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As creators of art, we are enhancers, enrichers, image-makers, shape-shifters, storytellers, magicians, and magi. In days long gone by, artists were cared for by benefactors, because we were valued for our visual storytelling and our ability to beautify. Let us value ourselves and each other, as artists, and drive our value up by collecting and promoting each other’s work… whether through barter or bills.
As an African American female artist in a European-dominated art industry, if I allowed my productivity to be determined by the fact that a lower value is placed on my work because it was created by someone who looks like me, I would not publicly present or promote my art or myself. Let’s face facts. The public definition of human beauty, in this country, does not contain any of my features. But, I have not and will not allow that to stop me from feeling beautiful. On the contrary, it is what I see in the mirror and when I look around the dinner table, at family, which makes me feel so beautiful. LOL!
Millions of people choose to purchase art which is beautiful and pretty to them. Some people choose art which has no meaning because that is what they prefer. There is no need to judge. There is, however, a need to create from our truth, our heart, our gut, our soul. Let us be true to our reason for creating art. It is a lifeline by which some of us make a decent living. Creativity sustains me like air… water… without it, I cease to be myself. I continue to produce because I must.
How many of you have seen a painting (which carries no personal significance) stir up more conversation and call for a higher price than one would ever imagine? Press, publicity, and critics create hype and value. Collectors and curators love it and latch on. And, the artist becomes valued. One column or blog can flush an artist's would-be income down the toilet – right along with their ego, reputation, and right to go down in art history.
As a Visual ‘Herstorian’ of African descent, I have a great deal to contribute to the global art scene. Yet, my fate is set by those who do not relate to my truth, perspective or originality. All of my work has meaning to me. All of it is beautiful to me. Some of my work has a deeper meaning than others… narratives… visual storytelling, which reflects the contemporary and primitive truth of my existence and my ancestors in inner and outer space. Some of my work pertains to the African experience across the diaspora. In some paintings, Exo Political signs and symbols show up. And some of my work is a concert of beautiful colors, line, texture and tone.
Artists, sometimes, have the opportunity to share the meaning of our work. We are in the business of art. Let us keep our eye on what we are here to do... create and not miss a stroke. Here’s to making pretty art, simple art, meaningful art, controversial art. Here’s to making art that speaks our truth. When the politics of the art-making process gets heavy… I lift my head, throw it back, let out a belly laugh, and keep throwing paint.
I wish you success on the journey!
Contemporary Primitive, Pop, Folk, Exo Political, Outsider Artist, Photographer
ALNUGE Inventor, SETSE Founder, Master Teaching Artist, Advocate for Children
(January 27, 2013)