Friday, January 22, 2010

Marissa's Visual Diary: African Inspiration

Africa is the root of so much creativity which has spread throughout the world. Whether it's music, visual art, or fashion, you can find the presence of African aesthetics. I study a lot of images to feed my own creativity, and I wanted to share some of what I have in my "visual diary" that comes from Africa. The majority of these images were taken in two locations: The main library in Philadelphia had a wonderful exhibit of photography and sculpture over the summer that I was fortunate to get a look at, along with the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection of African art. My work is heavily influenced by African imagery and sculpture, and I create facial markings, jewelry, and symbols for the characters I paint based on images such as these. Often it's not easy for African Americans to pinpoint what country in Africa they came from (although we do know that most descendants of those brought to the US during slavery have roots in West Africa), and my response to this has been to draw on the continent's rich cultural history and use my imagination to tell the story of my ancestors, powerful survivors and creators. My purpose is also to infuse the current phase of our journey with magic. Because as Mos Def says, we are living "life in marvelous times." I also must give honorable mention to Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. What a resource! They have a photo archive where you can go in and request photos from a particular group, era, or topic, and they'll bring out boxes and boxes of archived material. You can lierally spend a day there just looking and soaking up visual information. I recently spent time there viewing photos from Bahia in the 1800s.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now Showing: Marvelous Color

The Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diasporan Institute in Manhattan's latest exhibit is Marvelous Color, a tribute to Black superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe. The exhibition includes artwork from various comics series from the 1960s to the present. In addition to comic book sketches, covers, and illustrations, each wall was hand painted with these superheroes in larger-than-life size. The exhibition was produced by Somos Arte with the help of Marvel's editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada (who also created The Santerians, a team of superheroes based on the Orishas of the Santeria religion:, and includes some of Marvel's most popular superheroes, such as Storm from the X-Men and The Black Panther, along with other heroes who had their heyday in the 60s and 70s, such as Luke Cage and The Falcon.

My personal favorite ( I was a HUGE X-Men comic book fan growing up) was the wall devoted to Storm, particularly the illustrations of her in that fabulous 1970s costume (she looks part superhero, part Bond girl!) Marvelous Color is on display until February 26th at CCCADI, 408 West 58th Street in New York City. For more information, log onto:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Now Showing: Live To Change Something Through Art

There's an arts renaissance happening in Brooklyn. The lens of the New York art world, typically trained on Manhattan and its established artists, museums, and galleries, is shifting its focus towards Brooklyn, a borough fast becoming hotbed of emerging artists, galleries, and alternative spaces. Coup d' etat Arts Collective has captured much of this lively energy in their latest show, Live To Change Something Through Art. The show, featuring a variety of Brooklyn-based emerging talent, was curated by Brownsville native Nakeisha Gumbs, and drew quite a crowd to the Skylight Gallery at Restoration Plaza in the heart of Bed-Stuy for its November opening reception. The show was sponsored by Puma (some of the artists even received pairs of complimentary sneakers) along with local Brooklyn businesses Karen's Body Beautiful and Kush.

Says Coup d'etat co-founder Rasu Jilani, "the voices of urban image-makers have too often been dismissed as inarticulate and underexposed. This exhibition was developed to help my fellow creators build positive awareness of their work while exposing our youth to the many vehicles of self-expression."

The works chosen for the show reflect a variety of perspectives, from the deeply personal, to political, and even spiritual. Live To Change Something Through Art is on display until January 31st at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, 3rd floor, Brooklyn, New York. Skylight Gallery hours: Wednesday through Friday 11am-6pm, Saturdays 1pm-6pm