Tag Archives: Jamaica

Astro-Caribbean: Return

The last post for Caribbean Heritage Month is a mix between Space:Queens and Art of This World segments, featuring three visual artists whose work I’ve seen in Queens — Reginald Rosseau and his exhibition, Unmasked — Embodiment of Spirits, at Seed Capital Cafe; Nari Ward and his G.O.A.T., Again exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park, and Fritz St. Jean who lives in the southeast Queens area and whose daughter I met a few months ago at the Queens Council on the Arts grant awardees ceremony.

Reginald Rosseau

“Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau is a Haitian-born and Harlem-made working artist whose artworks are generating a lot of buzz, in the hood and beyond. In addition, he is the founder of the Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau: Harlem Art Projects, a creative space located in a funky storefront which serves as part working art studio, part art gallery and part retail art store, for him to create, promote, exhibit and sell his artworks. The creative space also serves a physical space to connect with the community, collectors, curators as well as galleries.

His artistic style, which he affectionately, coined “Neo-Haitian Expressionism”, is derives from a radical fusion of Haitian Art, African Art, Street Art, POP-Art, Folk Art, Stained Glass, Pointillism, Art Nouveau and Modern Abstraction. His work, which explores multi-ethnicity and multicultural identity, are based on his own personal experiences as a Haitian, a Blackman and an Immigrant with a Haitian heritage encompassing a unique blend of African traditional customs, mixed with contributions from the French, Caribbean, Latin, American and indigenous Taíno culture. His signature work, encompasses curvilinear black lines, vibrant colors, flatness of forms, jeweled pointillism, multi-layered textures and bold patterns.  On a recent interview, when asked to describes his working process, Reginald responded ‘My working process, is like jazz, with an eight-bar theme, you start it by the “T” and improvise as you go to generates rhythmic accents and beats as well as conveys emotion and power’.”

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Nari Ward

Via Socrates Scuplture Park: Jamaica-American mixed-media artist Nari Ward “recasts tropes of outdoor structures – the monument, the playground, lawn ornaments, architectural barriers, and the advertising sign – into surreal and playful creations. Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again examines how hubris creates misplaced expectations in American cultural politics. This exhibition also brings new insight into the artist’s exploration of identity, social progress, the urban environment, and group belonging.

G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a phrase commonly used in American sports, made famous by Muhammad Ali, and in hip-hop, most notably, as the title of Queens native LL Cool J’s best-selling album. The title alludes to the African-American experience and political theater – common themes in Ward’s work.

The figure of the goat features prominently in Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again as the artist’s articulation of social dynamics, conjuring the animal’s attributes and symbolic connotations, from an ambitious climber of great heights to an outcast. A flock of goats cast from lawn ornaments traverse the landscape, both in groups and as solitary individuals, manifesting the show’s title. The appropriation of the word goat, turning an insult into a moniker for excellence, demonstrates the power of wordplay, while the modifier again implies historical repetition. Scapegoat, a forty-foot long hobby toy further develops the goat metaphor and highlights another strand of the show: the satirization of virility, masculinity, and monument…”

Nari Ward’s exhibition is the first single presentation of an artist in the park’s 30-year history. Read the New Yorker feature about the exhibition.

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Fritz St. Jean

“Born in Port Au Prince, Fritz St. Jean emerged as one of Haiti’s most illustrious self-taught artists. Initially, his style consisted of painting animal and jungle scenes on canvas. However, in 1980, St. Jean broke away from the staid pastoral themes to memorialize his hopes and dreams for Haiti through his paintings. Being widely viewed as socio-political commentaries on the dichotomous realities of Haitian life, St. Jean’s paintings transport the viewer to scenes of mysticism, idealism, and humanity all in one. He is noted as a master in color and detail as his works are continuously punctuated by the use of bold colors and fine lines. Often, his paintings celebrate Haiti’s religious culture in Voodoo and encapsulate its rich history. Paying tribute to a country that was once called La Perle des Antilles (The Pearl of Antilles due to its natural beauty and countenance), St. Jean’s paintings are artistic love notes to his homeland.  Suffice it to say, Haiti continues to be the source of St. Jean’s inspiration.”

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Art of This World: Renee Cox’s ‘Sacred Geometry’

Self-Portrait of Renee Cox

Jamaican-American visual artist Renee Cox recently released her latest collection of work, Sacred Geometry: where she turns bodies of various people into mandala-inspired geometric fractal patterns. Given several of the stories I have heard lately in the news, her work is again relevant, reinforcing the divine power and value of ourselves, our cultures, our spirituality, and our bodies that is so often dismissed in the world we live. Here is part of her artist statement about her collection:

“…My new body of work, ‘Sacred Geometry,’ consists of digitally manipulated black & white portraits that display self-similar patterns. They are executed with precision, creating sculptural kaleidoscopes of the human body while exploring the power of symbols as elements of collective imagination. The inspiration for this new work comes from fractals, a mathematical concept centuries old and used by many ancient African cultures.

The work has also been the result of my embrace of the digital world. Bridging the gap between the old and new technology has brought on new challenges and endless possibilities. As the digital world has transformed the medium, I have embraced it and integrated it into my process.

 ‘Sacred Geometry’ has brought a new viewing experience. The simplicity and connectivity of the fractal concept seems to be engaging the viewer in a profoundly different way, bringing a certain peace, reflection and joy.”

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Art of This World: Myrna Loy (Lady Loy)

Art submission from Myrna Loy:

Loy is a poet, visual artist, author, DJ, Blackbright News Magazine founder and podcaster of Jamaican British descent. She has published two books of poetry and a travelogue — Poetry’s Promise, Poetry’s Teacher, and The Other Side of Tourism. Besides finding and editing Blackbright News, which discusses topics of race and health issues, she also hosts and DJ Loy On Life on Jamrock Radio.

Below is some of her artwork which tends to have a futuristic, fantastical and mystical bent to them as a way to confront race, gender, ethnicity, family, and identity. You can view more of her art here.

"Strangers in Our Midst"
“Strangers in Our Midst”

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Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing

Sorry everyone that I have been gone so long. I kind of was distracted for a bit. But I am back! In light of some of the recent internet controversies that happened last week, including one involving Harriet Tubman (shame on you Russell!), here is a some uplifting videos: 1) Kina Sky from Jamaican filmmaker Corretta Singer (found her film on caribBEING) 2) and an oldie but goodie — Salt n Pepa’s “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing.” Enjoy!

“Kina Sky is a short sci-fi digitally animated fantasy film… The lead character, who the movie is named after, is a cyborg who takes to flight and must overcome obstacles along the way.”

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Moving on the Wires: Black Girls Code in NYC +Afrikadaa/Afrofuturism +Afrofuturism 2070+Black Girls Are From the Future+Blogging While Brown…

*On Thursday in Brooklyn, Black Girls Code will have a free screening of their documentary with founder Kimberly Bryant. “The event will help support our expanded Summer of CODE 2013 and bring our mobile lab to 10 new cities and reach 2,000 more girls. In addition, we will discuss the development of New York City Chapter of Black Girls CODE.” Click here to rsvp.

*Afrikadaa Magazine recently released their issue 5 on Afrofuturism, which features both French and English articles. Take a look at it here and the other issues, too (“Birth,” “Black Renaissance,” “Visibility,” “Identity”).

*At the San Francisco Main Public Library’s African American Center, the exhibition Afro-Futurism: Envisioning the Year 2070 and Beyond is running till August 1 and features artists Durrell Owens; Ajuan Mance; Karen Oyekanmi; Tomye; Malik Seneferu (whose wife, Karen Senefru recently did the Black Women is God exhibition); James Anderson; Safety First; Michael Ross; Jarrel Phillips; Nyame Brown; James M. Kennedy; Sara Marie Prada. Read about it here.

*The tentative table of contents for the upcoming book Black Girls Are From the Future were released with topic including Steve Harvey, For Colored Girls, hair, technology, twerking, Whitney Houston, Makode Linde and more. B

*I will be at Blogging While Brown on Saturday and will be tweeting from the event under the hashtag #FABWB

Continue reading Moving on the Wires: Black Girls Code in NYC +Afrikadaa/Afrofuturism +Afrofuturism 2070+Black Girls Are From the Future+Blogging While Brown…

Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors

I found this post via the Canadian afrofuturist website Outterregion:

(Note: I edited some of it)

Ebony G. Patterson

Justice, truth be ours forever
Jamaica land we love
– Excerpt from Jamaican National Anthem

The media has been showing only stories of violence from Jamaica for some time now due to unrest in West Kingston. It was very important to me tonight to share some ‘positive vibes’ from Jamaica and to talk about some afrofuturist art happening there and in the Caribbean.

The first artist I will profile is Ebony G. Patterson. She is a young woman, born in Kingston, Jamaica. She is an Assistant Professor of Painting at University of Kentucky and in Kingston. I call Ebony an afrofuturist as her work challenges the status quo in Jamaican culture, rejects the traditional and expected, and pushes the boundaries of art. For example, her earlier work exploring women’s bodies “focused on the vagina as an object and, by implication, examined the taboos that surround this body part and its functions within Jamaican culture.” …

Her more recent works focus on the male body. More specifically she looks at contradictions of men’s appearance in Jamaican dancehall culture, e.g. skin bleaching, eyebrow shaping – traditionally feminine features, while the men also portray themselves as hardcore, masculine gangstas.
The picture above this post is from her installation, “Gangstaz, Disciplez + The Doiley Boyz”….
Also, Ebony participated in the 2009 Jamaica Arts Cultural Exchange. For information on this event and more on Ebony’s work, go here.

The second feature in this post is about a group of afrofuturist artists called The Grand Rue Sculptors. They are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I call them afrofuturists because they, like Ebony, push boundaries – do not accept the life that has been given to them and create new realities. They live daily with the reality that life as an artist in Haiti is near impossible – no government support and the inability to even get visas to see their own work displayed outside of the country. In 2009, they developed and hosted the Ghetto Biennale – and invited international artists to participate and explore “what happens when first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” (source: http://www.yoonsoo.com)
Read about Ghetto Biennale here.

One love,

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Claude McKay

Below is a 1926 poem by Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay, called “My Home.” It contains, I believe, some of the elements from both afrofuturism and afrosurrealism:

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