I’ve been meaning to say something about this mural being defaced. . . There’s a lot to say here about the limitations of succinct messaging in public art; about the word “soft” and it’s pejorative perception; about the responsibility of social practice art, and how to measure when a piece is a success or a failure or something in between; about fragile masculinity; about toxic masculinity; about understanding your audience; about homophobia, transphobia, and femininity being seen as weakness. . . And about them censoring the words and flowers but the portrait of the dude’s face was okay with them so they left that part (lol). . . But after all the conversations I’ve had in person with people about this piece (and it’s been a lot), and the range of opinions on it, I’m legit exhausted. . . I have an idea for how to move forward with this piece, if I do at all. I’d like to hear from Black men, cis and trans, straight or queer, masculine leaning non-binary folks, about their understanding and perceptions of the word “Soft”. What does it mean to you? How do you feel about it? How do you define your own masculinity? . . If you comment below, know that I might use your words in a mural. . . Thanks. . . . First photo from @minchovega . . #letblackmenbesoft
this season of @shesgottahave opens with the opening text from Their Eyes Were Watching God by zora neale hurston. (this book is also my favorite book. i’ve been meaning to go back to it. it’s funny how you grow and change with a piece of literature as you get older. how it means something different to you each time. anyway…) the writers of the show wanted to keep zora as a thread throughout the season. so i tried to incorporate small elements in the artwork that nola makes. the pear tree is a main piece of imagery in their eyes were watching god, so i included that element here in this self portrait. nola feels a kinship to zora as a black woman artist. she plays around with imagining herself as zora, as we see in this self portrait painted as carl van vechten’s portrait of zora.
Photos from my exhibition #OklahomaisBlack that closed this past weekend.
If you've seen She's Gotta Have It season 2, you'll see that I play myself in episode 4. This was a really beautiful weekend shooting in Martha's Vineyard, and I'll go more into that later. Here, I'm standing next to a piece I created a couple of years ago. It's a drawing of James Baldwin, with a quote of his reconstructed into a quiz question. Spike asked each artist in this episode to share a piece of recent work. This was a little different for me though because as the creator of Nola's paintings, Spike didn't want to show my oil paintings because they'd be too close to Nola's. So, I chose a street art piece, and we constructed a 3x4' brick wall to adhere it to, creating a tangible piece of work. My shirt is from my project, @stoptellingwomentosmile, for which Nola's My Name Isn't is based on. Edit: the second piece, the collage of the girl and Statue of Liberty, is also mine. Something I was experimenting with at the time. . . #shesgottahaveit
For @surfacemag’s Legacy issue, looking at artists who are creating a legacy with their work. Wearing @maxmara . Photographed by @wishthanasarakhan Styled by @_mauricio_quezada_
(longish post. mostly for black folks.) let black men be soft. particularly straight cis black men, question why the word "soft" is a pejorative to them. to allow themselves to put down the hard perception of masculinity that they feel they have to uphold. to allow themselves to be soft, to be light, to be tender, to be gentle, to feel. so that they can be full expressions of their human selves. it's to expand the definitions of what masculinity and manhood are, so that all of us black women, femmes, trans and cis, gay men, and those rejecting or flowing fluidly throughout gender, do not have to deal with the harmful affects of what this white supremacist society has taught or forced yall to be. . . in my conversation with Trevor, who is drawn here, he mentioned being perceived as aggressive, and being denied his softer side. this piece is also directed to white people and non-black people who perceive black men as aggressive or as a threat because of their blackness. let them be soft. . . an older black man talked to me on the street about the piece soon after i finished putting it up. he wasn't happy. called it terrible for black men. his homophobia jumped out real quick. he took issue with the word soft. he took issue with there being flowers positioned next to the man's face. i admit that i started to doubt my work. i'm not above questioning and changing my work, especially work that is placed outdoors, because i feel a sensitivity to the surrounding community. but this piece is part of a larger project on anti-blackness and sexual harassment. and any person who denies the humanity of black people in anyway, is perpetrating anti-blackness. including this older man. if cis-hetero black men interrogated the ways their manhood can be harmful, and the reasons they hold onto those harmful ideas of masculinity (is it out of necessity? survival? says who?), maybe it would lead to them being gentler with themselves and thereby the women and queer people that are right next to them. . . wheat paste piece in brooklyn, ny
My solo exhibition, Oklahoma is Black, closes on May 26th at @okcontemporary. This work was hugely challenging and rewarding in creative and personal ways. It consists of oil paintings, large scale drawing installations, interviews, video work, and text pieces. I’m very proud of it.
Post cards placed around NYC over the past year collecting experiences of street harassment for my residency with @nycchr.
As I was finishing this mural last week, @shawn.ia pulled up with her father to tell me how much she liked and appreciated it. Then, at the request of her dad, she shared some of her own art with us - dance.
Detail from Oklahoma is Black. This show has been challenging and rewarding and an example to myself that I can execute a large scale solo exhibition. The conversation with @a_lanmoon last night was affirming and opened new critical thoughts within myself about my goals and intentions as an artist representing women and blackness. Thank you, A-lan. . . . Oklahoma is Black runs through May 26th at Oklahoma Contemporary. . . . #okisblack #oklahomaisblack #americaisblack
This Thursday I’ll be in conversation with A-lan Holt, director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, speaking about my exhibition #OklahomaisBlack at @okcontemporary. . . . April 18th, 6pm, at @okcontemporary.
Yesterday I finished this piece in St. Albans, Queens. One of many pieces on anti-blackness and sexual harassment I’m doing around NYC for my residency with @nycchr. . . . The women are girl portrayed here and local folks who I spoke with about their lives and experiences as black women and girls in Queens. . . . Thank you to everyone who stopped by and gave me water and snacks while I worked. Thank you to @iamambernthomas for being the best muralist assistant I could ask for. 💕 . . . (Side note: Queens, why are y’all’s streets like that? Driving out there is wild lol.)
Lance and Chris, oil on canvas.
Brooklyn, today at 384 Tompkins Ave, just up the street from this piece, I’ll be photographing individuals for the @stoptellingwomentosmile project, speaking briefly about the work, and selling STWTS merch. 4-6pm. You can rsvp to email@example.com . . . . My Masculinity Is Not a Threat To Yours, wheat pasted at Halsey and Tompkins in 2016.
Each year I hold International Wheat Pasting Night for #stoptellingwomentosmile. A night where people all over go out to paste up this work that challenges street harassment. As a part of @stopstharassmnt’s Anti-Street Harassment Week, this year, wp night is on April 12th. Go to the link at @stoptellingwomentosmile’s bio to sign up. . . This year, folks in Brooklyn will be able to get posters, Wheat pasting kits, and organize together in person with me on the day of.
We’re gonna win. Happy 75th birthday to Diana Ross, a trail blazer, a legend, a black woman. This t-shirt is by @phenomenal.ly and benefits Higher Heights, which is building Black women's political power.
Brooklyn, @stoptellingwomentosmile merch is available at Radical Women in Bed Stuy, 384 Tompkins Ave.
Kelley, oil on canvas with wheat paste installation, 2019. . . . #womenshistorymonth #oklahomaisblack
Sometimes, someone will ask, “There are black people in Oklahoma?” when I tell them where I’m from. Are there black people in Oklahoma? As if Greenwood wasn’t burned to the ground for being too black. As if our mothers and their mothers and didn’t toil this flat ground. And because white supremacy will have you believing that only white people deserve to be seen and recognized and celebrated, they don’t know that black people settled this place. And because they haven’t had a burger from Geronimo’s, or chicken from Bobo’s, “Are there black people in Oklahoma?” As if we don’t swim in lakes, and ride horses, and catch lightning bugs in glass jars. As if there were no Ada Lois Sipuel or Ralph Ellison or Clara Luper. As if this state wasn’t almost a black state. As if we don’t laugh out loud at dinner tables and hold our babies tight. As if we didn’t fall in love in the backseat of cars parked at the strip on 23rd. Running outside, no shoes on, with our play cousins. Twirling and dipping. Dodging police and thunderstorms (but not tornadoes because tornadoes don’t hit the east side). Singing and praising. In kitchens that smell like greens and pressed hair. 'Hold your ear so I don't burn it.' In board rooms, court rooms, class rooms, and pulpits. As if we weren’t singing at the top of our lungs on our way to school, on our way to Tinsel Town, on our way to the rest of our lives. As if we weren’t here sooner than Sooners. As if we disappeared. As if their attempts to kill us off were successful. As if we didn’t survive, aren’t surviving, their violence. Everyday. . . . #oklahomaisblack at @okcontemporary
Remember Black Motherhood, oil and paper on canvas, 2019.
Ashley, wheat paste installation of drawing and historical black Oklahoma newspaper, The Black Dispatch. From Oklahoma is Black at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center.
A lot of folks have requested this piece as a print. So here it is! I’ll sign the first 25 single orders. Link in bio. #americaisblack
Painting Kelley, my step sister, for Oklahoma is Black. This show is an iteration of America is Black, looking at various black identities in OK, a state that quite literally tried to burn us off. . . . 📷: @chevyanderson
“I would like to say, when black women speak up, believe them. When we use our voices, believe us.” - Ashley . . . Oklahoma is Black opens at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center on Feb 21.
I watched #SurvivingRKelly. It’s an important doc and I’m glad it exists. I respect and commend dream and everyone who made it happen, particularly the survivors. It was triggering. I’ve spoken to several groups of black teenagers in New York and Chicago about street harassment. Overwhelming they’ve expressed how grown ass men approach them not because they mistake them for adults, but because they know they are children. How it’s not just men in public that they have to dodge - it’s men in private. This was true for my own childhood. And so many other black women I know. . . @alongwalkhome is an org in Chicago ran by some incredible women that I have collaborated with a few times. They do the work to protect black girls. Follow and support them. . . . Pictured: a wheat paste from my @stoptellingwomentosmile series featuring a black teenage girl and her own words that read “what if it were your daughter?”
Project Row Houses, Round 48, is on view until February 17th in Houston. . . Photos from my installation.
Going out of town but not ready to leave her. #wip
Do the work challenge. At @stoptellingwomentosmile, we are asking people to challenge cishet men to take actions against sexism in their everyday lives. Do things like, be more mindful of the space you take up in a room, intervene if you see someone harassing or making a woman uncomfortable, talk to your friends and family about how your masculinity has or can be harmful, listening to women. . . . To the men in my life, and any man reading this, how are you sexist and how can you seek to change that? . . . For those who post their own challenge and call to men, we will be going through the posts and choosing someone to receive a free stwts hoodie and tote bag on December 10th. Tag @stoptellingwomentosmile And use the #stoptellingwomentosmile hashtag.
Today is #TransDayofRemembrance, remembering an honoring the lives of people lost to anti-trans violence. Let’s also protect and love up on trans folks that are here, everyday. Portrait of Islan Nettles, who was killed in 2013.
For the past few weeks I’ve been tucked away working on an illustrated book about different women’s experiences with sexual harassment in the public space. . . Here’s Madeleine: “I think people are uncomfortable with someone who’s different from the status quo. They’re uncomfortable with me being happy because they’re so used to seeing unhappy people who look like me.” . . #stoptellingwomentosmile
For Colored Gils, oil on canvas, 2010. #NtozakeShange somehow found my phone number and called me in 2010 after she saw this piece I did inspired by her choreopoem. I cried. . . Her words, for me, have felt like a knowing, caring stare from someone who truly knows you and loves you. So intense that it almost makes you want to turn away. . . Her passing is being felt.
Q. What do you want to say back to your harassers in the street? . . A. I am sorry the world made you like this and I forgive you for it. . . . Engagement postcards from my residency with @nycchr can still be found in locations across NYC. Here is an answer written at Brooklyn Museum.
The text on the walls are quotes from my interviews with these local Houston women. The seating space allows you to put on headphones and listen to the full interviews. . . . At the end, I knew I needed to add my own words too, as a black woman. Whenever I interview someone, I wonder how I would answer the questions. The last photo are my words.
The Personal as Political is an installation that creates a home space for women, particularly black women, to tell their stories of oppression, trauma, and experiences with race and gender. To speak about how being black, a woman, queer, and other various identities has affected their lives; with the very act of telling their lives, aloud, when our environments suggest that we suffer in silence, is a political and radical act. . . . The home space, with vintage photos of black women, pictures frames, and seating, act as the representations for the personal. Their words, representation of the political. The home also represents our communities, our histories, and families. What could our mothers not say that we can? When is the home a safe space for us to speak candidly, and when has it been the site of the violences we want to speak about? . . . During my time in Houston, I had candid conversations with local Houston women in this room. In these interviews you will hear stories about colorism, queerness, family love and family trauma, depression, survival, sexual assault, feminism, identity, love, rage. . . . Thank @projectrowhouses, and especially @ryandennistaylor, for including me in this incredible group of Round 48 artists.
Today is my birthday. It’s also the last day of installation at @projectrowhouses before the opening/block party tomorrow. It’s been a good day. . . . This past year of my life has been all about work without immediate reward. And it’s the personal work that has been most difficult. When you're forced to sit with yourself and investigate the reality of your life and emotions, the whys and the hows. When everything else doesn’t matter if you don’t know who tf you are. I’m tryna be a better artist, a better friend, to go where the love is, not where I want it to be or it used to be. . . . Anyway, go vote in November.
. . . 📷: @prof._josiah_carberry
I've been in Houston for 4 days and have met and interviewed several women about their lives, experiences, and how we've come out of being silent about those experiences — embracing, instead, the importance of asserting our stories loudly and publicly. Understanding that when we speak, we control our own narratives, carve out space for others to do the same, and honor the women before us who couldn't. . . . Also, trying out charcoal instead of graphite. I usually do these drawings small and on the go so, graphite works better for me. But I do like the matte and darkness of charcoal.
The second picture from @fierce_fronteriza shows what this wall looks like today in El Paso. I wheat pasted this piece in May 2017 and a few days after, the text was painted out. Now, it reads “vivas las queremos”, a rallying cry against violence against women, and surrounded by beautiful work by @mamboska. Art is amazing. . Last photo from @angieramones182
I will be unveiling this fall a series of citywide street art projects addressing anti-black racism and gender-based harassment in collaboration with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, as their first public artist in residence. . . . I created these cards to quickly capture as many stories from New Yorkers about their experiences with anti-blackness and gender based street harassment. You can find these cards and participate at: Brooklyn Public Library Downtown Locations . Brooklyn Museum . Weeksville Heritage Center . Recess Arts . Arab American Association of New York . Griot Circle . The Bronx Defenders . The Point CDC . Kingsbridge Community Center . SUNY Maritime . Restoration Plaza . The Laundromat Project . And more. See the link in my bio and @nycchr for more info.
Q. What are you without racism? ... Do you still like yourself? . . . . New work, where I’m taking quotes from people who are smarter and more eloquent than me (Morrison, Baldwin), and repurposing them for the street - for the public passers by. . . . . 📷: @iamalycianeal
@stoptellingwomentosmile Wheat Pasting Night is happening this year on September 21st. I’m asking people to download posters, get some wheat paste, and go out with friends to wheat paste these posters all on the same night. I usually host this event during @stopstharassmnt’s anti-street harassment week in April. This year, I’m working with orgs across the country to give out posters in their cities. Go to @stoptellingwomentosmile for more info. 📷: me pasting in Geneva, Switzerland for @lescreativesfestival