I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Always. I knew that even with my scribble scrabble. As I grew up, maturing and nurturing passionate craft, it was the Harlem Renaissance lighting hot fire in junior high creativity. I had to learn on cultural artist ancestors on my own. Rogue style. In school, Michelangelo, Rafael, Da Vinci, and Picasso filled our minds and canvases. Frida Kahlo for me too. I love Frida. At the library I fell in love with Augusta Savage, William H. Johnson, Romare Bearden, Palmer Hayden, Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, and others. Currently reading Zora Neale Hursten– a sharp, brilliant mind robbed of Pulitzer. Painting, drawing, sculpture, literature, music, and everything enriched me. Everything. Back then. Now. I cannot stop being taught.
So I came to Harlem on Saturday, enchanted thoughts in mind. I had no idea that 2 or 3 train wouldn’t be running and got lost along the way (thanks Google Maps and construction!). Eventually I figured it out. I walked down W. 125th Street with splendid urban romanticism and desires to fill sketchbook. Visceral inspiration surrounded lukewarm winter. Not too cold for exploration. Although there are chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s, fairy tale length hair extension stores next to African braiding and barber shops, promises are kept rooted on Malcolm Luther King Jr and African Streets. It was bewildering to be nestled in the comforts of diaspora. Imagine periods of divine desperation to find paper, clay, or instrument to unleash talented prowess from within.
Apollo. Still known for it’s Amateur Night. Started so many careers like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, The Jackson 5, Mariah Carey, and Lauryn Hill. Risque comedians like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Headliners like the Staple Sisters, Mahalia Jackson (amazing voice!!!), Stan Getz (was Astrud Gilberto with him ever?!), and Ray Charles. It’s definitely a place enriched in history. So happy that it’s one that still stands.
It’s exciting to have Titus Kaphar as a visiting critic this semester. Yes, I’ll miss Abigail Deville. She was engaging, humorous, and understanding. Lots of ideas. Lots. I had my second visit with Titus last Friday. First time we met, I was a Post Baccalaureate student struggling with painting. Realism or abstract. Realism or abstract. Instructors wanted me to either paint academically (with trained proficiency after all it’s an academia college) or go completely abstract- collaging if need be. I have since shifted towards watercolor and weird sculpture. He was surprised. I am too in a way. I love painting. Love it. Always have.