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15 December 2015

poems from the heart

photo: Robert Schwarz, South Dakota

lying purple

All day you lay on my heart like a heavy green cloud over those wanton plains:
Stretched out in a yawn of arms that hold all the living things that run
In gold and green and a million oranges, splattered with blues
you would not imagine live in plains.

But they do, like grasshoppers the blues jump up covering your pant legs
And the wind keeps pulling your breath away. It pulls it from your chest
as though it could not breathe without your lungs to borrow.

I borrow your lungs on days like today, when you lay on my chest like a great cloud:
The weight of your rain, holding, holding…
I see it, I smell it: ozone lingering like a purple line behind my eyes.

The yellows are heavy with seeds, waiting to fall, and yet your rain holds.
Holds. Holds back… flying slowly over the arms stretched out to you.
The Sunflowers lean and look up at you, leaning one against another like small children,
shoulder to shoulder, holding one another down from flying off the earth
as they lay watching the cloud people fly.

You are not a cloud person, yet you linger up there, holding onto your rain.
Your paint all stowed in the heavy cans, and I can see your arms become thick as sailing ropes with
every gust you carry that paint…
And I see them when they start to tire, loosening in the constant wind.

Spill that great paint, heart and apple red.
We are all waiting.

streetart, seen @LittleItaly on #Mulberry

a red thing

When did woman ever lie down like a lamb?
For him to come along to collect…
Pull up into his arms…
Bring into his heart…
Make his own.
Yours, mine.

We roared from the beginning.
The trick is to purr before we roar.

Telling a Hard Love Story

Our hushing in the night, the sill jar-cracked just a sliver
To let the whispers escape like so many breezes into the night
Dispersed into leaves that hold secrets.

We handle roars so loud no one knows what they say,
And everyone around us closes their eyes light-tight to keep out the heat,
Covering their ears as though they could deny entrance to an earthquake.

Two poles, a coin tossed in the night, flashing and then falling
Cold and hard on rock:
A sound so flat, so sharp, you were not sure you heard it.
It was not music: there was no sound that came before, and none followed,
So one was not sure what one did or did not remember.
[That is how music works, wrapping itself around us in our memory:
we remember the sound even as it passes and what we feel.
Without that memory this sound now means nothing.]

The silver tick of your watch is not music either;
It counts out the beats of our time:
Hearts are infinite and do not wait for coins tossed up to land.

02 December 2015

David Roman, Toolmaker...................................Interview

Often we know more about the intangible than what surrounds us day in and day out. By virtue of reaching for what we desire, we study, and in studying an object it becomes intimate, an “other” part of ourselves that we need, perhaps one we are meant to search out. 

I believe it was Abba Joseph who said we should let our desire be like a fire that consumes us. When we desire a thing so much, is it a part of -a reflection- of us, more ourselves than we are capable of being until we find it, manifest it, and then give it away?

A short parable from a book now long lost to me:
Native guy and a white guy are standing on the porch smoking a cigarette. Native guy asks the white guy if the cigarette is holy. White guy says, “no, why would it be?” Native guy says, “well, it wasn’t- ‘til I gave it to you. When I made it a gift, it became holy.”

Meet David Roman, Canadian Mi'kmaq Native and White guy, and my friend:
 “I just wanna make people dream with the work that I do.”
David is a musician and an artist and a tool-maker and a human being. David walked one of those winding paths, sometimes easy on the pavement, other times forced into the gravel, others run right off the road into the gutter.

Raised in Canada with his parents and two sisters, David’s father’s family was large and tight. But like some of us, he experienced trauma in those teen years that no one should. It put him on the road at extreme speed, breakneck, one might say. David says he was on the fast track to death getting up to 145 mph on his motorcycle. Eventually he was in a head-on collision in 1992. He was thrown 30 feet up and came down on his head. The worst injuries include four herniated disks and extreme encephalitis (brain swelling) resulting in tissue damage, memory loss, and years of therapy at every level. David is still recovering, and still suffering - from night terrors.

David makes masks. Here’s why.

I wasn’t in fight or flight because I was frozen (from 14 to 18 years old). I was in terror for like four years. That is what propelled me to have the accident… Then all I could think about was the pain I was in.

In 1996 I tried to find my memories because I couldn’t remember who I was after the accident. So I was taking like three-hour baths, and light deprivation, and sound deprivation, and food deprivation to get back to reality, to know who I was… and then all the memories came back but I didn’t have the coping skills to deal with them. I was left confused by situations, humor, social interactions. I didn’t understand when faces didn’t match… So I would read out loud after the accident, to try to understand… what commas meant. It was like basics: “what is a paragraph, what does that mean?”
[The accident] really hindered me from comprehension, but it propelled me toward a higher level of comprehension.

Masks were something I was obsessed with because I realized that the tone or sound of the voice didn’t match the archetype of the face. Studying human nature since the accident: the mask has been a reoccurring theme in my life, because there is a necessity to the mask, seduction, euphoria, but also a duality when the tone or the voice doesn’t match the face.

I see a lot of things because of the accident, so I recognize a lot of stuff. It’s hard to be around. I just see people’s agendas really quickly, but I- I do wear a mask because I’m just like, this person insults me, I just play stupid because for one, it’s not worth the confrontation. Also, now I know you more than you know me.

So my mask is a mask of tranquility. I’m not this tranquil. I choose to wear a mask to not ever get to the confrontation stage.
“I had night terrors for years an then I made masks and thought after a while 'maybe these would work in my dreams.' I made them for my friends and then I realized they might work for me, too."
David tells me there are eight dimensions from the void, 0, up to a level of consciousness beyond what most of us aside from transcendental monks can imagine. The 3rd dimension is our day-to-day lives, the 4th is the dream world.

Eight is infinity. So, I feel like there are different levels that create those all the way up to infinity. And each one, you know, from death, sickness, the 3rd dimension- I think when you’re in the 3rd dimension if you’re sick you’ve gone down to the 2nd dimension, closer to death when you have a terminal illness. Death is one, zero is the void which is a representation of the void: death. The void is the negative aspect.

It’s not about good and evil – but there are negative aspects to life and there are positive aspects to life. And the void is… I don’t really quite understand it completely but I think that there’s a negative force. I call it “famine.” And I think famine is the most egregious form of punishment because it’s the slow torturous death.

I have this belief that there’s a council, something like a council of the stars. The council of the stars is watching the universe or multi universes… maybe they’re different levels of that society but they’re more advanced than we are. Because we can’t even get along based on our religion or color of skin. So how can we know what a deity is when we can’t even get along with each other? I think we are so ignorant… so base still in our existence, as a culture and as a society. How long has it been since there’s been rights to vote for everyone? And how long have we been here on this planet? C’mon! We’re just beginning! How do we even know what a god would be if we don’t even understand each other?

So, it’s all division. And it’s perpetuated. And this perpetuation is part of the void, in my opinion: the famine. Famine, you know, hungry and desperate. It’s negligence for sure. It’s neglecting people and needs, whereas the council of the stars is some kind of euphoric place. It’s a paradise, and these beings are logical and reasoned beyond our comprehension. They are watching what this planet is doing.

What if this planet blows up and shards of it are projected to other innocent planets? How do we have the right to do that to our environment? Our environment is not just this planet; it’s the universe and our galaxy. So, it’s like we’re projecting all this negativity, this world of war. Famine is present right now.

And I think that this council of the stars may intervene if we do that. Who knows? Maybe these beings come down that are like three times the size of us, and you know, their bones are made of iron and their skin of Kevlar – you know what I mean? Who knows? To be something as fantastic as that, be like, “you know what, judgement day is not about God.”

I wanna please the council. Yeah, I wanna please the council. Yeah, cause they need understanding too.

I think the exploration of the mask is trying to find the truth. You know? Because I was so confused for so long.

I feel like I’m not confused by people at this point in my life. And I think that if I didn’t have the accident I probably would be… I was really strong, I didn’t know I wanted to die.

I did! I was on a fast track to death! And then, in ‘96 when I was doing all those exercises to try and remember, I remembered that I didn’t really wanna be here, and I spent the last couple, two, three years trying to survive because it was a natural instinct  – “oh, I need to remember, I need to like, live! I need to like, fix my body!” That was a natural instinct that brought me back to awareness to live again. To realize that I didn’t wanna really live in the first place! I just spent a bunch of time trying to fix myself and I didn’t even wanna be here?!

So, the investor asked an interesting question; he was like, “so you are an authority on what people will look like in the dream world?” And I was like, “yes, I am an authority on what you will look like in the dream world, at least in my dream!” I will adorn you for the dream world.

The first four masks, I called them the four brothers. My father had 6 sisters and 10 brothers – so 11 boys! So, but 4 of them that have left the planet now – I named them after them. One is Shelby, one is Kavel, one was Melrose, and my father Angus is the mask sitting over there… Angus. And so when I think of them, how I would want them to be presented in the dream world and how they would feel decorated… like a soldier gets a decoration. It can be a color, a colorful badge.

So these are my colorful badges to decorate with love. That’s a decoration of love, because when you put the mask on, not that these are to be worn in reality or the 3rd dimension, but… I’ve had people put masks on and it changes their whole movement. They move differently, they smell it, they smell the leather, they move – their whole body changes because they feel something. They feel something like, something that is more than, or something that is within them that they can express.

I lost my religion for a long time. I didn’t have anything to believe in…and that feels very, uh, like why are you wakin’ up, you know what I mean?

So, the masks are also like having this other world (in the 4th dimension), to have this beautiful headdress, or this mask, or this breastplate, or something that you wouldn’t really walk down the street with. It’s a fantasy that you get to partake in when you sleep. So it takes you in – it’s just like a movie or it’s like what people use religion for, it’s to escape the mundane.

In being adorned by these pieces that someone loves you enough to make a piece for you… you know? Hopefully that also is part of the feeling: “oh, that mask is made for me, wow! That’s cool, I’m gonna put it on in my dream!”  You know, so it’s a level of love.

That’s why I love it because I can’t really make a piece unless I have a muse. And even if I’m not making it specifically for that person I’m making it to see their response. Cause that’s what I need for love. I’m making this stuff to be like, “hey, look what I can do!” to see a smile, or a gasp, like, “hey you can do that?!”

My half-wolf, half-Samoyed was my muse [for one mask]. It’s funny cause there was a time when I didn’t know why I couldn’t create anything at all. I didn’t know that I didn’t have a muse anymore. And then my roommate needed a chocolate sign, he makes chocolates. I banged it out in like an afternoon. And he loved it! And I was like, “wow, what happened? I just made this thing!” I’m like, “oh my god, he became my muse.”

It didn’t have to be a woman that I would do anything for. That’s the typical stereotypical muse, different artists they’d have their muse. It can be multiple. And I thought it could only be one muse!
And now I can even make up a muse. The person I don’t even know that I’ll never even see again, but I really wanna make this piece so that I see if that lights up their eyes. “That’s who I am in the dream world, that’s who I am, that’s how I move, that’s the way I walk.”

I believe there’s positive and negative experiences. In reality and in the dream world, so if you’re wearing your outfit in the dream world, wearing your fashionista in the dream world and you come upon an adversary then you’re protected as well as being adorned.

These tools give life through death in the dream world. They (beings in the dream world) are reborn into this world, as human, out of our dream world, and they are given life instead of death. They’re given life to learn, which is the greatest gift. So you’re actually giving a gift to your adversary in the dream. So it’s actually a positive thing.

So, you wave that [bow], or you pluck the strings of the instrument of bliss one time, and you access that in your dream, and it sends them directly from the present moment down that tunnel, which you see it’s this (right, tower image), and into a natural birth process onto this planet, so then they’re no longer in your headspace.

No longer in the 4th dimensional world, but now they’re in the 3rd dimensional world, but they don’t know they came from that just like we don’t know where we came from. And they have to live a life- the greatest gift is life.

It’s not like all of the sudden you have taken their power away; you’ve actually taken them away from the trap of being in the 4th dimensional world that they can’t experience… falling in love. They get to experience life, all those wonderful beautiful things that we get to experience. So then they don’t even bother you anymore. So then maybe it’s giving life to a certain part of yourself, when you do that. Maybe, you know, maybe that’s like a part of it.
view from above the tower

That is something that I’m still trying to figure out, but, you know, those things that are in our dream, some say those are part of ourselves we’re fighting with, so if you give that part an escape out of you, your mind, into reality it could give a more complete version of yourself.

I’m not a fighter at all, but I would go to bat for my friends. And this is my way of going to bat for my friends. In their minds, in their dream life, because I can’t do it in reality. This is my spiritual vigilante. I’m arming my friends in the dream world where you can battle it out for your sanity, for your peace of mind.--

I left David with my mind blown wide open for a number of weeks. Even after transcribing this interview and letting myself marinate in his words for two months, I still find myself chewing on his ideas. I believe that is because I have never been presented with ideas like his before.

So much of David's mind is on the cutting room floor of my Word files. But one thing that cannot remain there is his focus on the plasticity of our brains. How we can continue to expose ourselves to the new or the different every day, and find ourselves exploring more of the infinite universe that is available to us.

In that same way, I think David's gifts let us access another way to see ourselves and manifest parts that are usually hidden or even kept down, left unexpressed. There is a euphoria for me as a writer in coming to see an idea finally articulated, a sense of "yes, that’s it, this is who I am! That’s what I wanna be!" or "That's the idea, that's it!"

David's masks are tools, they become a sort of second living thing – iterations of ourselves in a whole new dimension, we are captured, recaptured, re-iterated? Remembered? And in this re-membering, we are released like the 4th dimension beings, back into the world, to experience it differently.

His masks can become vehicles for traveling back into ourselves and more deeply into new conceptions of this world. The masks are a regalia, the adornment we wear for the ritual of finding out our deeper spiritual selves, the ones that live in our dreams, and can return us to the infinite universe of which we are a part.

David Roman will be part of a group show in coming months; check back here for full details.

17 October 2015



                                                                                                             with thanks to Octavia Butler
Vince Ballentine 2015 ig: vballentine99

They don’t know.


None of them.

Lionesses all, we know:
Lonely we race savanna down
For blood             for meat
For ourselves       to be found in a kill of love.

He hunts, too, for her, but it’s not the same.
And thank goddess.
And yet, still     it is not the hunt of love lioness makes:
a firestorm silent infinite roar: she plays in danger under a sun of her own tone-
a danger, a threat, a vulnerability of not owning her own heart -exposed under hot noon-
But feeding it        feeding it always:
                                              the need
                                              for meat.
A blood bath for her soul that returns it to the gaping open-heart                of her solar plexus.

A long and winding Pleiades into the extraplanetary focus of another
Standing on the black paint of sky
because black is never black. It is always
And there is a green in king’s eyes…
But it is an orange in queen’s.
Because earth warms, and rages in earthen races,
While his violet night hunt is cool as a sprint, and the purple road is paved and smooth and cool
in the black-green night,
a racing around the edge of stylized, cut, and known cliff's edges, while
Hers guns into a heart of darkness.

And then there was a wait,
           a pause
                        a taking in of breath
And a silent holding at the edge of the road where the gravel meets
The bare edge of the black top rocks
that tell of a strange kind of civilization at the edge of the world,
Where lioness hearts are still queen,
And king’s rules are yet unknown.

29 September 2015

Ayo the Afronaut Meets World

Ayo & Mariah Rap it Out

......................................................................................................... rap 19 August 2015

The thing about creativity is that as soon as you start to create anything, take that first step, you become aware that you have no idea where you will be, or what you’ll be holding when you emerge from that dark forest into the light.

You make one gesture toward that glimmer of a notion and an idea starts to unfold. Ideas present and we have to follow them in order to arrive in the place they hold. And they need us, too. Ideas cannot manifest until we feed them. Creativity is a symbiotic relationship between us and our ideas. We feed them, they lead us. They grow, we arrive.

And this takes guts, because as you begin, nothing but that tiny seed is visible. In order to grow up into an oak that will shade and warm us, we have to nurture the seed. But until it actually becomes a strong, beautiful oak, we have no idea what that seed will become. It could become anything. And so could we.

So, nurturing that seed takes a leap of faith: you make an effort toward the unknown and expose yourself as you do it. That’s terrifying. And it means we walk blindly onto an unmarked rope bridge over a deep ravine concealed in fog. As with love, we may want to fall or fly, but we don’t want to hit the ground. We struggle against vulnerability, yet creating requires that we engage with vulnerability.

Ayodamola Okunseinde is an artist. Like all of us, he was born a seed. But he didn’t grow into the man he is now on luck. He wandered a long and winding journey to arrive as an Afronaut stomping through Harlem from the future.

Born in New Jersey to a Yoruba father and African American mother, Ayo was a baby when he returned to Lagos where he was raised until adolescence. After stints in Oman and Holland his family returned to the States where he graduated from high school, and studied electrical engineering and then art and philosophy at Rutgers.

After college, Ayo opened the DC gallery Dissident Display (blackle it, you won’t be disappointed), made art, worked in performance video, and made films like The Chasers. As he told it to me, he applied to MA programs to prove to himself that he was good. And they weren’t wrong when they accepted Ayo into the Parsons Design + Technology Master’s in Art (May 2015).

I’ve known Ayo for almost two years and picked up with him this August just home from an IDEO Fellowship in Boston, to talk about the thesis he just completed. Having noticed the tragic lack of projections of black human beings in works about the future, he posits that if we include African descendants in work we make now about the present and the future, we can change both.

Ayo told me: “to do that I come back as an Afronaut from the future to the present. The work is a suit, a functional suit that gives me oxygen. It cools me down. It gives me water; it gives me food; it records video. It’s a cross between space-aged materials and African fabrics.”

So that’s where the work of the thesis came from: this idea of projecting my identity or African identity into the future. And a way of actually both ritualistically and in a very practical way, creating the future: because when you have objects or when you have an identity of a future, you can then start to map your direction or your trajectory to that future.

Here’s where the conversation went:

M: tell me about AFRONAUT…

A: The thesis is about the projection of identity onto the future. There’s a lack of representation of Africans or people of Africa in the future and I argue that that dehumanizes Africans presently. So in an effort to add capacity or humanize those communities, I propose that by creating a culture in the future where their representation is present, it’ll add capacity to the present.
In a way it’s akin to the Engugu of West African masquerades, and by wearing the suit I’m actually performing a ritualistic rite, or a ritual that’s actually creating the future itself.
So I go around the city interacting with people and documenting the experience as an alien from the future in the present.

M: and then in January, while working on your thesis, you experienced the police. what were you thinking when the cops assaulted you?

A: I was thinking, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe that he’s trying to push me down to the ground when I’ve done nothing.” And I thought to myself, this was literally right after one of the shootings, and I thought to myself, “I could be shot right now.”
I mean, I was, I really felt- I felt I was gonna get beaten up, I might get arrested, or I might get shot right there. I was terrified. I was shaking for the rest of the day.

M: how did you feel a week later?

A: A week later… I felt a resolve to sort of- it made my thesis more valid, you know. I felt a resolve to actually… I had already stood outside of the thesis, and worked from outside. But now I decided that I was gonna go inside the thesis and work from inside by truly believing, number one, believing that I am the Afronaut from the future. Before I was this external person that was narrating the story. But after the experience I became the character.
By becoming the character, I take on a responsibility. And that’s something that I hadn’t done before: take responsibility for the thesis. And by believing that I am the character I took on – and also, not only believing that I am the character, but believing that the time travel is actually true.
And that only came about because I realized that truly, that there are some people, that that situation happens to over and over and over again. And because they don’t have any political recourse or financial means of getting out of that situation, they don’t have a way to get out- they don’t have a way to travel beyond that. I felt that – I have that ability. And that time travel is actually possible.

M: why ART and WHEN?

A: I was in, maybe I was 13 maybe, and I was making a drawing in class and the teacher saw the drawing and said it was very good. And I think from there I started trying to draw even better.
And that’s how I came to art. For a little time, not a little time, a long time actually, I wanted to do engineering. So I did my undergrad in visual arts, and then the graduate program is design and technology, so its engineering and art combined.
I wanted to understand artificial intelligence, I wanted to understand human behavior, and I knew that I could get to that with science, but I felt that getting to that through art was more dynamic, more exciting, and it allowed for more creativity.

M: a year ago you told me you felt the thesis was something you had been working up to for five years prior. was that also ideological?

A: It was ideological because I had been thinking about -a lot of this comes from my interest in artificial intelligence and the mind and cognition, and sort of trying to understand that philosophically, and I think I was able to get to some aspects from painting but I felt that maybe using technology I could get to some semblance of artificial intelligence, some sort of interaction that would be closer to human behavior. So I guess it is ideological in the sense that the work that I’m doing technologically is still trying to answer those questions of cognition or AI.
Emergence, for example, getting intelligence or getting some sort of aesthetic output out of a system that has several nodes where each node is not necessarily smart but the combination of all the nodes creates some intelligence or some sort of aesthetic value that it’s either through programming each node really simply yields, synthesizes something, or the noise within that system creates something.
It’s [in] an emergent property of those nodes that an intelligence is formed. In that same sense I want it to be an emergent property of these cultures that I’m interviewing [for Prophecy] (below).

M: it’s hard not to miss from where I sit, your metaphor/ comparison between the way that the brain works and the way that human society works, which is that no one individual creates a culture. lots of us together create a culture feeding into one another. and then that culture comes to define us both as individuals and as a community, and to pass down whatever wisdom then does lend itself to shaping our wisdom, our personalities…

A: And objects come out of that culture that then reinforce certain things, or that create the future.

M: yeah, yeah, based on value, based on society, based on all of that…

A: Yeah, yeah.

M: and this experience of being assaulted in January, in a way, made you one of everyone else.

A: Yeah, it did…

M: so you’re thinking to yourself, “well, I’m educated, I shouldn’t be part of this” – but you were.

A: Also, because I’m Nigerian, right, and the issues that were going on here were with African Americans and I’m an educated African man, which culturally is different from African American. So, I never put myself in that, I never really… I don’t identify with that. So then when I was pushed into that same category, I realized that that was the way that the world saw me.

M: you became one of the nodes.

A: Yeah, yeah!

M: and you had never been a node before.

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

M: so tell me about PROPHECY, the community / interactive project.

A: I didn’t want to do this work. I thought I should just make work and have it seen in a museum. For me, I felt my work should be personal.
I didn’t think it was my purview and then after that incident, I realized that there are some people that don’t have the ability to get out of that space - that would always be powerless or that because of lack of education or lack of resources don’t have an opportunity to see beyond their world.
So they don’t have the ability to dream beyond tomorrow or to project themselves into the future.
I realized that as a result of that I’m obligated -if I have the ability to project myself into the future to see beyond myself- that I’m obligated to make works to at least elucidate the possibilities that these other people might have that possibility.

M: who is going to be involved in PROPHECY?

A: People that are told, “this is what your future is gonna be.” And in the most positive way, you know, “this is your future. We’re gonna construct it for you.” I, I don’t like that. I think the future should be constructed internally, you know.
The dreams of these people should be constructed internally, not that some outside agent, state or government or organization, constructs it for them. You know it should be something that grows from inside out.
That idea of synthesis I think is present in this work where I’m collecting stories, ideas about objects in the future, and interviewing the community and trying to synthesize an object from that, trying to synthesize something that’s aesthetically pleasing, and interactive, something that’s intelligent.

M: what does CREATIVITY feel like?

A: For me it comes as little flashes. I keep a notebook with me all the time. Sometimes I just have an idea that pops into my head. And it doesn’t even need to be based on art at all. I just have a scenario that pops into my head, and I draw it or write it. When I’m addressing problems and I’m trying to solve those problems I find sort of thinking about the problem yields all these creative ways to approach the problem.
It’s just, it’s second nature to me now. It just happens; it happens all the time.

M: so, who are you, as an ARTIST?

A: I think I’m becoming an artist that deals with future spaces… with time travel, because I – honestly- I truly believe that artifacts allow for time travel. That’s the closest that we’re gonna get to time travel.
I honestly believe that these artifacts allow for time travel. In the same way that you have archaeological objects… historical objects that allow you to see into the past, get an understanding of humanity’s past, these objects I’m gonna create would allow you to see humanity’s future.
And I want to get an idea of what the future is for people, not just for me. So that’s why I’m doing the community interviews.

M: what changed that? Why EVERYONE ELSE now and not just you? really, the assault in January?

A: Yeah.

M: what happened?

A: I just have an obligation. It just struck me that I have an obligation.
I’m in the position that I can make a change and it’s, it’s an existential issue. You know, like, it’s so- to- to imagine that that there are people out there that have the ability, that have the capacity to- to do great but because of systems or because of lack of resources, they’re being curtailed, that’s – and to think that I could possibly have something positive that I can add to that!
It’s –it’s – I’m obligated to do it, I don’t necessarily want to do it, or like to do it, but I’m obligated to do it – yeah.

M: ok, so if there’s one thing I should get right, what is it?

A: That I believe that these future objects will actually create the future: that they will direct people to the right future.
The more I think about this, the more I do work on this, the more I believe it. It’s so clear in my mind that these objects, or this way of thinking, of-of sort of creating a future in the mind, in your mind, in others minds, would …
By creating a future … and creating objects from that future that will actually move people in the right direction- it’ll actually change the present.

M: did you ever think, in college or ten years ago that this is what you’d be talking about with your art?

A: No, No!
I think also that what makes my work different than other people that do [Afrofuturism] work is that my work is actually interactive in the sense that these objects are interacting with the present. They’re collecting data from the future and sending it back to the present, or from the present and sending it to the future!
I think this technological interactivity adds another way into it. And then with Prophecy there’s a social interaction as well, that I think is vital.

M: so if there was one way to completely misunderstand you, what would it be?

A: That I’m sure about myself.
Like, I believe it, but believing in it and… Sometimes you believe this is the right thing to do, but do you do it? You may find a reason not to do it. You know? But you believe it’s the right thing to do. Yeah, so I’m insecure in that sense. I’m still struggling with that.
I’m trying hard that, by the end of this year, I work through those insecurities. I think it’ll make my work better, or make me a stronger person.

As we wrapped up, Ayo said he was amped up, ready to go to the art store, buy materials and go make art. I was amped up, too, because we had a great conversation.

My mind wandered all over the terrain for a few days, a few weeks. We are always metamorphosising. I think a lot about that: how to change my life, how to change my work, my relationships: how to grow my heart, my mind – to meet that source space of my soul. And I found myself remembering something I have always said about Ayo: 

One thing that makes Ayo great is that he is not limited in what he can imagine by what he can make. He imagines first and freely, and then begins in the dark, only a glimmer ahead, to create. He has told me when he was fearful, when he was afraid and unsure how to begin. And then- he begins.

Creativity is a process. Like anything we engage in repeatedly, it can become muscle memory. But you have to engage in it, bit by bit. And you have to follow it – blind as you may be, the path unmarked and darkened by heavy foliage. And it’s hard at first and taxing, and fatiguing, but you just keep doing it. And then a path lays itself out – and if you follow the ideas you’ll see what they -and you- can become, and they will show you your next step. Steps into the future.

Imagining that future changes you now – because now a future becomes possible, and you drive at it, and that in itself changes you. That idea makes possible the future, and the future arrives right now.

Most of the time, the biggest part of our society is neither watering nor sunning us. We have to do it ourselves. And lots of us have ideas… but do we start to make them? Because that takes courage and strength and determination.

The creative process is not only about people who make art, or write, or play music, or follow the science. It’s all of us – can we create ourselves, our lives?

Can we imagine ourselves?

Can we imagine?

Faith and strength are intimately tied up in one another. Just as we need our ideas as much as they need us, faith and strength symbiotically feed one another making possible the marriage between us and our possibilities. Take from us these two things and we mortals lose our ability to become our greatest selves: creators- of our world, ourselves.

The hard world will often try to take from us hope and power, to maintain the status quo, capitalism, fascism, poverty, control over what humanity can become – over humanity itself. If it is successful in taking from us faith and strength then they’ve got us. We will never rise new.

And it works both ways. If you want to take back power and hope: create. Yourself, a song, a garden – just create. Start to create and power and hope will grow in you: creator and creation.

#afrofuture #afrofuturism #blacklove #blackart #blacklivesmatter #ayo #ayookunseinde #art #artist #afronaut #prophecy #phoenix #artnow #livingart

30 August 2015

Street Art [living art]

street art.

Let's talk about street art for a hot minute.

[Yes, I need that minute to get my head around the interview with Ayo Okunseinde (; bear with me, I'll make it worth your while.]

In my last post I talked about living art and why I want to focus this year on art made now by living artists around me who are talking about important ideas and experiences. (You can look forward to visual artists and musicians, b-t-dubs.) So, you're going to get some of my stuff and some of theirs: interviews, their work and where you can see their work.

But it may be worthwhile then to remind ourselves why this site is called "themothersnature" (stay with me, we'll get back to street art).
Samba Queen, seen in the Bronx, August 2015
I love this queen. She's black, she's dancing, she's proud. I like it. She's a creator. That's all the mother's nature is: the urge to conceive, create and nurture - art, a new life, a new idea, a new version of self, of the world, of what is possible. 
"Mother" only means anyone who conceives of something new, holds it inside, gives birth to it into the world. We are all that, male and female. We are creations and it is our nature to create.
And creators who give consistently like this- of ourselves to the world, we are tender, sensitive creatures. Our ideas need light and air and hands just as babies do; they need us to touch the possibility of finding their potential. So, I'll be not only the creator but the mother of creators, helping their work find the light on this site. How does that relate to street art? Scroll with me...

ig: vballentine99, landscape on Van Buren @ Throop, BedStuy
This is my son, standing in front of a painting we helped just a teensy, inseey bit to create. The artist called it "familiar-unfamiliar-familiar." When you're in Brooklyn, what you see here is the "unfamiliar." Go see the rest.

ig: notart, seen on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, August 2015
NotArt makes a lot of "not art." What's he really saying? What was vballentine99 saying when he put up familiar-unfamiliar-familiar? NotArt was not invited, vballentine99 was. One "looks" like art, one does not. One paints itself up as art, the other claims the opposite.

All still art. On our city streets, a donation of consideration, beauty, thought, examination. Why are we here and what do we make of it? 

I'm a writer. Words are virtual. They're not real, they are magic that neither you nor I can control. Smash this machine, burn my books, my work is gone, rising to creator in smoke. But I also claim them. I make them, I put them out, I name them, I determine them. Street art is the opposite.

Someone has to crack me open, come to my page to see my work. You have to choose me. I have to market myself to you, make you choose me, sell myself to you. I have to have a certain hubris to make you believe I'm worth your time and effort, the travel it takes for you to find me.

Street artists, they are the most generous of all. They are the ultimate humble creators. They give their work away to the whole world. They don't try to convince you of their value - they just give their gold away like it was so much sand.
You don't have to go find them; they hand themselves to you like a bowl of grits. They don't advertise - they're just there, all around, a gift to consume as you please, or walk on by like they were invisible and worthless, so much urban flotsam and jetsam.
They don't use their own names. They get no credit. They rarely get paid, and they have no control once they leave that wall, that telephone pole, that gate behind. They pour out their hearts and minds onto this ugly-ass concrete jungle all around us, giving away beauty back to a culture that will raze it to the ground, paint it back to black, sand blast it down to rust in a second.

I've always wondered, as a writer, what it feels like to make a painting- spend hours pouring over it, shaping it, massaging it, knowing when to add another gentle stroke, and when to stand down and let it be as it is- and then, to walk away. Your creation is left behind. And each time you want to see your precious creation, you will have to make a voyage back to that spot out in an endless sea that may pull you away in another of life's currents.
As a mother, I find out what that feels like just a teensy-inseey bit every day that I let my son go - to school, to his dad, away for a week. 

That, peeps, is the mother's nature: create something so beautiful, so perfect, giving all of yourself to its creation, and then - letting it go out into the world.

That's why street artists are the queens among the mothers.

16 August 2015

Living Art

A year ago I rebirthed my blog as a way to share art and ideas and poetry. The work is meditations on art, and on life.
After sharing new work, works in progress and the work of artists that move me, I find myself thinking in new terms. Maria Lassnig, Lee Friedlander, Romare Bearden, Kehinde Whiley, Robert Davidson. They’re all good, powerful artists whose work is worth seeing, thinking about, meditating on.

But just as I am a member of a new generation, sharing my point of view on the works that strike me, I am asking what my generation of artists wants to say. What do we think? What do we feel? What is important to us? How do we see that is different from the way generations before us saw?

And why art?

Visual art is communal and it is immediate. We enter galleries and museums and walk down our city streets and art comes at us, lays itself on, enters us. We are submerged in art’s wake. It washes over us, like it or not. And we have reactions – thoughts, feelings, memories, places, spaces, words come up in us to meet what we see.

When I walk into a museum I am flooded. This is what I want. I want an immediate experience of something more than my self, a new creation coming from a creator and made from this life, this world, this earth, this experience. I want to see how someone else sees, experience what they experience. I want to be brought into a new point of view of this world, and in so doing have a new experience of myself. That’s what happens when I look at art.

And I can do that with you. I can see art with my sister, my son, my brother, my friends. And we can experience it all together. We can talk about it, we can muse over it, what it means to you, what it means to me.

Part of what I love about visual art is that because it is visual it is both communal and immediate. What this means is that we can talk about us now.


"nada dura para siempre" (nothing endures forever)
Who are we now? Where have we been? Where are we going? When we see art together we are in it together, just as we are in this life, this world together now. So, it’s time to start talking about what we are talking about now. What we as humanity, as individuals see, what we do, what we make, what we are living.

There's living art and then there's living art. Any art that is still viewed has a life. But art that is made now, among us, that is living art.

It’s time to listen to my generation.We’re getting older and we're hitting our stride. It’s time to bring us up into the light. That is what you can expect in the new year of this space.

All visual works:
Faile  (a life)
August 2015

02 August 2015

Literal Silhouette 
Chris Ofili, 2015 @ New Museum

Wise women made of reeds
Rushing into water well above their knees.

Women carrying children, carrying incense, carrying
Scent of themselves,
And the men in their sacks.

Women, lionesses all, who work those bales
Like thread, in and out of economies of loss.
Locusts collecting where their hair begins
Hovering for the color, sweat and scent
of women.

Woman, do you know your worth?
Are you handed a crown, or did you twist it at the shores
From your magic?
From lotus flower petals and cattails and your own crazy…
From all those tears you dropped
the river flooded
the heart paused, stopped with blood.

What was he to you,
Cat’s toy, or true love?
The sphinx rose at dawn, and lay low under the sun,
Waiting for him to slip by. She set her net
And caught him…
Lines dropped from the clouds.

Like fish they slipped through the water blind to all
But movement.
Put yourself there, and watch
The current steal your silver catch.

What was he to you, but a moment you looked
Finally into the water.
No Narcissus are you, rather wakened from blindness
To see the sun…

Hovering always, a halo of black and dark and twisted
And shining in that sun,
Yellow as white, as a night that prays for morning light,
Falling and laying and lying, and flying
Twisted as man and woman, and night
Laying down finally
Where arms are there, and softness is there,

And she can breathe.