With issues like gentrification and displacement of marginalized communities as well as the redevelopment of the Jamaica/Southeast Queens area, those of us who are from the area have a lot to think and worry about. What does the future of the neighborhood look like for us? Local design student, Sada Spence, who lived in Southeast Queens, decided to start a project series, called DARK, where local community members could discuss the future of the African diaspora.
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 “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’.”
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.
“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.”
Yesterday, I heard those words from our current borough president, Melinda Katz, who discussed all the changes that are happening in Queens and how those changes will affect us. Right before her address, I was fortunate to sit amongst a few community members who discussed what responsibilities we need to take to build our futures here. Because changes are coming to this borough and some of them may not have out best interest at heart.
Happy New Year everyone!
I’m back with a few surprises!
First up is my first official Futuristically Ancient video that I edited, featuring artists Damali Abrams and Dennis RedMoon Darkeem presenting their work JCAL’s First Friday’s in Jamaica, Queens. As we go forth in a new year and with the disturbing atmosphere surrounding us right now due to the upcoming inauguration, cabinet picks, the confirmation hearings, and ethics of it all, I hope these visionary artists can give you a few words of encouragement and upliftment. As Damali said, “if we can’t begin to imagine something outside of tragedy, then we will never be able to create any new realties for ourselves.” I believe both Damali’s and Dennis’s work encapsulate what I’d like to call “scarab imaginations” of what is possible and how to make creative use of pain or waste.
Hello! Welcome back to my Astro-Caribbean series with a double dose of Space:Queens for you! Last week, I had artist Shervone Neckles and now I present to you Damali Abrams! Damali is a talented visual artist, writer and herbalist, who is using her talents to help to heal the world. Enjoy my interview with her below:
1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
I am Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess. I make art and herbal remedies.
My work is about healing and transcendence, as well as creating a space of liberation for the Black imagination.
2) As a visual artist, tell us about the transformative power of image.
I’m a visual thinker as well as a writer. There are certain ideas that I can only express as images, others only as words.
Our culture does not value visual art as much as it does writing but the things that we see affect us so deeply on a subconscious level, in ways we often don’t even realize. Images are very powerful and can be extremely transformative. The things we see most often profoundly affect who and what we become.
Hello Everyone! I am back from my Barbados trip, where I learned a lot about the country, including finding out about some great visionary artists and creatives there. Speaking of visionary artists, below is my interview with Queens-based visual artist, educator, and community activist Shervone Neckles whose work looks at the intersections between science, nature, art, story and community. I hope you have enjoyed my Astro-Caribbean series for the past few weeks and although I am back, I will continue it for a week or two, including some of the artists I found out about in Barbados. Stay tuned!
“I’m fascinated with the idea that the source of one’s healing and nurturing can also be the source of one’s pain and suffering…”
1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m Shervone Neckles, an interdisciplinary artist, educator, community worker and art administrator. I am a first generation Caribbean-American raised in East Flatbush Brooklyn to Grenadian parents. My work weaves together concepts of nature and science with objects and practices rooted in Afro-Caribbean tradition.The art objects I make (book arts, printmaking, sculpture and multi-media techniques) are part of my ethnographic study on the social meaning of beauty, identity, and cultural authenticity within black womanhood.
In addition, my practice includes social experiments and curatorial projects that explores the commonalities, differences, contradictions, continuities and the many possibilities of cooperative learning and civic responsibility. I believe this exchange between community and artist is crucial to our ability to protect, preserve and make change where we live, work and practice from an informed and respectful place.