BK Grrrls - Wangechi, Mickalene, Aissata & co.
If I were to believe Biggie or even the now defunct NRG Magazine, Brooklyn girls supposedly got it going on. And if last night's sojourn from the Heights to Bed Stuy proved anything it was just that—that like the sprawling terrain itself, the grrrls too are mad deep. First stop was this Stoop Series co-presented by BRIC's Rotunda Gallery, which I had never heard of and NY Magazine. I've been on NY Mag's guest list for events for almost two years now and I don't remember them ever doing anything in Brooklyn and surely nothing that centered around the work of not one, but two Black women. So needless to say I was looking forward to this event that featured a conversation with artists Wangechi Mutu and Mickalene Thomas. I met Wangechi a year ago at a birthday party and ever since I've been hearing things (mostly good) about her seemingly everywhere so I was especially amped to see if she lived up to the hype. I has seen her work up close at this reception given for the President of Liberia at the Nubian Heritage and though it was aight. Honestly I wasn't really moved by her work until last night when this Kenyan homegrrrl started breaking down the symbolism and metaphors that define her collage. I was totally in awe as she talked about her creative process and how that is fueled by African history, sexism and sexuality, race and politics. She was saying things like:
When I am in my studio there is no white or black—(there's) no race. Nothing can stop me from what (I) have to do.and...
I started to think what does it mean to change these images of Black women? And how do we define beauty. In a way I guess I violate these images. It's a critique though-- the hacking and the cutting and that happens within beauty. I don't believe in purity. My cutting, and hacking is actually who we are.True dat!
Mickalene who was inspired by photographer Adrian Piper was less garrulous, but made interesting points nonetheless:
People usually associate eroticism with pornography and for me those are two different things. For me eroticism is a creative energy of empowerment—our history, our language, where we are from.
This was a very cool event with free Brooklyn lagers to boot-- definitely worth the trek over the bridge! While there I caught up with Knox Robinson formerly of this mag. He was telling me about this group, Hypnotic, he was co-managing who I had just seen perform at the Union Square subway station. These cats, who are all blood brothers, are The Truth yo! They are a hiphop brass ensemble that just kills! Look out for them as they are on the come-up for shizzy.
I finally met Laylah Barrayn for the first time face-to-face after emailing each other for about 2 years. She's another BK girl doing wonderful work in photography. And talking about a sister doing big thangs... right before leaving I met Isolde Brielmaier who is the Director and Chief Curator at the Rotunda. This grrrl has lectured on international art damn near everywhere from Harlem to Australia and doesn't look like she's even blown out 35 b-day candles yet!
Next stop was Bed Stuy for a Scorpio birthday party for my comrade, artist Aissata Pinto da Costa and her friend Cindy Blackman who is a great musician in her own right, but is popularly known for drumming with Lenny Kravitz's band. Folks were mainly chillin talking about music, movies and politics. The fish was great and I think it came from this Bed Stuy joint called Dakar. Got a chance to see Koki again and she tells me that she is designing and styling for Prince’s new muse, Tamar, and a bunch of other artists who will be performing at his new Vegas spot. She's going out there next week and so hope fully I will get the scoop from her soon. Took a cab back home and it really seemed like uptown was another galaxy away.