Vagabunda, features work by Rashayla Marie Brown that explores notions of privilege, migration, and the search for power and freedom through a variety of mediums.
Getting ready to embark on some trips and experience some mundane and spectacular beauty. I’ve been looking at this picture of my mother a lot, because it failed in a lot of areas technically and I want to recreate it now that I’ll see her in a few days. However, I realized maybe I should let it go. I’ll be prepared to make photographs but will trust the moment, instead of the preconceived notion of a good image. Everything right now is exactly how it should be, and everything tomorrow will be exactly as it should be. This is the mental process I’m going through to understand what is surfacing in my work as a creator of embodied and represented experiences, words and images of the Afro-feminine Diaspora. La bruja ya llegó.
Also on my mind, this Mercury Retrograde is serving some tough love. Mercury is in Gemini also, which is good for movement but makes us feel ungrounded, especially us ruled by Mercury (Gems and Virgos, I have special love for you). Taking time to re-evaluate patterns, let go of fear and routine, and create a new future. Giving only what I can give and respecting boundaries. Facing the ugly and beautiful truth. Praising the Creator for this new day, and the possibility of making something that I didn’t expect with His/Her/Their help.
Dr. Angelou, I cannot be sad that you have passed today. I feel immense joy that you have lived a life with arms wide open, taking it by the reins and never ceasing to do what you needed and wanted to do. You were on my mind this morning, and I didn’t know why. A voice told me to go take some classes in Spanish, French or Portuguese, because that’s what Maya Angelou would do. Then I thought I should put a picture of you up in my office next to the one of Billie Holiday, since I needed visual reminders of actualized talent as much as wasted ones. Like other renaissance people, I read your books and felt that, finally, someone had put into words what we’ve felt in our hearts, but the world says is crazy, too much, or impossible.
"I have a theory that nobody understands talent any more than we understand electricity. So I think we’ve done a real disservice to young people by telling them, “Oh, you be careful. You’ll be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I think you can be a jack-of-all-trades and a mistress-of-all-trades. If you study it, and you put reasonable intelligence and reasonable energy, reasonable electricity to it, you can do that." - Maya Angelou, quoted from Smithsonian.com
This title contains the link to coverage by the Windy City Times of the Drag and Burlesque Werkshops I helped to plan with JRV Majesty Productions and SAIC’s Student Programming Board. We provided these workshops to give more historical and cultural context to the two performance art forms and also allow deeply personal narratives of Chicago-based artists to be woven into our ongoing conversations about LGBTQ rights at the school. The events were very well attended and an opportunity to engage the local community in a meaningful and substantial way in our annual program the Drag and Burlesque Ball. I hope to create more opportunities for this type of collaboration in the future.
Since transitioning from a student to a practicing artist with a job within a prestigious institution like SAIC, I’ve been working very hard to create safe spaces where folks can explore their identity at the same time as their artistic practice. I’m continuously inspired by the resilience and solidarity of our local arts communities, particularly queer collectives and other typically marginalized groups in Chicago. Additionally, the students at SAIC have also taught me so much about moving beyond tolerance and inclusion to celebration and community.
Many of my photographs are now incredibly mundane - pictures of black people lounging, relaxing, doing nothing but existing in real time. However, I have not lost the desire to portray a spectacle, to get lost in the stereotypes that persist in representations of black women that I also love to enact and perform, but even more, to consider style and the artifice of adornment as substance. Old habits die hard.
Today, this piece is Keïta and Sherman Had a Baby (2014). Tomorrow, the title may be any of the following:
Passing for a Leopard
You can’t see me, fool
Imitation of Life
The Domestication Effect
Dionysius, the Dying God
For My Grandma Who Passed for White, then Stopped
Living a Lie is a Poor Substitute
Jeremiah 13:23: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Fuck you, I like leopard
50 Shades of Slay (Courtesy of Danielle Rennalls)