SELAH VIBE

The Blog of Rashayla Marie Brown.
All works copyrighted 2011-14 unless noted. Full Portfolio at RMBstudios.com

Postcard for upcoming group show at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, CA. Programming for the show includes a q&a with the filmmakers of A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy. The curator, crystal am nelson, will also host a talk on Nov. 16 with filmmaker Cheryl Dunye (Director of Watermelon Woman - details will be confirmed shortly). Sadly I won’t be in attendance at the opening, since I’m preparing for my solo show in Chicago, but I hope all my San Fran friends can attend!

The Center for Sex and Culture presents Dark Desires: The Erotic Lives of Black Women

October 1, 2014–November 15, 2014 Reception Friday, October 10, 7-10 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Dorian Katz, Gallery Director E: dorian@sexandculture.org

San Francisco, CA— The Center for Sex and Culture is pleased to present the group exhibition, Dark Desires: The Erotic Lives of Black Women. What is the role of desire in the lives of black women (cis, trans, and woman-identified)? Free and open to the public, the reception for Dark Desires is Friday, October 10, 2014, 7–10 pm at the Center for Sex and Culture. There will be an artist roundtable discussion led by the curator at 7:30 pm.

My heart is broken. The mentor who had the largest single influence on me, as an artist who writes and makes photographs, passed away Saturday afternoon. Barbara DeGenevieve’s work often unsettled me, and it is this project that drew me to her as a student. These images are from her 2006 work, The Panhandler Project. I often joked that she is my “mama in black art,” which tickled her so much. I took the joke far enough to ceremoniously anoint her an honorary black woman last fall with Mahogany Mother’s Day Cards and a tutorial on how to make a headwrap. I made a few enemies with that, I’m sure. However, she was a true ally who spoke up for students and faculty of all backgrounds and used her privilege to call other white, cis people on their complacency and prejudice. 

Barbara gave me the only incompletes on my transcript because she wanted to keep working together. This past year she insisted on doing independent studies with me, even as her health declined and I was working full time. She knew the work was not done and could see through when I was just presenting enough to get by but not actually challenging myself. 

Just a few lessons she gave: 

Have no regrets.

Guilt is an utterly useless emotion.

Be sexy and be hot. Take pleasure in your power.

Fuck what people think about you. Whatever they believe about you is on them.

Help your mother with her writing. Dream for her. 

Don’t care about being a reliable source of information. Let your audience come to their own conclusions.

Make your own autobiography. Believe whatever you want to believe.

Don’t just write “about” Michelle Obama and Beyonce. You can access them. Write questions you want to ask them directly about this work, because you can.

I want the world to take the time to get to know Barbara’s work. She worked tirelessly, even in the months before her death, as an educator and an artist, rejecting the idea of victimhood to lead to empowerment. She was in the trenches of the diversity conversation before it was popular, working behind the scenes to make SAIC a more inclusive environment. She challenged many of us who feel powerless to stop ingesting messages of inferiority and the burden of respectability. Barbara was a truly fearless and dedicated woman whose influence will be felt for years to come.

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.

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.

More pictures from the workshop rendition of “The Unholy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I.”  In this piece, I give a lecture projecting images of family and famous friends while also playing with sex and religious symbols, autobiographical narrative, and drag. (Can I get a hallelujah, Beyonce!) The hope is to marry my photographic practice, performing and writing into one cohesive experience. There will be at least two more performances of this in the summer, which I will post here. 

May was a whirlwind month, and it looks like June will be another. Some highlights from my practice of the past 30 or so days include performing for the first time my piece “The Unholy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I” as part of the Chicago Home Theater Festival and also writing a review of the festival (forthcoming). Other exciting things that fed and sustained me in a month of constant movement and travel – having brunch with Danny Glover for his visit to UChicago and dipping into the Freedom Dreams Conference at UIC, where I heard Alondra Nelson (my former professor at Yale), dream hampton, Tracye Matthews and others speak on black feminism (sadly I had to miss Angela Davis for my 10 year reunion). I also had the chance to speak on the UChicago “Intersectionality Matters” panel along with my Soror Alisha Lola Jones (we were both at Yale in the mid-aughts, crazy how things come full circle), where I advised women to fight street harassment with a hand up and a firm “NO.” There were laughs, but I hope everyone knows I really wasn’t joking…

 

June has started off with a trip to New York, spending quality time with some of my favorite artists and taking cheeky pictures in front of the Kara Walker piece, A Subtlety. Bill Gaskins and I also fleshed out details for my participation in his College Art Association 2015 panel (very excited to develop this). The next month will have another performance of “The Unholy Trinity” at Comfort Station, two group shows (one in Chicago, one in LA), writing for the Rapid Pulse Performance Festival blog, and delivering a presentation on diversity and inclusion at the AICAD conference. I’ll also cap off the month with another trip to NYC to make photographs for my solo show in October as well as see my beloved sorors and more art. Catch me if you can…call me if you can’t! 

My work is part of a group show at the White Box Studio Gallery, curated by Larry Lee to examine how artists work with text. Opening reception tonight!

My work is part of a group show at the White Box Studio Gallery, curated by Larry Lee to examine how artists work with text. Opening reception tonight!

Thank you, Dr. Angelou!

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

Reality Isn’t Good Enough
Veil 
Rashid’s Light Skinned Little Sister or
Not Fine Art (2014)

Reality Isn’t Good Enough

Veil

Rashid’s Light Skinned Little Sister or

Not Fine Art (2014)

From the as-yet-untitled “reality” series, 2014

From the as-yet-untitled “reality” series, 2014

SAIC Drag/Burlesque Series in the Windy City Times

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.

Potential titles:

Jaedyn, Bailey, and London

More than Vanity

Three Little Black Girls Playing with iPad and Smartphone in $3000 Bed

Three Little Girls

Morning in Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta

Your Future Bosses

These pictures are part of a series of photographs I have taken of my family and friends, many of whom live with a distinct sense of privilege and access. I’d like to undermine the narrow and spectacular depictions of the lives of black women and girls from reality TV, and allow space for black leisure and relaxation to be nothing more than what they are. I also understand as soon as I take a picture of daily activities they may become fetishized in another way, and there’s space to play with that expectation.

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:
Near Threatened
Endangered Species
Passing for a Leopard
You can’t see me, fool
Imitation of Life
Equal Opportunist
The Domestication Effect
True Beast
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)

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:

Near Threatened

Endangered Species

Passing for a Leopard

You can’t see me, fool

Imitation of Life

Equal Opportunist

The Domestication Effect

True Beast

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)

Come Down or Cat’s Eye (2014)
Part of an ongoing interest in appropriating slang as an inspiration for making photographs. My sister Abrina Marie Brown is the subject of this one. She has the coveted hazel eyes of our immediate family. Our Dad calls me Cat.

Come Down or Cat’s Eye (2014)

Part of an ongoing interest in appropriating slang as an inspiration for making photographs. My sister Abrina Marie Brown is the subject of this one. She has the coveted hazel eyes of our immediate family. Our Dad calls me Cat.

Just a few flyers of events I’ve organized this year.