with myself. I asked that question I was asked on my first day in art school what is art really?  

I truly believe that anyone with time and dedication can learn how to draw, paint, play music, create a film, dance, etc.  But, art is beyond learning how to use these tools and become the expression of ourselves and our experiences through these tools. It is more than technique, which is really what our teachers were truly critiquing in our art classes. Art is something that comes from the heart and makes its way into our hands, feet, voices and eyes moving us to create something unique. This unique expression that comes out of us is still familiar enough for others to understand and appreciate but our perspective makes it our art. Art can be good and it can be bad. It can be realistic in style or it can be dots  perfectly placed in a pattern by the creator. But if these things you create do not connect with people, then it misses the mark and maybe should not be called art. Today you can go to galleries and see art that the average person would not know what the hell it is. Sometimes artists make things to shock or to be so unique that you look at it because you can't help it.  Is that art? I don't know. Art has a magical essence to it that makes it that, even after I have defined it, it is still hard to define. But here is the challenge,  when we want to make a living off of it we must define it to put monetary value to it.

I am analyzing this because I have been dedicating more of me and my time to creating art. I am doing this because I love it. I feel most like me when I am drawing, writing, creating. But am I an artists?  They say if you call yourself an artist, you are an artist. But I cannot call myself a doctor and be a doctor without credentials. I cannot call myself an architect and be an architect without credentials. I believe to call yourself a professional artists, there are some credentials you must hold. Where did you learn your craft? How many shows have I done? How many pieces have I sold? How many write ups have been written? How many tweets and followers?  The monetary value of art takes away its human value. I hate that. 

I walk away from this write up saying this. Art is the true expression of ones self. An artists is one who uses tools to creatively express and to connect with others. I think a professional artists is one that has the credentials of an artists and the rest of us are emerging artists, that includes me and the young lady my friend introduced me to. 


INSPIRATION: There are always others, but here is a small list of artists I am inspired by. I hope you enjoy. 

Kehinde Wiley
http://kehindewiley.com/works/

Shirin Neshat 
http://www.artnet.com/artists/shirin-neshat/

Kara Walker
https://www.artsy.net/artist/kara-walker

Manuel Mendive
http://www.cernudaarte.com/artists/manuel-mendive/

Candy Chang
http://candychang.com

Tyree Guyton
http://www.heidelberg.org

 

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She’s Better for You

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Hmmm, I hoped that you pick me, but I took a look at her. She is beautiful. She is a go getter. She is smart, focused and driven. I put her photo next to yours and even I had to admit you look good together. I am on Facebook and I see that you like her status, over and over and over again. I do too. She is amazing and I cannot help but compare. I am amazing too, but I am not good at telling my narrative. Not enough photos, events, posts or successes to brag about. I sit every day in my meditation chair and your face always comes between the gaps of nothing.  I think…one day, when time is right, we will cross paths and share paths – but fear that may never happen with such beauties, like her around. No, I am not jealous. I was disillusioned to think that I had a chance. My beauty only peaks outside of my bodily shell every once in a while. It can go unnoticed and it has. No, I am not jealous. I am sad. My relationship with you is just as real as the one I have created with you and her  but if I was God and I had to use my magical powers to connect people in human bliss. I would pick her for you. She's better for you. 

Belief Series: What I believe About Me

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I believe the following:

  • I am good daughter, sister and aunt
  • I am very intelligent 
  • I am creative
  • I am invisible
  • I am light
  • I am hard to love and like
  • I am loyal and love deeply
  • I keep people arms length
  • Something about me runs people off – I haven't discovered what yet
  • I follow my spirit because it leads me with love
  • I listen intently
  • I am beautiful but do not fit the standards of the world I live in – therefore, some days, 
  • I feel quite plain and ugly 
  • I am comfortable in my skin on ugly days and beautiful ones
  • I believe that I am a peaceful person with a anger streak
  • All people are equal
  • I am meaningless
  • I'm meant to be alone
  • I am looking for approval
  • I am funny
  • I will change the world for the better

I am sure this list will grow.  

 

365 Days of Creativity – Day 20

I am determined to create 365 images. I have not been faithful in doing one drawing everyday. I wish I could, but everyone implement projects in their own way. Disclaimer over. Here are two drawings I created as part of 365 Days of Creativity – Day 20.  I wanted to create two drawings – one with a lot of texture and lines, the other more minimal. Which one is more interesting? Which one keeps the attention of the viewer? Which one is better understood? This statement I am using, She said; I am not sure when I started to use it or even what it means. Maybe the women's physical form is the verbal statements.  It is so interesting to see things in drawings that come out of me that I did not consciously choose or even realize I put it on the paper. Drawings and art in its simplest form come from a deep place in us and helps up get to know ourselves a little better. I do wonder what my art says about me and the world I see. 

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365 Days of Creativity – Day 18

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After doing my cup project with kids over the holiday, I have been drawing cups using my illustration style. It has helped envigorate me and my desire to draw. Simply changing the materials can do wonders. Below are a few more images of the same cups from different angles. 

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365 Days of Creativity – Day 14

I am a little off on my creative days. I was actually working on a art project for kids and it kind of took me away from this. I want to share the cup art I created this week. I made them to give the kids who aprticipated in the project some samples to go by.  What did I listen to while I made this ? Nothing. But I would have loved to listened to Raphaeal Saddig's Big Easy. 

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