A review of Emily Rapp Black's book, 'Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg'

Sophia Stewart reviewed Emily Rapp Black’s new book, ‘Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg’ for Hyperallergic:

The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”

But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?

Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.

Brasilândia: a platform for Black and LGBTQIA+ communities in São Paulo

METAL PRETO / Brasilândia

Ayla Angelos wrote about Brasilândia, a new multidisciplinary platform that showcases the work and communities of Black and LGBTQIA+ people.

Founded by Kelton Campos Fausto and Iama Martinho, Brasilândia was launched to provide content for the people in their neighbourhood. Kelton, a multidisciplinary artist, produces works in the video, painting and performance sphere. “They’re currently interested in the plastic construction of spiritual and cosmological scenes that propose living spaces and possibilities of health,” says Iama, “based on other ways of apprehending reality and the body.” Iama, on the other hand, is a stylist, creative, thinker and fashion producer whom within the Brasilandia space contributes to the production, styling and creation of content in all formats. She graduated in technical garment design and has since been centring her work on the production of fashion in conjunction with the “re-signification” of textile waste, as well as combining her experience as a trans woman living in a country where “transgender people are treated as garbage”.

I really like the tagline: “uma plataforma não uma objetificação” (a platform, not an objectification)

(via It’s Nice That)

Vintage pulp comics as lesbian love stories

Jenifer has always been intrigued by portraying lesbian stories in this style, especially when she discovered the effects of storytelling in comic books. The form goes beyond simply having fun, and resonates with her in a more decisively profound way. “I always wished to see lesbian stories and art when I was growing up, and the lack of that was what ultimately motivated me to illustrate my own,” she explains. “So, I always recall that old desire as a source of inspiration.”

(via It’s Nice That)

8 LGBTQ+ artists discuss self-portraits and 'Expressions of Pride'

Shikeith Vessel of Possibility (Self-Portrait) III, 2018

For Pride Month this year, Rachel Weisman curated a collection of contemporary LGBTQ+ artwork for Artsy called “Expressions of Pride: Self-Portraits and Reflections by LGBTQIA+ Artists”. Artsy spoke with artists from the LGBTQ+ community about their own self-portraits how they displayed their queer identities.

Within the LGBTQIA+ community, visibility is often a double-edged sword: It can be a tool of self-empowerment, as well as a threat to one’s safety. The radical act of expressing one’s identity, despite rejection, political pushback, and the risk of violence, is a triumph of self-actualization in the face of public scrutiny.

Black British LGBTQ+ community deserves better on-screen portrayals, says Nana Duncan

The UK film industry rarely commissions Black stories because they do not believe that our stories have an audience, and I find that astonishing. Black people are the drivers of culture, and we deserve to be represented. The only stories they seem to commission are the ones about gang violence to further perpetuate the falsehood that is Black on Black crime.

It is crucial that we explore alternative narratives to represent the multitude of nuanced Black experiences in our society. Being a womxn is one thing, being Black and British is another. My queerness adds another dimension to my identity. I am not Black before I am queer, I am not queer before I am Black, I am a queer Black British womxn.

(via Pink News)

Simon Doonan's 'Keith Haring' biography

In case you missed it, Simon Doonan wrote a biography on Keith Haring which came out in February. It’s part of a series of pocket-sized biographies about great artists called Lives of the Artists and examines Haring’s inspiring life and work during the 1980s:

Revolutionary and renegade, Keith Haring was an artist for the people, creating an instantly recognisable repertoire of symbols – barking dogs, space-ships, crawling babies, clambering faceless people – which became synonymous with the volatile culture of 1980s. Like a careening, preening pinball, Keith Haring playfully slammed into all aspects of this decade – hip-hop, new-wave, graffiti, funk, art, style, gay culture – and brought them together.

Grab a copy of the book on Bookshop and let me know what you think in the comments.

Robb Report on the iconic fashion designer Willi Smith #

willi smith

According to a 1983 People magazine article, Smith’s brand employed 85 people and shipped its men’s and women’s lines—WilliWear is credited as the first brand to encompass both under one label—to more than 1,000 department stores nationwide. A year later, the company was grossing some $25 million annually (over $55 million when adjusted to today’s figures) and embarked on the first artistic collaboration of its kind with the likes of Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger and Keith Haring creating widely accessible designs. And yet for many who weren’t alive at the time of Smith’s massive success, his name was a mystery before 2020.

The photography of Kennedi Carter

Kennedi Carter is an African-American photographer from North Carolina who specialises in photography and creative direction of Black subjects.

Her work highlights the aesthetics & sociopolitical aspects of Blackness as well as the overlooked beauties of the Black experience: skin, texture, trauma, peace, love and community. Her work aims to reinvent notions of creativity and confidence in the realm of Blackness.

Jacqui Palumbo profiled her latest works for Artsy where Carter depicted expressions of Black love:

Drawn from her series “East Durham Love” (2019), the works on view at Rosegallery feature images of Black love that Carter shot as her own relationship underwent a significant transition. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ending; it was just the reforming of a relationship,” she said. “It was the first time I had truly experienced love. And I think part of the project was trying to unpack what [it] meant to me as well as what I’d like to think it meant for them.”

Carter’s series contrasts the oversaturation of Black trauma we’ve seen in the press this year and, in her words, “manifested the type of love” she thought she deserved. “There was this sense of longing and truly experiencing what it means to miss someone.”

Val & Shaq, from The Soloist, 2019
Lovely Boys, from The Ganzy, 2020

For more, read the Artsy article and check out Carter’s collection on her website.

The painted paper art of Mark Bradford

mark bradford

Black gay artist Mark Bradford spoke to Francesca Aton of Art in America about his use of paper in his paintings.

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles on 20th November 1961. He’s best known for combining paint and paper collage to create his work, as well as using the themes of masculinity and gender.

End papers, small rectangular sheets of translucent paper that protect hair during the perm process, are the basis of Los Angeles–based painter Mark Bradford’s early artworks. While working in his mother’s beauty salon, Bradford began integrating the papers into abstract paintings, creating a layered scrim through which the paint emerges. The artist, guided by an interest in common materials, has incorporated items from around Los Angeles—including fragments of posters, broadsides, and billboards—to tackle issues of civil unrest.

Bradford on his use of paper and how that evolved:

I hadn’t given much thought to the materiality of the end papers until I started experimenting with other types of paper. End papers are similar to tissue paper, and are very absorbent and translucent. When I was painting, it was a lot easier to achieve layers of color due to those qualities of the end papers. As I started adding more opaque materials, like billboard and poster paper, the paintings looked flat. That’s when I began dunking paper in water. I thought maybe if the pulp disintegrated, a little bit of light could pass through. This addition really shifted my practice. To this very day, I still use water because it’s the only thing that pulls the paper apart and makes it flow like paint.

And how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests have impacted his work:

At the beginning of the pandemic, I had a lot of triggers because in some ways it reminded me of the AIDS epidemic. It’s been great to see that so many have mobilized in this moment for positive change and have found creative and interesting ways to make their voices heard. I’ve learned to be kind of fluid and keep creating work. I like to say that I’m not on Pacific Standard Time, but rather on Pandemic Standard Time—and I chuckle when people send me calendar invites for upcoming events.

Read the full interview on Art in America.

Kehinde Wiley – The World Stage: Jamaica

Photos of Kehinde Wiley's The World Stage: Jamaica exhibition

Back in 2013, African American artist Kehinde Wiley presented his first ever UK solo exhibition, entitled “The World Stage: Jamaica”. Stephen Friedman Gallery hosted the exhibition with Frieze London and it featured Jamaican men and women emulating poses from 17th and 18th Century British portraits. The concept demonstrated the relationship between Jamaica’s citizens and the island’s former colonialists with Wiley’s trademark “naturalistic” style.

Wiley embellishes his paintings with intricate, ornate backgrounds that contradict the sombre posturing of the subjects and allude to the bold styles of urban fashion. Pieces of these symbolic patterns overlay and entwine the figure, both harmoniously fusing and creating opposition between the two contrasting elements that form the work. In previous series, this decoration has been inspired by a fusion of period styles, ranging from Islamic architecture to Dutch wax printed textile and French Rococo design. In this new body of work, lavish patterning informed by the British textile designer William Morris surrounds the figures.

via Kehinde Wiley’s press release for the exhibition

About Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 in Los Angeles to a Nigerian father and an African American mother. His mother supported his art and, after enrolling in after-school art classes, he went to art school in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the age of 12.

After spending time with his father in Nigeria, he returned to the US and earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art. He has since presented 13 solo exhibitions, won countless awards, and worked with the likes of Puma and Givenchy.

In an accompanying video, Wiley discusses his initial artistic inspirations and how traveling around the world opened his outlook. For the Jamaica exhibition, he explored British art museums for inspiration and commented on portraiture in British colonial history:

“[…] in particular, I saw the works that had a direct relationship to the Caribbean. I love the history of art, I love looking at the beautiful images but I also recognise that there is something quite sinister about their past. High portrait making points back to the history of art and in that history, art has always been in a cosy relationship with the state and with the church.”

Kehinde Wiley

Stream the 7-minute video below. And Happy Independence Day, Jamaica!

Check out some of the exhibition below and head to the official Stephen Friedman Gallery page for the rest.

Rememory: a creative directory for Black women and non-binary people

rememory

I wrote about gal-dem in March and now there’s another dedicated platform for Black women and non-binary people to come together in the name of creativity.

It’s called Rememory.

What is Rememory?

Founded by Mia Coleman, a Black illustrator and designer, Rememory brings together the incredible work of Black women and non-binary people of the African Diaspora. The burgeoning directory showcases their narratives and experiences through an array of disciplines including:

  • Architecture
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Writing
  • Filmmaking
  • Animation

Mia explains that Rememory is for both creatives to “help people boost visibility for black women” and for employers to “consider hiring women into promotions above their current role” and place them in spaces often taken up by men.

Rememory is directory and blog spot of black creatives with beginner to expert experience in various creative roles. This platform aims to help people boost visibility for black women breaking into the creative industry while providing them with insight on creative paths on our #ArtCrush monthly interviews.

Quote from Mia Coleman (source)

Where does the word “rememory” come from?

The term “rememory” was coined by Toni Morrison in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved. It described a recollection of a forgotten moment by the book’s main character, Sethe, and was chosen by the directory’s founder as a homage to Morrison’s lifelong work in “centering black women and their narratives”.

How to join

You can join Rememory by heading over to the Join Us page and filling out your details. You can select up to 4 professions from a choice of 18 or include any unnamed occupations you may hold.

Rememory is packed full of incredible women and non-binary people with abundances of talent.

How to get in touch

Here are some links to follow Rememory on social media and contact Mia:

Interview with Sareta Fontaine

sareta fontaine

Today’s interviewee is the wonderful Sareta Fontaine. She is a writer and content creator with a creative flair most of us can only dream of having. It was an honour and a pleasure to have Sareta participate so enjoy the interview!

What is your favourite city in the world?

My favourite city in the world is currently Amsterdam. It’s only a 50-minute flight (I hate flying), and everyone is super friendly, super chilled and open-minded. I’d look into having an apartment there if I could. I’d have a little apartment next to the canal, with window boxes full of beautiful flowers. I’d go on weekends with my laptop and write all day like Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and The City)…dreamy!  

What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go? 

Probably crumbs. The bottom of my bag is always covered in crumbs from snacks I’ve had ready for my kids. No matter what I do, crumbs will be there. 

Why do you do what you do?

I love to create art, and I love to make people laugh. Whether it’s a video or photography, or something I’ve made with my hands, I love creating! I guess I always enjoyed making things as a child, so a lot of my toys I created myself. I’d make trains and houses out of shoeboxes and mini characters out of Fimo oven-bake clay, and play with those for hours. I suppose I never really grew out of it. I enjoy making things and seeing the finished product. 

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?

Five minutes ago, lol! I just said I love you and goodnight to my boys.

Where do you go to relax?

What is relax please? I don’t even know anymore! I’d probably have a glass of wine and chill on my sofa, along with disco lights and incense. 

69, 280, or 420?

420 for sure. But what does 280 stand for? I’m out of the loop and feel old now. 

How do you say goodbye in your culture?

See you later. Which has always confused me because “later” may mean later on in the day… or week, right? But yeah, my family have always said: “See you later” in a London accent, of course.

Support the gal-dem platform and become a member

gal-dem

When I started Cultrface, it was at a time when I was escaping some personal issues. But as time went by, I wanted it to be a place to share the experiences of people of colour and their cultures.

gal-dem is on a similar journey and yesterday, the publication announced the launch of its Patreon membership scheme. According to a tweet posted yesterday, the idea was in the pipeline but given current world events, they felt it emphasised their need to “future-proof the platform” and I couldn’t agree more.

What is gal-dem?

gal-dem is a publication that focuses on the lives and journeys of women and non-binary people of colour. It was founded in 2015 by Liv Little and the magazine is available annually through the printed issue and online through the website.

In 2016, its editorial collective curated an event at the Victoria and Albert Museum and in 2018, the team guest-edited an issue of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine. gal-dem also released an anthology called “I Will Not Be Erased”: Our Stories About Growing Up As People of Colour in 2019.

Through the print magazine and online platform, gal-dem addresses the constant misrepresentation of women and non-binary POCs in the media by challenging the industry. This is done through a gamut of essays, editorials, and news from the community, covering the arts, music, politics and horoscopes.

Perks of being a gal-dem member

There are plenty of Patreon memberships out there for all kinds of content creators. For gal-dem, your contributions can help towards a lot of things:

  • Shifting the imbalance away from the 94% white and 55% male media population
  • Bring different cultural conversations from marginalised groups to the table
  • Membership can also help them work with other members of the community and create more breathtaking and important work

There are three membership plans to choose from, with monthly or yearly subscriptions (the annual fee works out cheaper per month). If you’re able to contribute and you want to switch the media narrative, become a gal-dem member today.

And follow gal-dem on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

BECOME A GAL-DEM MEMBER!

An interview with "Sampira"

Scream mask

Another day, another great interview with my Twitter friend, Sampira.

What is your favourite city in the world?

I’d have to say Berlin, so far. The people were mad friendly and the architecture is stunning. There’s some parts of the city that are understandably heavy, but it seems to be a city that is thoughtful and apologetic about its history. I don’t know what it’s like to live there, but from a tourism standpoint, they don’t seem to hide it or sweep it under the rug. Every museum is like, it happened, it never should have, and it won’t again if we can help it. 

What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?

I take crystals to really important days, depending on what I feel I need on the day. That’s always good as an ice breaker, if they don’t think I’m the Blair Witch. I guess that’s the most unusual thing. 

Why do you do what you do?

I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. I remember being about 7 and watching Scream for the first time and just… It was like time stopped. I was scared but I felt it in my whole body, but I couldn’t look away. I still think that’s a dope mask too. One of the best. And it kind of started there and exploded. I’d watched all the Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween films by the time I was 10. I’d never experienced anything like it. I was just hooked.

Then when you start trying to make it yourself, you really understand the mastery, and it gives you a deeper love for it. And then I looked around Britain and was like… We don’t back horror like America does. Like there are directors that really back and advocate for horror and see it as the pride of their body of work. They love it so much. I don’t think it’s because there’s not people that want to do it, I think it’s because there’s not visible people here that are like “Yeah, that’s my shit” loudly, y’know? They don’t say it with their whole chest.  

And then when I figured out I was gonna make a go of it and commit to my love, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of people like me in it (mixed race, lesbian, etc) and there weren’t those stories. So it became even clearer and I couldn’t escape it. And my friends too. Any representation of colour I’d seen in horror, was of people my colour, so there was even less representation for people darker than me, which was so crazy to me. So, that was it. And that’s what I’m committed too. Just making dope shit with my mates, and if we scare people, we scare people. If we don’t, we sure had fun! 

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?

I tell my dad and step mum a lot. You just never know. And my dog. He’s probably sick of hearing it, tbh!

Where do you go to relax?

I drive at night a lot. Go swimming. Watch a good film, but the soundtrack has to be on point. 

69, 280, or 420?

280. 280 sounds good. Like an old horror film’s kill count.

How do you say goodbye in your culture?

I’m a hugger, I think. Everything ends with a hug.