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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mind Your Muse

By Adjoa J. Burrowes

As much as I love writing and illustrating children's books, I've found a new love—presenting art and writing workshops to children and adults. With young children, watching them cut and paste colored papers to illustrate their Haikus or encouraging adults to put on paper what's being mulling about in their heads, energizes me. As I get older I realize more and more, that one of my life purposes it to help people realize their creative goals, no matter how small.

I recently had a pivotal experience in Memphis, TN while conducting a writing workshop at the National Civil Rights Museum that clarified for me why I do workshops in the first place. In one class I had three generations of women participate. I talked about using family history as a catalyst for story writing. We talked and shared memories and laughs. I read from my book Grandma's Purple Flowers which draws on memories I had of my grandmother when I was a child.

One girl about 13 years old, fondly shared a memory she had of her grandfather, who recently passed away. She giggled and talked about how much she looked forward to visits with him, especially when they barbequed in the backyard. She recalled how what she hoped would be a private afternoon with the two of them, would inevitably end up as a community event. As neighbors would catch the scent of succulent grilled meats, more people found their way to their backyard. Before she knew it, the yard would be filled with people and she would eventually get angry, frustrated and cry.

Perfect! I said to her. That's the stuff stories are made of. A little bit of conflict, a little bit of tension and a whole lot of love. She carefully drafted a story that afternoon with her mom and grandmother. Her baby sister looked over her shoulder. She promised me she'd follow through with her story after I was gone. She gave me a big hug after that session and held the story close to her heart. I hold that memory in mine.

Adjoa is a printmaker, mixed media artist and children's book author and illustrator. She has illustrated 17 books for children including Grandma's Purple Flowers which she wrote and illustrated, and conducts art and writing workshops for children and adults across the U.S.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Barbara Blanco: Artist and Curator

By Crystal Bowers

Barbara Blanco is an artist’s artist. From the moment you walk into her cozy home in Maryland which she shares with her husband and two youngest sons, you know you’re in the presence of someone who lives and breathes the creative process every day. Every visible wall space is decorated with many of her own photographs and paintings, as well as the work of other artists she admires. Some are well known, and some are good friends who hope to be well known someday. You can’t help but notice a plaque that reads, “Painting is a religious activity” hanging amidst her collection of photographs and paintings.
Even though Barbara had only joined the BADC in May 2005, she didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate when the call went out for a curator for the July 2005 show at The Graham Collection. Having curated small shows in the past, she chose put her knowledge to work, along with her enthusiasm and boundless energy, to make sure last year’s Summer show was a huge success. The now popular BADC Artist CD was also her idea. “It’s one of the best things in my life to happen to me, that I was able to be a part of that,” she says, smiling. The show was successful on both levels for Barbara: She sold her work and the show was very well received. She has achieved recognition from the entire spectrum of the art community in the form of additional offers to curate and exhibit in various venues in and around DC in 2006. She will also curate the annual 2006 BADC show this summer.
These days her time seems evenly split between exhibiting and helping others exhibit their work, and she thinks the balance is just about right. From her unique position as both artist and curator, Barbara hopes that she will able to bring her work and the work of others to the forefront. “I don’t know what I will accomplish in my lifetime, but I hope I will able to... I just want to be a force in the art world. I just want to be able to do art without any constraints, you know, just to get out there and show it and do it; be a part of the world that is imaginative and fantastic.”

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Here We Stand

This is a pivotal time for the Black Artists of DC (BADC). As our logo portrays, the door of opportunity is wide open. Our arms are raised in victory. Our identity is clear. We are not crouched down. We stand at the forefront strategically placed to express our uniqueness and to take full advantage of every opportunity that awaits. This electronic newsletter that we have developed, in addition to our new website ( and our blog (, serve as a dynamic forum for exposure as well as a tool for personal and collective growth. These are exciting times. We welcome you to our premier issue.

Adjoa J. Burrowes, editor

Download BADC E Letter Volume 1, Number 1, Summer 2006:

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Friday, August 18, 2006


By Daniel Brooking

Daniel Henry Brooking was my father and my first art instructor. He didn’t fit the romantic image of an artist; he wasn’t a bohemian nor did he go around with pretentious airs. He drank hard and never turned away from a fight. He was bigger than life with a loud laugh, louder shirts and a pocket full of jokes; most of them bawdy. He prized books and didn’t understand why so many people refused to read. He had traveled throughout Asia during the second world war and often told stories of the people he met and the art he saw. He was friendly but could tease you mercilessly and if you couldn’t take a joke, well then “screw you“. He was all this and yet he loved art and showed me how to see beauty, but not in an academic way. As a child, I was surrounded with oil paint, canvases, charcoal, pastels and books, books, books. He sized his own canvases and used special formulas to prepare them for painting. From him, I learned an early appreciation of the native arts of Africa and Asia. He had visited the National Museum so often to study the paintings that when the Mona Lisa was shown there, he was permitted to go inside the ropes and make a copy.
On the outside he was just some roughneck with a bourbon bottle, a “good old boy”, who was down for a good time. No one though him soft because he was an “artist”. He was often plain spoken and could be crude, yet he wrote the most beautiful love poetry to my mother. To him beauty was obvious; no degree was needed. It was just there if you had the eyes to see. All you had to do was “pull your head out of your…”. No one expected his complexity and few knew his drives.
He died over thirty years ago. I wish my children could have known him better. He was rough but he would have had such pride in them. And they would have loved his rough charm, quick wit and fierce devotion. He and I were often at odds with each other but I knew I could count on my Daddy, and he would move heaven and hell to protect me.
I suppose sons try to compete with their fathers. It was a source of great pride whenever he would look at my art work and ask “How did you do that?”, then ask me to teach him the technique. His innovative spirit is alive in me and I have passed it on to my children. The art world has exploded into so many facets with new techniques just over the horizon with every new electronic marvel. Grow, try them all, mix and match, the old with the new, to create your own form! Daniel Henry Brooking would be right out there with you.
Daniel T. Brooking (July 2006)

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Monday, August 07, 2006



The Second Annual Exhibition of the Black Artists of DC

BY: Claudia Gibson-Hunter and Winston Kennedy

Much of our contemporary [Black] art is rightly the art of social analysis and criticism, touching the vital problems of religion, labor, housing, lynching, unemployment, social reconstruction and the like. For today's beauty cannot afford to be merely pretty with sentiment and local color; it must be solid and instructive with an enlightening truth" Alain Leroy Locke 1940.[i]

The Black Artists of the District of Columbia are advantaged by our direct ancestral and cultural relationship to the African continent. We are able to build upon settled and innovative principles of the traditional African visual signs, symbols and images woven into our universal creative productivity in American modernism.

More importantly, as artists we break and establish new foundations for the visionary purposes of our art in the contemporary world of Black visual culture. We see our creativity as a universal and humanistic expression of our journey in the African Diaspora. We further see ourselves as the descendents of those African artists and artisans who significantly affected the direction of European visual modernism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in France.

In July 2005, approximately one hundred Black Artists of DC came together and produced an exhibit titled "Hidden Treasures." We as an Artist collective committed to fund, hang, advertise, and lend works of art for the event. We found that Washington, DC was teeming with excellent, uncelebrated works of African American artists. The Hidden Treasure exhibition excavated those works from the shadows of the neglect of the general Washington, DC art community and city art councils. The final exhibition list of "Hidden Treasures" included the works of 64 artists. That exhibition was a catalyst for many of the artists to become more pro-active in the advancement of our careers as artists. We have continued the hard task of pushing our works out through the DC community and beyond. As a result many others than normally have experienced and appreciated our creations. BADC members have been invited to exhibit their creative works in Los Angeles, Pittsburg, Chicago, Philadelphia, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and London- just to name a few sites. Through camaraderie, sharing of education, inspiration, workshops, and competitive venues, many artists in this group have "fast-forwarded" their art careers. BADC was a fundamental accelerant. We function as a syncretic element in encouraging and faciltating the synergy of the African American visual experience through the works of individual artists.

This year with the use of the verb "to find" we celebrate the process of self-discovery. In this visual application of self-discovery we have built a foundational structure that becomes the sound basis for further building the structures of our individual artworks. "FOUND!, FOUND!" is the title for our second annual BADC exhibit.

FOUND! For the individual BADC artist has layers of meaning. One of which is to lay the most significant course of a structure on a firm base or ground. Indeed, BADC, through this exhibition, has laid a foundation on which our membership can confidently create and share artworks with an extended community. A part of this foundation is our being unapologetically Black and like the universe, understanding Blackness to be infinite in its possibilities. A term we are using as definition is "Deep Black:”;, evolving, expanding, limitless. boundless Blackness. Our initial visual cultural markers are the Minkisi sculptures of the Congo, the bottle brush trees of the South, the grave sculpture and plates of our Old and New World ancestors, the knick knack filled homes of our elders. We look in amazement at the post modern integration of the old and new in totemic and shrine-like installations artworks of Renee Stout. She moves back and forth imbuing her work with visual evidence of Kongo art. She integrates the rituals of the old world into her blues installations and self-portrait sculpture, - these powerful integration of cultural spirits in her new world totems in African Diaspora art. Further, some of these efforts to create and evoke memory, - to memorialize, are found in the works of young African American men who construct totemic memorials to the dead. We look in sadness on these shrines created at sites of human carnage. The young create at these totems at highway crossroads, alley walls and street corners to honor those young people so violently killed.

We have learned from the traditions of our quilting grandmothers who knew how to make something from nothing. We see those traditions of "FOUND" exhibited in the artworks of Betty Saar, Allison Saar, Edgar H. Sorrells-Adewale, Arminah Brenda, Lynn Robinson, Romare Bearden, Augusta Savage, Meta Warwick Fuller, Elizabeth Prophet, Chakia Booker, Frank Smith, Akili Ron Anderson, Gordon Parks, John Biggers, Samella Lewis, Ed Love and a host of others. Many of these artists worked for many years with little recognition however, they persevered in the African American visual continuum and they prevailed.

The ability of the artist to conquer difficulty of the lost and found in life is manifested, we believe, in Valerie Maynard's screen-print series entitled Lost and Found. Her screen prints are visual signifiers of the direction the BADC is taking with this exhibition. Her work is profound in content and visually transformative. She reflects in this work a self-building, a self-authorizing process. Valerie Maynard lost something through violence and oppression in the West, then found and reclaimed those missing self-elements through the creative process, thereby. forever encouraging and inspiring others. In a recent brief article she is quoted as saying, "My vision is inspired by everything that I experience. It flows from a mélange of sights & sounds and comes out in a visual message that I try to interpret -a message that I hope will hold the eyes' intelligence, engage the senses of the viewer and nourish the spirit and consciousness in the transmission."[ii]

The word FOUND! celebrates this creativity within our group. BADC consists of Continental African, African Caribbean, African Native American, African Cuban, African Latin Americans, African Asians, and African Americans having found a common bond in our deep Black images. Our creative works ranges from: abstract to figurative abstraction; from realism to photorealism; from conceptual to other discrete modes of time and performance art. Reflecting an internal cultural gumbo, our artists' studio production stretches across all art modalities. BADC reflects the talents of well over 200 artists. All of us are developing at different rates for we are seeking modes of visual encounters in order to better share and grow our creativity. We will to live dynamically as creative people.

There is a spiritual reason why we are drawn to these art objects. The spiritual reason surrounds us, - it lives within us and reveals itself through the engagement of the artist with the creative process and the physical materials. Spirit can be contained in the objects and in the artworks and it communicates a message to the viewer. From the artworks (Minkisi) those spirits enlighten, instruct, confound, give solace, warn and inspire new visions and new ideas.

The membership of BADC has been outstanding in their mutual support and sharing with one another. Elder to youth, youth to elder: a refreshing and inspiring exchange has taken place. Therefore, we believe that you will discover something beyond, "…the merely pretty with sentiment and local color…"[iii] On the contrary, you will critically excavate, "…something solid and instructive with an enlightening truth."[iv] Finally, in your findings from the FOUND! Exhibition, we believe that you will re-discover some of yourself.

[i] Alain Leroy Locke, The Negro in Art, (Washington, DC: The Associates in Negro Folk Education, 1940), p. 10.

[ii] Quote taken from quarterly Baltimore, MD publication In the Arts, Art Towles, ed., No. 3, 2006, p.9. Also see Valerie Maynards "Lost and Found" Screenprint series in: Forbes, Dennis, Contemporary African American Printmakers, Washington, DC 2004, pp. 92-95.

[iii] Locke, The Negro in Art, p. 10.

[iv] Ibid, p.10

The Drawings of Victor Ekpuk LINES THAT TALK

Victor Ekpuk originally comes from southeastern Nigeria; he was educated in western Nigeria (Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) and, for a number of years now, has lived and worked away from his homeland (first in the USA and now in the Netherlands). It is therefore no surprise that traces of different cultures can be seen in his work. On one hand his work is founded on a long, African tradition; on the other, he is receptive to the history of western culture and to new developments.
What I find particularly attractive about his work is that, in spite of these influences, he has developed an entirely personal graphic language.
Ekpuk is fascinated by language, in particular nsibidi, a graphic language that goes back around a thousand years and originated in his native region. It is a collection of symbols in which I can sometimes see an indication of their meaning, but which generally leave me baffled. Because the language is cryptic, the artist is able to add symbols or to alter existing symbols. He even inserts images that are a faithful representation of current reality, but which, because they are assimilated into the whole, become an inconspicuous component of this ancient language. A story is thereby created that I know I can read, the emotional import of which I can probably digest, which I shall perhaps, in the end, understand a small part of, but which will chiefly enable me to read it as a series of intriguing ideograms, a quantity of miraculous symbols. Language thus becomes simultaneously decoration and content. By manipulating language in this way the artist creates enormous freedom for himself. After all, he knows he is the only true reader. At the same time the language also gives me a great deal of freedom as viewer, since I can give full rein to my imagination.
From this language, which is in fact an ingenious play of lines and threads, Ekpuk has developed a style of drawing based on these lines. He extends them out and at the same time he brings them back to their most elemental form, to little more than contours. They thus provide him with a direct and effective means to express himself. In this context it is significant to know that for many years Ekpuk worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for a Nigerian newspaper. This experience certainly taught him how to employ lines effectively to achieve the best results using restricted means.
Ekpuk usually draws on a fairly small sheet of paper. He then makes a large inkjet print of this, which he again fills in with some lines, symbols and colours. As a consequence of the printing procedure, the colours in his drawings, the black in particular, are especially intense and tactile. As if they are lying on top of the paper.
When the artist begins with a drawing, the idea is scarcely defined in his head. Most of it takes form while working. One “word” leads to another; one image stimulates the creation of another. Coincidence and surprise are allowed to run their course. They are given all the room they need.
Inspiration for the content of Victor Ekpuk’s work comes from events, from what he sees, reads or experiences. On one occasion this leads to a political work, for example a cell surrounded by all sorts of symbols in which depictions of weapons and aggressive human figures are hiding. On another occasion it is the portrayal of two women kissing each other on the street. A searching investigation of the themes would no doubt enable the time and place to be traced. The kissing women have Dutch origins; the cell refers to an African dictator. The many animals and animal shapes must arouse recollections of his homeland.
There are drawings in which I have the feeling that the artist has hidden all kinds of puns or jokes. They positively exude pleasure. It could also be that they reveal the fact that Victor Ekpuk, even though he paints as well, truly loves the medium of drawing.
Rob Perrée
Amsterdam, July 2006.

On Convergences of Cultures, Art and Identity

© 2006 Carol Beane

On Convergences of Cultures, Art and Identity in the Black Artists of DC/BADC.

*Skunder Boghossian, quoting poet Czeslaw Milosz, “A shining light exists where all lines intersect… .”

*Flannery O’Connor, Everything that Rises Must Converge.

Cultural encounters have deeply affected the trajectories of the art of many members of the Black Artists of DC [BADC]. We are people of creativity and imagination. We are children of the African Diaspora. In addition, many have, as member Harlee Little declares, “genetic markers from undisclosed locations” —Native American Indian, Caribbean, Asian. Others, such as Gloria Kirk, have confirmed genetic markers with specifics of place and people. We share the knowledge the Middle Passage and its aftermath, however, varied its manifestations.

We have journeyed far and wide, traveling different roads of colors and hues. Color: an element of artistic creation; color conflating with race, that ambiguous biological-social construct. BADC member mixed-media artist Viola Leak remarks “dealing with the racism of the South gave me many different feelings about color. My family is a rainbow. However, I identify more with the black man in America than with the black man in Africa.”

We travel roads of shapes, forms, textures, lines, densities; different rhythms, currents and flow; differing icons and touchstones—some our own; others, not. We learn differing formulations of shadow, light, translucency. Multiplicities of implements to make marks upon surfaces—brush strokes with light; the vast variety of surfaces and materials upon which to make a line, an impression, an incision, to take a stitch. We conjure glazes and patinas; pour libations; make incantations and invocations to muse and ancestor.

We gather together the images, sensations, sounds, smells and information we find along the way of the journeys in life. They feed our creativity. We carry them with us. Some we wear; others we hide away. Others hide themselves away but remain with us, biding their time. Some we recognize and cultivate—we read; we study; we travel; we live and work abroad; we seek them out. Others we come to know more quietly, finding that they seem to cultivate us.

Affinities develop—inclinations and dispositions. For painter and mixed-media artist Gina Marie Lewis: “the geometric patterns and rhythms in Africa art as well as the simplicity of line in Asian art,” particularly Chinese and Japanese. For Michael B. Platt, printmaker/image maker: the provocative nuancing possible with a Chinese calligraphy brush used in the Japanese style of sumi [ink wash painting/drawing] on portraits of the South African peoples of the Kalahari, the San, also known as the Bushmen. We take advantage of mitigating circumstances—chance encounters; new friends and sights; books; videos; films; photographs of places we never thought to visit; an angle of shadow in a building we are accustomed to passing by but rarely enter; old photographs; images from newspapers. The deliberate happenstance we glean from the stories—the histories and herstories of the older generation whom painter Daniel Brooking, textile/mixed-media artist Cynthia Sands; printmaker/painter Claudia Aziza Gibson-Hunter and painter/collagist Amber Robles Gordon among others mention: stories from parents, family and friends; the artists and teachers; and the articulate words of the very young among us.

All these do converge in the artists’ soul and in their artwork. Most members of the BADC would concur with Harlee Little’s statement about the relation between culture, art and identity,” cultural makeup is the point of departure for all endeavors; the work is generated from this point, modified by experiences and directed toward the independent future of African thought and peoples.”

We draw from deep within self for vision and light; from deep within self to reveal darknesses to see with our own eyes, learning to see with the eyes of others, with the eyes of the “other.” Exposure to other cultures and traditions feeds an innate curiosity about life, the human condition, and one’s self that most artists strive to articulate and satisfy through their work.

Contact with other cultures can lead the artist to an increased receptivity to that which is new and different; engendering familiarity with varying sets of cultural markers and icons, such as masks—objects which fascinate so many; such as cloth with its myriad associations, significances and rituals: the processing of the fiber, the dyeing, the batiking or printing, the weaving, the wearing… . In short, any and all items that is what the artist deems to be “visually stimulating,” to use Michael Platt’s term, may serve the artist’s purpose. Many members in BADC would agree with Gina Lewis who feels “…that life unfolds through patterns, rhythms and rituals, and that these have great bearing on the creative process and product.”

Contact with the cultures of other peoples also can lead to an affirmation of what one knows is one’s own, or decides to claim as one’s own. Having lived, worked and Numerous members of BADC have traveled extensively within Africa; many others have lived and worked there. Gloria Kirk is one BADC member who spoke of those experiences as correctives to the images of Africa with which she had grown up; i.e. the North American ignorance of and disdainful disregard for the people and cultures of the African continent. Hers is now an artistic identity firmly rooted in the numerous strands of information, perceptions, and images she acquired during that phase of her life and which, increasingly, find their place in her evolving photographic imagery.

Ever conscious of being African American—some members’ artistic identity derives in part from a sense of place—Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia—recollections of summer visits and all the things the “old folks” would say or do or talk about; family gatherings, family reunions. Some, like Cynthia Sands, create consciously as a southern woman. Or we create with an indeterminate sense of our elder generation, as with Viola Leakey, a woman, an artist, whose grandmother was from “somewhere in Mississippi and had some Cree Indian in her, [and] some unusual beliefs.” Leakey’s grandmother had an effect on her granddaughter, the artist, though Leakey’s “not just sure exactly what.” Or we create as world travelers and observers, as do some members, Daniel Brookings among them, following the routes of the stories fathers told about being in the Far East during World War II and other journeys.

For example, members such as James Brown, Gwendolyn Aqui, Francine Haskins, Cynthia Sands, Zoma Wallace and others, who work in textile traditions that in the United States connect the artist to family arts—tailoring, dressmaking, quilting, doll making—also serve as ties that bind to traditions associated with the master dyers, weavers, fabric printers and painters, for example, of Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, South Africa and elsewhere.

Apprenticeships with master artists working with ceramics, textiles, metal, glass; or with the master photographer who handles shadows and light result in a deeper understanding of the medium and the craft—the spirit of the clay, the fiber, the metal; the luminosity of glass; the illusive challenges of light.

BADC member Gina Lewis comments that for her “what attracts most in art of any culture is the relationship between art and spirit.” Lewis is intrigued by “the ability to capture intangible nuances through visual art and to communicate with others on the level of spirit.” A high percentage of the BADC members declare non-western art/culture as a primary visual resource for their own art. The spiritual nature many perceive in it is yet another factor for those, such as Akili Ron Anderson who believe, with Lewis, that this relationship is ”one of the most authentic functions of art” and that “we are living in a time when art that moves the spirit is a necessity.”

As we learn to see, ever more profoundly we are better able to discern the many lines of life that converge, enabling artists to know and to represent their subject mater ever more clearly. Experiences with different media and techniques, textures and palate, also awaken the artist to new possibilities for working with a given material; innovative ways of conceptualizing it. Experimentation. In the hands of some BADC members like Juliette Madison and the ceramist Terry deBardelaben, clay, a medium traditionally used for vessels and containers, can become metaphor, addressing injustice, brutality, sexuality and healing.

Artists who understand their media and who are open to experimentation with new technology and information can pay homage to the coherence and continuity of material and execution of tradition—even as they extend the conventional parameters; or, sometimes, ignore them, in artworks of mixed media, found objects, collages—more fluid convergences of materials, techniques and content.

A number of the BADC members acknowledge that they do look at objects and images from many cultures in their work and indicated a preference for non-western traditional art. However, other members feel their spirit resonating most deeply and almost exclusively with African art and artifacts. Regardless of source, as Viola Leak states whateve one draws on “depends upon the ideas onewants to communicate .” The techniques the artist utilizes to achieve certain effects may also reflect a coming together of skills and imagery.

Rarely is the convergence of interests and information of the cultural encounter a matter of the artist appropriating the “foreign” cultural traditions or techniques. It is instead the artists’ insistence on mastering certain techniques so as to use them most effectively when working within the visual and conceptual vocabulary artists have created for themselves or within which they have chosen to create art.

Hip-Hop, initially considered a phenomenon, now firmly established, represents one such creation. In the case of most of the BADC conversations that gave rise to this essay, “culture” connoted ethnicity. However, “culture” also may designate a certain complex of activities, style, attitudes, postures, music, rhythms, flow, heroes/heroines, rites of passage, of being. One speaks today of a Hip-Hop culture.

Numerous younger artists who grew up with Hip-Hop during these past 15-20 years take many of its aspects as the points of departure for much of their creative activity. Visual explorations of language—Hip-Hop’s unique slang; gender issues—its taboo sexual explicitness and iconic imagery in which artists perceive both objectification and empowerment. A panoply of images, not only continues to attract artists but inspires them to create in a variety of media: the graphic arts—works on paper and canvas; photography; videos; film; fashion/textiles; metalwork/ jewelry; sculpture.

Kasha Stewart, aka Kasha Esque, is one younger BADC member who sees her images informed by Hip-Hop culture as another version of and another context for storytelling, which she claims as a particular heritage of the African Diaspora. “I love layering imagery; the similarities of my Hip-Hop generation and the contrast of the past make my work an expression of my own search for African voices while living in the Americas.”

Any consideration of Hip-Hop as an aesthetic touchstone brings with it a realization of its international dimensions and the implications of these. Travel, whether actual or virtual, confirms the global dynamism and the creative energy of Hip-Hop music and its attendant ways of being. Conversations and sessions with leading established artists about music and art lead to discoveries about the antecedents of certain rhythms, phrasings and language; historical explorations and connections—the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement—all these provide more material with which to work. Convergences of information, attitude, expression and style.

Mark Walker, another young BADC member, painter, muralist and comic book artist, turns to the groundbreaking and trend-setting Japanese culture of manga, or comic books, with their specific graphic renderings, to further stimulate his own fertile imagination. The static graphic art of the Japanese comic book has visual animation as its dynamic correspondent. The effects of comic books and animation on artistic expression is an example of an aspect of Japanese culture that has become an aesthetic bedrock worldwide. It generates creative energy that in turn creates its own momentum in much the same way that the very African American, North American, Urban Hip-Hop culture has affected the world.

The images created in this context reflect the artist’s explorations of the interplay of technology and cultural icons. Walker is attracted to the “technological developments that gave rise to the graphic images, which, for the most part, present in a highly sophisticated and adult manner themes of sexuality, identity, violence.” To these we might add injustice, survival, and empowerment. In addition, however, Walker, as some others have done, incorporates information about “science, technology, various philosophical systems, language, Baroque aesthetics” into his conflations of text/script/image.

All these, as well as personal experience, serve as Walker’s touchstones for creative activity within the structure and context of the manga culture in its DC manifestation. In this way, the comic book art exemplifies Harlee Little’s concise pronouncement on the subject of technology and art: “the language of technique, technology, iconography are drawn from many cultures, the ideas expressed belong to me and mine.”

As artists strive to create meaningful works for others and for themselves, their life experiences meld with aesthetics; with their talents; their knowledge and sense of history and being; their understanding of the significance of daily routines and the political and social conflicts and events of their times. The resources of materials and technologies— the traditional and non-traditional; and the formerly non-traditional, such as digital, now, in the 21st century, becoming the traditional—all converge in what the artist creates. Creations which, whether representational or abstract, reveal our lives and the world around us; which seek to take us beyond those crossroads where the straight lines and the right angles and the 45 degree angles come together to make their magic; beyond where the poet sees the “shining light.” ///

***Very special thanks to BADC members for the thoughtful comments about your work, your creative processes and your selves.

© 2006 Carol A. Beane


Associate Professor

Modern Languages and Literature

Howard University

All content © 2006 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved.
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