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For 35 days this past summer, the Lower East Side storefront gallery Recess housed what was billed as a "social sculpture": a series of grant-writing workshops, art critiques, a book swap, even a potluck. Titled the Black Art Incubator, it was the brainchild of four women—Kimberly Drew, 26, social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Jessica Bell Brown, 29, a research fellow at MoMA; and two arts administrators/critics, Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee Aldridge, both 27—who share a passion for art world inclusivity, along with a very millennial willingness to "create spaces for what we want immediately, rather than waiting for someone to give them to us," Lynne says.
Medium: Sculpture, printmaking
Elizabeth Catlett famously said, "I'm not thinking about doing things new and different. I'm thinking about creating art for my people." A sculptor and printmaker, Catlett was known for fighting racial equality in the arts and her expressionist portrayals of black culture in the 1960s and 1970s. One of her most famous works, Sharecropper, was created in Mexico and showed Catlett's activism for African-Americans and females in the south.Jordan Casteel spent her year long residency at Harlem's Studio Museum painting tender portraits of local black men—a guy on his bike selling kites, a young hacky-sacker. It's a project she began while earning her master of fine arts degree at Yale, informed by years of watching male family members, men she knew as thoughtful and sensitive, but "in the street, I was well aware people saw them differently." And it's one perfectly suited to the museum, which was formed in 1968 with the intention of not just promoting the work of artists of African descent but also welcoming in the surrounding community. Casteel learned she'd gotten the residency in a call from the Studio's legendary director, Thelma Golden. The artist's first words—"Are you f–ing kidding me?"—reflected not just disbelief that she'd been selected but also that she was actually speaking to Golden. "If I think about the trajectories of so many artists I admire, from Kehinde Wiley to Mickalene Thomas, a few things are consistent," Casteel says. "One is Thelma Golden."Tony Gum was in her family's house in Cape Town, South Africa, two years ago when she spotted a Coca-Cola crate on the floor. "I wondered, 'How would that look on my head?' " she says. "That's where it started." Gum, then 19, photographed herself holding a Coke to her lips while balancing the crate on her head—a traditional manner of carrying employed by African women for centuries. The resulting image was captivating and lush, hinting at fashion-world glamour but also reflecting Gum's abiding concerns with representation. "As a young black woman from South Africa, whatever we consume is marketed toward us, yet doesn't often represent us," she says. "My message is, 'You know what? If you're black, if you're a woman, if you're African—you're worth it. And you deserve to be celebrated.' " After she posted her shots online, the response was so overwhelmingly positive that she produced a series of self-portraits, titled Black Coca-Cola.
“Celebrating the power of creativity and beauty to bring light to the world”
To Malia and Sasha:
"Explore your passions. Learn who you are. Make mistakes." ~ Jenna & Barbara Bush ~
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