Open Spaces has been my theme lately; to use different spaces ( invisible to some and visible to others) to bring comfort and affirmation to individuals that are on the path of awakening and those individuals who are grieving a loss.
With this theme in mind, I have been finding myself in different spaces with individuals that continue to confirm within me that I must be there, wherever there is. To be ready when I am pulled. To share when its necessary. To sacrifice my story in service to others.
On a monthly basis, I will share these “Open Spaces” and the story that comes with it.
Venue: The National Portrait Gallery| Washington, DC
Event: Strike a Prose: Me, Myself and I
This space… brought back the importance of community and perspective. We are all aware of the importance of perspective and how that plays a huge part in how we move about in the world.
When we began the conversation after we were instructed to walk around the gallery and select a piece of artwork that spoke to us, we had an opportunity to then discuss in a group setting while standing in front of the portrait, our perspective and then the floor was open for others to share their perspective of the piece.
**The rules were to save the face and the artist statement for later.**
Title: Gilda Snowden in Her Detroit Studio
Artist Donita Simpson, statement regarding the portrait above.
Donita Simpson’s portrait of the late Detroit-based artist Gilda Snowden portrays a woman with a forthright gaze surrounded by original art, projects in progress, and the accumulated ephemera of a successful career spent teaching and contributing to a vibrant art scene. For many years Simpson has been making portraits of local artists in their studios and homes, emphasizing the interior spaces as extensions of the sitters’ identity. She is committed to documenting the “real Detroit,” the part visitors never see—“the tight safe havens where the city’s spirit is created and renewed.” Simpson states, “I photograph them because I am interested in the pride and exuberance with which they share their art, teach art, and the welcome way in which they communicate what they do and how they do it.”
I was taken aback by the difference in perspective. I also believe that in our individual perspectives I picked up on how our perspectives are influenced by what’s important to us and our beliefs. We have all shared moments where we see one view of a situation or memory and some else recalls it differently. In those moments we question if we even shared the same space with that person. How could they not see it the same? Beliefs and values have a way of creeping into spaces and distorting our perception. This will often be the case but if we learn to value each other’s perspective and just be open to listen, we will understand the importance of community.
My Affirmation in this Space: I am broadening my view of the world by expanding my community and I ask permission to lean on my community for their insight when my view stunts my growth.
I discovered that my interpretation of Gilda Snowden was easily assessable. I could relate to her because she is black like me. I am in the company of people like her often. I see a person who has a lot to share and who is an artist and although her space seems cluttered, I believe she knows exactly where everything is. Artist have their own method and routine for expressing their message and so that’s the short of how I interpreted this portrait.
Now, another participant’s interpretation of Gilda Snowden, she stated that she appeared to be in pain. She gathered this from the way the women is sitting, legs open wide with the right leg propped up. She said that she looked bothered and the space behind her looked to be in a disarray. She also talked in detail about her clothing. Some of the words used to describe her appearance were poor, cheap, and dirty, etc.
Although I was taken aback, I appreciate her perspective because it shed light on how we must take off our blinders. We must engage each other in discussion, after all that’s the essence of community.
[Below is the portrait that spoke to me.]
Title: Caja De Memoria Viva II – Constancia Colon de Clemente. “The Living Memory Box” is a multimedia exhibit that represents the life of Doña Constancia Colon-Clemente a Black Puerto Rican who migrated to the United States in the 1940’s.
Artist Adrian Roman (“Viajero”), statement regarding portrait above.
Adrian Roman’s Puerto Rican heritage and New York City upbringing inform his artistic practice. Traveling between the two places sparked an interest in exploring the disparate worlds of the tropical landscape and the overpopulated cityscape. His installations explore migration, race, and identity through memories of “observed and experienced events, repressed trauma, and childhood.” Caja De La Memoria Viva II portrays Constancia Colón de Clemente, a black Puerto Rican who migrated to the United States in the 1940s, in a three-dimensional multimedia installation that allows the viewer to literally enter Constancia’s head. This portrait and others like it permit Román to “embark on a quest to visually represent how precious our memories are and capture the dignity in the people’s struggle and validate their existence.”