4: SPRING 2015
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To REBOUND is to realize that you are greater than any limitations you once believed as true. To REBOUND is to shed a mindset that no longer serves a purpose. To REBOUND is to move through obstacles & overcome adversity, because on the other side your idea may be the one to inspire the lives of many & your story, the one we share. In this issue, we chose to explore narratives that embody the ethos of human perseverance. Through the lens of CREATORS, we present the power of introspection, tenacity, vulnerability, and reinvention. We challenge our readers to share in these experiences, to discover their own power and their own authentic voice, with an issue that ultimately proclaims, to REBOUND is to be relentless in the pursuit of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s passion. What's your #REBOUND story?
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table of contents
radiate racy FERNANDO LUIS ALVAREZ 8
The Ethos of Tenacity
MARTA AZEVEDO 1 4 Black Faces
VITO BONANNO 22 Vito's World
HERTZ NAZAIRE 34
Painting Beyond Sickle Cell
MICHAEL GEFFNER 70 ALEX BLAND 42 Inspired Word for All
The Road to JackLucy
Black Lady Liberty
A Cross Examination of Her History
MICHAEL NICHOLAS RHYTHM & REMEDY 84 1 02 The HeartBeat Project
SAVIOR EL MUNDO 94 The Reason, The Movement, Collage
@dekitdekit: __[ PASSION]__ IS MY #REBOUND
Dammed if You Do, Dammed if You Don't!
dekit on scene: Miami, FL
New York, NY
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MARTIN M. HVATTUM 6 THE LOCK CITY THEIVES 52 JUANMA ROJAS 54 MARIO AGUILAR 66 ERIC RODRIGUEZ 76 XAVIER AYES 1 00
dek music: S ZJERDENE
B RI S TEVES WINDS & WALLS U NBUTTONED
editor, creative director, founder Stephanie Harris business manager & contributor Freddy Ly intern Erica Viski contributors Alex Bland Albertus Joseph Berry Danny Matos Eric Rodriguez Fernando Luis Alvarez Graham Willner Hertz Nazaire JackLucy Jose De Olio Juanma Rojas Luis " Storyteller" Cordova Mario Aguilar Marta Azevedo Martin M. Hvattum Michael Geffner Michael Nicholas Pozzie Mazerati & NC Abram Pricilla Perez Savior El Mundo Sammy thrashLife The Lock City Theives Vito Bonanno Xavier Aye s Cover by Dekit Dekit Magazine is published by Dekit,LLC. Special "Thanks" to New England Orthotic ÂŠ201 5 and Prosthetic Systems (NEOPS) of www.dekitdekit.com @dekitdekit Stamford,CT dekit |
Staying True to Self By Martin V. Hvattum
Artist Martin M. Hvattum Co-founder of Blank Space in Olso, Norway, painting a mural. Photograph courtesy of artist.
ne of the most challenging aspects of my career in the arts is dealing with the idea of a personal voice and style. Some artists find and develop a clear voice from the get-go, for others a personal voice is less singular and might change over time.
One of the biggest obstacles in my artistic life was finding a balance between that world and the development of my personal voice. I think it was important to do a little soul searching and find out what the core of my personal voice was, and possibly how I could relate that voice to my professional work. Concepts like exploration, limitations, playfulness and creativity were ideas that I wanted to hold on to. They were also ideas that I was able to bring with me no matter what style I worked in. It enabled me to stay true to myself, while at the same time fitting into the demands of a working professional.
I am the second kind of artist. There are so many different techniques and styles out there that inspire me, and valuable exciting experiences are found in so many different places. I faced the downside of this approach when I transitioned into a working professional. As an illustrator my style and skill-set was not For more information about Martin M. Hvattum fine-tuned to one specific job market. At first, I visit, www.martinmausethhvattum.com was not willing to adjust my approach and consider what the highly competitive design Visit Blank Space, www.blankspaceolso.com world beyond might need an artist to be. 6 | SPRING| 201 5
FERNANDO LUIS ALVAREZ the Ethos ofTENACITY Interview by Stephanie Harris
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"Having been exposed to the arts at a very young age and learning the importance of building community alongside my grandmother, I wanted to build artists’ careers and build community."
gallery picked-up an important collection from the estate of Valerie Furth, a Holocaust survivor whose passion for art allowed her to amass a significant collection of modern and postmodern greats. Alvarez, inspired by Furth’s story of resilience and her keen eye for collecting, will be publishing a book about the Since achieving his dream of owning his own collection this year. gallery, Alvarez has become a father, a leader in the Stamford community, and the owner of a In December of last year, the gallery’s fifth growing contemporary art gallery with an anniversary exhibition was a highlight of the international scope. He has cultivated, in five Connecticut events scene. At the opening, short years, a notable presence that has attended by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Alvarez contributed to the value and art culture of the announced that the gallery had closed a deal metro city of Stamford. Alvarez’s business with the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, for a acumen continues to propel the gallery further, sponsorship of the permanent exhibition of each year reaching new milestones along the Joseph Kosuth’s ni apparence ni illusion in the museum’s Medieval Wing. way. n 2009, Fernando Luis Alvarez, business executive-turned-artist, became the new owner of a storefront in Southern Connecticut’s Stamford downtown. This storefront became the Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery.
In its first year, Alvarez just wanted to learn, give back and strategize a forward plan. That forward plan has unveiled itself in significant ways. In 201 3, the FLA Gallery became the first to represent the famous Italian artist Arturo Di Modica in North America. Today, an edition of his “Charging Bull,” its twin found on New York City’s Wall Street, can been seen in front of the growing gallery. Within that same year, the
These accomplishments aside, all along the way, the gallery has been growing emerging artists it discovered through its program, such as John J. Bedoya and Evelin Velasquez of Colombia, Damla Tokcan Faro, Jon Tsoi, Nathan Lewis, Jena Thomas and Rex Prescott Walden, among others. What sustains a gallery or any entrepreneurial endeavor? Is it attitude? Is it abiding by dekit | 9
personal and moral standards, taking risk, or an unwavering commitment to a vision? Is it rolling with the blows? For the gallery owner that consistently wears a pair of bright red shoes, once owned by his mentor Allan Stone, all of the above have guided him thus far. However, what Alvarez undeniably has and has shown is an unyielding tenacity to build community and the careers of the artists he represents.
as my grandmother did, and applying what I learned from her to what I plan to achieve with the gallery.
There is a term that you have used early in the story of the Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery and that is "bullish", what is the significance of this as it relates to who you are and what you've been able to accomplish as a relatively new gallery?
What experiences in your life prepared you and drove you to create the Fernando Luis It is an â&#x20AC;&#x153;all-inâ&#x20AC;? attitude! I am aggressively and ruthlessly optimistic. There is no better Alvarez Gallery? business like the art world. The art world has performed better than the stock market and the SP-500, not to mention that it has a significant impact on building community. And so, it makes me even more bullish.
Having been exposed to the arts at a very young age and learning the importance of building community alongside my grandmother, I wanted to build artistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; careers and build community. Our gallery's success mirrors the creativity, innovation and community-building What keeps you innovative, passionate and that I experienced as a child. So, I am creating unapologetic? 1 0 | SPRING| 201 5
WHEN YOU HAVE STRONG PRINCIPLES , INTEGRITY, A STRONG WORK ETHIC, AND CAN BE CONSISTENT WITH THE MANAGEMENT OF YOUR BRAND , ONE CAN SORT OF GO ANYWHERE AND START AGAIN FROM SCRATCH AS IF IT WERE JUST ANOTHER DAY.
If you don't innovate you die! What keeps me going is an addiction to outpace the competition and, in order to accomplish that, one has to innovate.
interpreted. After having done my research, my own analysis, and thinking long and hard about the topic at hand, I become stubborn and outspoken and I push for what I believe in. That may require apologies, but I don't feel that anyone who truly believes in something, dedicates their life to it, and passionately delivers their message should apologize. Generally, those who do, do so because they doubt themselves. As long as what is being done is for the greater good of society, and not for selfish gain or bias, there is nothing to apologize for. At the same time, in this way, the reward or defeat is mine alone at the end of the day.
As a new gallery owner, entrepreneur and artist, dealing with obstacles related to being new in the industry, what are some of the principles that you can say has help you to overcome obstacles?
Any business, idea or human being operates in one system in this country. In that system, I know that if I lose everything tomorrow, I can start all over the following day. When you have strong principles, integrity, a strong work ethic, and can be consistent with the management of your brand, one can sort of go anywhere and start again from scratch as if it were just another As for being unapologetic--it's not so much how day. Even after folding. As well, understanding I see myself, but yet it is how I may be that and not having much fear helps me easily overcome obstacles. As for passion, the integrity of believing in something from the heart and seeing what others may have in front of them but do not recognize, is what keeps my passion alive. I also believe that if you respect what you do and you do it for reasons other than money, you will thrive.
WE CANNOT TAKE ANYTHING WITH US WHEN ONE ' S DAY COMES , EXCEPT WHAT WE KNOW WE ’ VE ACCOMPLISHED IN
OUR LIVES AND HOW IT POSITIVELY IMPACTED SOCIETY.
Also, knowing that I'm building another type of wealth by building community and that I'm helping many people achieve their dreams is most satisfying.
In your own words, to rebound is to...
Most people think of rebounding as to have lost something and to come back again or attempt to regain something. This is true, but in my eyes, it is simply a part of the cycle of where I What inspired the artist to develop a gallery am going.
and brand that empowers emerging artist, sometimes, at the expense of As a Stamford, CT based gallery, recently celebrating it fifth anniversary, selecting overshadowing your own artistry? artist based on their creativity, but namely story, you are building a remarkable I understand the power of the arts and what art their story as well and one that now includes can do for a community if well managed. I Joseph Kosuth and the Louvre in Paris, how knew that for my next career, I wanted to help would you describe the impact of your artists and – through and with them—build success? community. Because of my experience at Allan Stone's home, I also have great admiration for the role of the collector in the life of the artist and I wanted to continue to learn more about that.
How do you respond in the face of resistance while pursuing a legacy? What makes it worth it?
I think it's premature to claim any significant success, really. Yet, if what we have accomplished is seen that way, than people should just focus on doing what they are passionate about and to give it all back along the way. I'm just focused on selling value in everything I represent and reinvesting it in community or in my artists' careers. It is in the growth of community and in the careers of the artists I represent, where I allow myself to see the success. Other than that, I enjoy being able to wake up and have breakfast with my family and my gallery every single day.
Well, for one, you only live once and I don't believe in a legacy--those are big words. I just believe in giving back and creating value on my promise: artists and community. We cannot take anything with us when one's day comes, except what we know we’ve accomplished in our lives and how it positively impacted society. For more information about Fernando Luis Alvarez visit, www.flalvarezgallery.com
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F ALL SEVEN TIMES , STAND UP EIGHT. ~J APANESE P ROVERB
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"...the value, uniqueness and worthiness of self" by Marta Azevedo
Interview by Stephanie Harris
was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where nearly half of the population is Afrodescendent. During my childhood, I spent my summer vacation in the black neighborhood where my father grew up, his mother and siblings still lived there. My father's family was the only white people in the neighborhood. Because of this, I had the opportunity to experience the black culture, such as, Jongo (an African dance), Umbanda (an Afro-Brazilian religion) and Samba. I have carried these memories and experiences through my life. The black population in Brazil, as in many other countries, is not truthfully or accurately portrayed in books and the media. So in 2003, I started a personal project about the African Brazilian to portray the beauty and culture of these people through individual faces with different attitudes and lifestyles. In 2004, I moved to United States and decided, to include the African-Americans and the Africans who lived in America. Once a year I came to Brazil to photography Afro-Brazilians.
and they provide a sense of the presence of a population that is often ignored or misrepresented. In my images, I try to reflect a sense of the person, the individual who lies beneath the image. My work portrays people in a nontraditional way and their facial expressions convey different kinds of emotions. Generally, the people I work with are not models, but regular people that wish to be photographed. From an aesthetic perspective, I like the contrasts and textures that I get when converting photographs into black and white. The conversion of each picture is a different process. It depends on the lighting, skin color, hair and the clothing or head dressing. I keep the pictures as simple as possible with nothing that will distract the eye from the main idea. I try not to spend too much time in the post processing because I prefer to achieve most of what I have in mind when I am photographing. Hays, clays, straw and other things related to African and Black culture can be seen in my work. As the ideas came, I added new elements.
My portraits reflect the value, In September 201 2, I launched the uniqueness and worthiness of self, book, Black Faces in Brazil. dekit | 1 5
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WITH BLACK FACES, I BECAME A DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHER. I REALIZED I COULD BE THE ARTIST I WANT TO BE. I moved back to Brazil in February work can change this mindset but I appreciate how people from all over 201 3. the world like my work.
What impact has this series made on you as a photographer? What were some of the challenges you experienced to create this With Black Faces, I became a different series? photographer. I realized I could be the artist I want to be. I am also very happy that I could develop this project and portray the people so present in my life. I never thought people would appreciate my project Black Faces so much, especially with the portraits being out of the box.
The challenges I had was when I moved to United States I didn't know anyone. It took me sometime to figure out how to meet people. At first, I posted and ad on a website for photographers looking for "models". Then the word of mouth began and people started looking for me.
In America, recent police brutalities, ending in tragedy, towards people Black Faces has been well received. It have become widespread media, has been published in national and and as you said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;the black international magazines . population in Brazil, as in many countries, has not been truthfully or accurately portrayed in books and For more information about Marta media.â&#x20AC;? Do you see your work Azevedo visit, www.martaphotos.com contributing to healing and correcting this imbalance? The brutalities that happens in America, happens in Brazil as well. I don't see how my work can heal this imbalance. Racism is still present in people minds. I do not see how my 20 | SPRING| 201 5
ALTHOUGH THE WORLD IS FULL OF SUFFERING , IT
IS FULL ALSO OF THE OVERCOMING OF IT. -H ELEN KELLER
by Stephanie Harris
he Art Basel draws hundreds of thousands of people, including a mix of artist, art fairs, celebrities and art enthusiasts, such as myself, to Miami, FL every year. In December of last year and at the Spectrum Art Fair, I came across a world that in a moment, seized my eyes and spoke directly to an uninhibited younger me. The younger me, who colored outside the lines--until she inherited composure, found Vito Bonannoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artwork at the far end of one of the multifold of art shows in Miami. A closer look revealed more than vibrant colors and familiar characters juxtaposed with layers of graffiti; on display in Miami were his stories, dreams and obsessions--the depths of an artist living with autism. I was curious about the life that inspired the artwork before me. 24 | SPRING| 201 5
Four months later and back in Connecticut, I would have the chance to meet Bonanno in person. Naturally, to prepare, I watched all of his YouTube videos (awesome content, by the way) and read any press I could find about him and his work. Afterwards, I found myself taking notice of the distinctions and variety of traffic lights, and each time I happen to look up at my ceiling fan or while entering my bathroom, I thought of Bonanno. With that, my curiosity and an anticipation to meet him grew. I was eager to understand the person behind the art. I went to Bonanno’s New Haven, CT studio, knowing he is a brilliant artist and he is autistic. I knew of his fascination with fixtures, such as, traffic lights, ceiling fans and toilets. I knew about his friend Luis the Rat that uses the power of the plague to protect him from anxiety and worrying. I also knew 26 | SPRING| 201 5
that when he and I met, I would be patient— after all, he is an artist. After I happily said, “Hello” and introduced myself, though Bonanno extended a greeting, I got the sense that something was distressing him—this would set the tone for the interview I could not prepare for. My interview became an observation of a complex human being, as we all are. Yet, in this moment, Bonanno was an artist living with autism--unable to hide his vulnerability. He was unable to share the other sides of himself, the parts that are fun, witty and animated. Bonnano lives with a heighten sensitivity to both positive and adverse experiences; it all remains a part of him. On the day of our interview, he drove past walls of graffiti to meet me at his studio. When I met Bonanno, because of a past encounter with local
top right Hanging in Waterbury Mixed media on canvas Bottom right Me and Amanda Mix Media on canvas
above Moving Traffic Lights Mix media on canvas
Courtesy of the artist
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I ALSO BECAME
AWARE OF THE SPACE WHERE COMPASSION LIVES AND ITS PART IN ALLOWING PEOPLE TO BE WHO THEY ARE, ESPECIALLY WHEN ONE IS VULNERABLE.
struggle to possess a balance, where only art offers a relief. And In this space, I became aware of empathy and compassion and how necessary these are in allowing people to be who they are, especially when one is After spending time with Bonanno in vulnerable. his art space, a space of refuge in which he is able to channel his The colliding colors, textures, and emotions and cope with lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daily childhood nuances, such as, Daffy struggles, I did not gain the Duck, The Ninja Turtles and glitter, understanding I thought I had been drawn and painted upon canvas in a childlike manner, I found in Miami, seeking. armed me with only a fraction of However, my short time spent with Vito information, and shaped a perception was an opportunity that I feel privilege that did not align with Bonannoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. to have had. I witnessed his battle with distressing experiences, learned of Although, I did not have the interview I how converging pleasant and prepared for, my visit with Bonanno unpleasant experiences turn into affirmed to me that paramount to an obsessions and of his relentless understanding is compassion. graffiti artists where a misunderstanding led to an artist verbally assaulting him, he was reliving the stress and anxiety he felt from that experience.
Vito Bonanno's Artist Statement:
f you could take a look inside everything I am, mind, body and soul, you would see the images and feel the emotions that I put onto the canvas. My art is a true example of who I was and what I was feeling during the days any one piece was created. Those factors determine the images and colors that are used, and is why many of my pieces are multi â&#x20AC;&#x201C;layered, because they resemble the multi-layered, chaotic thought process of images and thoughts that call my mind their home. My mind is a place where images, thoughts and words float around in a bumper-car like world, crashing and speeding in all directions. They rarely park into a memory garage to be taken out only when I want, but instead they barge their way around the crowded streets of my mind, all of them looking to be in front of the line. In wanting to clear my head sometimes of all this noise, I get some relief by taking these 30 | SPRING| 201 5
images and feelings and putting them down onto the canvas. Over the months of working on a series of works, this process gets repeated and layers are added over layers, sometimes obliterating the entire drawing underneath, other times allowing some of the under drawings to peak through. The outcome is my hyper focused hybrid dream-state style, where silent images shout for your attention from off the canvas and demand that you take a closer look into the secrets and treasures hidden in plain sight, leaving you to ponder the wonders of the human mind and psyche as experienced by myself and others who live and work with the daily challenge of, but too commonly overlooked gift, of autism. For more information about Vito Bonanno visit, www.vitobonanno.com
right SECR Toilet Mix Media on Canvas Coutesy of the artist
O UR GREATEST GL NEVER FAILING , BU
EVERY TIME WE FAI
~RALPH WALDO E
LORY IS NOT IN UT IN RISING UP IL.
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Painting Beyond Sickle Cell
hile living with sickle cell anemia, a genetic autoimmune disease, Hertz “Naz” Nazaire, a HaitianAmerican painter and advocate for the Sickle Cell community, from Bridgeport, CT, has experienced his share of loss and suffering. Yet, despite all of these thing, including the loss of his mother at young age, being homeless at periods in his life, while fighting to survive, he also fights to transcend and honor his experiences with his art. That, which has given him hope, an outlet and the desire to empower the lives of others. In other words, he has not given up.
right Need Not Suffer Not Alone Oil Pastels Coutesy of Hertz Nazaire
by Stephanie Harris, Artwork courtesy of Hertz Nazaire
living with sickle cell, but Nazire's attitute is one of transcendence, he says, "Sickle cell is an opportunity to learn compassion, to learn what pain is, because when you know what pain is, you can love another."
Nazaire painted Sickle Cell Pain, a series of paintings he gave freely to the sickle cell community to help the efforts of building awareness for sickle cell anemia. Published in medical books, in presentations and exhibitions, his work has traveled overseas and to countries around the world. 10 Redefined, a self portrait depicting the pain he was feeling after a visit to the hospital where they released him without his pain being In a GoFundMe campaign recently managed. Nazaire says, "I wanted to started by the artist, Nazaire heartitly show I was drowning in this pain and expresses how important art is to his feeling hopeless." life.“My art has given me all the reasons to hold on to life where pain tells me the Throughout his life, his art has intermittently lived in the background in journey should end.” order to manage his health, but today we Nazaire, as many others who are born find Nazaire feeling strong. He is eager with sickle cell anemia is susceptible to to build lasting contributions to the severe health problems, such as, severe community he passionately advocates infections, stroke, attacks of intense for and looks to the humanity of others to pain, (a.k.a sickle crisis), and there is help jump-start an independence that will higher risk of dying. Yet, Nazaire writes, allow him to realize his dreams. “I don't fear my death, what I fear is wasting my life focused on pain and With the permission of the artist, we suffering through a disease that the share excerpts from his GoFundMe world around me has little compassion campaign that seeks to fund the purchase of art supplies in order to fulfill for." an unwavering purpose. Yes, there are challenges for someone dekit |
My art has given me all the reasons to hold on to Life where Pain tells me the journey should end. The end is better than it is to endure torture, I still think that way. I don't fear my death, what I fear is wasting my life focused on pain and suffering through a disease that the world around me has little compassion for. Art gave my life more than the pain took away. Art made me love Science. Art made me love Languages, Cultures, Music, and Math. Learning is 36 | SPRING| 201 5
THAT IS MY DREAM , TO
STAND ON MY OWN SHARING MY VISION . important to me, it has no end. When I stop painting or exploring my creative nature I feel like I am wasting what is most precious to me, those pain free moments without Sickle Cell pain.
am asking is not enough to pay back that college loan. I live on disability I can only laugh at my bills. I want to keep pushing to create art that can change the quality of my life. Maybe what I have to share is worth enough to take that trip to Japan, get that car, pay the art school loans and pay for my own food and Healthcare. That is my dream, to stand on my own sharing my vision.
What would you do when you feel invisible? Those 'exclusive' spaces out of your reach... I am not asking for the trip to What would you do for your Japan and Haiti, I always Art? wanted or the car I need to do all the things that would make What I do need is to fund the my life so much easier. What I art that is on my mind and in
Hertz "Naz" Nazaire is his Brigdeport,CT studio. Photo courtesy of Hertz Nazaire, (right) 10 Redefined, oil pastels on foam board, photo courtesy of artist.
I was born driven by curiosity to think creatively. I was also born with the sickle cell disease that drove my art to become my voice when my silent suffering felt ignored.
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my dreams that I cannot afford the cost of paint and canvas to express. A series of paintings that shares who I am. A series of paintings that says I'VE LIVED and SEEN. I have learned that nothing is Painless. What you want in life is worth fighting for, asking for. "Hope" is useless when people forget to Do. Many say,"You are so talented." If I had a dollar for everytime I heard that I would not need SNAP aka Food Stamps. I would have never been homeless.
world for awareness and education by those in the Sickle Cell Disease community. But I have other art I would like to share, other series I dream of painting.
I AM ALIVE MY
EYES ARE STILL BRIGHT WITH CREATIVITY AND CURIOUSITY.
Most of the time and money I spend goes to my health to keep the pain away.This is a reality I can't escape. I face it with courage, in memory of the friends who lost this same fight. They would not want me to waste the moment. I am alive my eyes are still bright with creativity and curiousity. I just need help to express it. I am so much more than, "so talented" with your help I can show the world what my mind sees when my voice is no longer silent.
(left) You Are Who You Are, oil pastels on board, 2015
I am proud of those paintings about my Sickle Cell Pain, they I want to paint. A painter I have something to say in this have been used around the without paint is not a painter. t.
M Y BEST IS STILL AHEAD OF ME
I have something to say in this ignoring. This is where I want life. Dreams are inspired but it to take my ART. I am alive I does not mean you can reach have PURPOSE. them alone. What could have been, what My community asks a lot of me could still be, I don't know but and I do feel a sense of today I am feeling happy responsibility to give and do as because I am pain free. much as I can to give back. I feel this strong pressure to So many years... at this. become successful as a Pain I can endure, but without painter to help the causes I my Art I am already dead. believe needs my support. My BEST is still ahead of me. I am highly motivated. I am tired of seeing rich and successful folks in my community ignore the causes I care about like Sickle Cell Disease. Since I see the need, I should be doing more to be successful enough to be in a position to do what I see they are 40 | SPRING| 201 5
I need 1 ,400 Patrons of the Arts to reach the goal of finally doing a series of work that will define my life's purpose For more information about Hertz "Naz" Nazire visit, www.nazaire.info To make a donation visit www.gofundme.com/notdeadyet
Of Earth and Rain Acrylic on Canvas
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Alex Bland's Black Lady Liberty A Cross Examination of Her History Interview by Stephanie Harris Photography by Alex Bland
Model: Sabibi Damachoua Make up: Pace Chen Stylist: Lana Burton dekit |
et to the unsettling sound of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, Alex Bland's Black Statue of Liberty, a short film listed on YouTube, forces its viewers to acknowledge questions, such as, "What if the Statue of Liberty that stands in the New York harbor shared the likeness of a black woman? Would we be living in a different country? What would race relations in the U.S. look like today?
around, what could be denote as a utopian idea. Yet, today, as we find ourselves overcome by the widespread media coverage of police brutality, a divide on immigration laws and the rights of LGTBQ, and common knowledge of the fact that African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately the majority incarcerated in U.S. prisons, to examine a utopian idea as a means of inspiring a hopeful look towards a reimagined future becomes necessary.
In 1 886, the Statue of Liberty, less known by her original name, Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, became the dedicated symbol of hope, freedom and democracy. It had been 20 years after the abolition of slavery, racism and discrimination towards African Americans as we know did not end with the dedicated emblem of these principles.
It is necessary in the pursuit of a future where such disparities no longer conflicts our society and we can celebrate in the equal treatment of all people. Until then, we can all play a part by envisioning a world, a future characterized and based on questions that challenge us to ask, “What ifV?”
Today, in 201 5, what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes for the U.S. is plagued with irony as we still live in a society where freedom and justice for all regardless of race, ability and sexual orientation, struggles to be a reality. Not to mention, that the original design and concept was created by French abolitionist Edourd de Laboulaye. The French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi and structural engineer Gustave Eiffel, were ahead of their time when they constructed what we see in New York City today.
For his Master’s Degree project, Bland decided to explore African American History. In the YouTube description of Black Statue of Liberty, he writes, “As part of my exploratory analysis of African American History, I noticed that during the Centennial Celebrations for the Statue of Liberty, the overwhelming majority of the literature associated with the monument omit any notion of the abolitionist movements involvement in its formation, despite the fact that in New York City Labolaye was aided with the design by the Anti-Slavery Union League.”
Bland's short-film inspires many questions Bland also mentions that there may not exist, 44 | SPRING| 201 5
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"catagorial evidence” that states the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was intended to be an African American woman. He also writes, “Vbut it was certainly meant to represent an end to slavery and the original model did possess the facial features of an African woman and in broken shackles.”
between anti-slavery and Liberty’s construction and this was supported by the inauguration speech at the statues unveiling whereby it was proclaimed by Albert W. Lefaivre that Liberty was, I quote, “a tribute to the Union Victory and abolition of Slavery.”
Initially, I wanted to produce a photographic editorial to illustrate aspects of Americana, such as, Commercialism, Politics and Patriotism, but on my first research trip to the U.S. the nationalistic iconography alone was so expansive. I narrowed the focus onto one of the nation’s icons that stood out the most, quite literally; in this case, it was the Statue of Liberty.
layered dimensions the research had uncovered. Liberty’s history was in many ways like peeling back the skin of a fruit in order to see what was at the core. Taking this metaphor, I felt I could create it visually by having a Black Liberty painted white so that at first the audience sees what they know to be Liberty only for her tears to reveal what she was meant to represent.
Were you given a choice of medium for your project and if so, what lead to your decision You are from the UK, I am curious to know to create a short film? Tell me about the what encouraged you to explore the African progression to tears. American History that would lead you to producing, Black Statue of Liberty for your The Project was self-devised; I wanted to Master’s Degree Project? create a piece of work, which conveyed the
Preliminary investigation into the creation of Liberty showed conflictive reports as to aspects of the design, which peaked my interest. I made contact with the French and American embassies; they were unable to further my research however as they only directed me to the museum at Ellis Island. I contacted several museums in New York City about Liberty’s construction to which the Metropolitan Museum Archive responded by providing images of the prototype statue, which they had in storage.
What is most compelling is the marrying of Black Statue of Liberty and its black and white imagery, with Billie Holiday’s notable song, Strange Fruit. It provides an undertone that is jarring, almost haunting and yet so poetic. I wonder, when you decided that this would be the song for the film, did you do so pre-production or post and were there other song options? Why was this song the one you chose? As part of my research, I read a collection of reports by Michael Morangelli an American Composer who discusses the history of Jazz. Whilst reading, I was also listening to an array of music from the genre and as soon as I heard Strange Fruit, sung by Billie Holiday, it was like an electrical charge and I knew the project would have to incorporate it.
I was blown away by the images provided, as they showed Liberty with broken shackles. Research led me to visit Paris, where archived literature showed that in the 1 860’s Edourd de Laboulaye and other like-minded men created France's anti-slavery society shortly after they commissioned the design of the Statue of Billie Holidays rendition of the song conveys the Liberty. This connection clearly supported a link 48 | SPRING| 201 5
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emotion not only of the lyrics, but also of the equality and liberty for all? inequality she was suffering at the time, and by using this song it give Liberty a voice, as for I think the cultural impact of having a Black nearly 1 29 years her history has been silenced. Statue of Liberty would have monumentally changed the American mindset, as it would have been constant reminder of the role African What is, if any the significance of it being a Americans played in wining America’s black and white film? Independence. The video recordings of Billie Holiday are on early cine cameras and I felt the style of the film should encompass the mood of the song and the imagery of the time.
It has been almost 4 years since you published your short-film to YouTube. The video ranks high on the search engines and the YouTube views are over 1 6,000 now, how does it make you feel? There is a significance of your film beyond a master’s project; do you find yourself defending your work?
Historically, the statue of liberty has been the symbol for U.S immigrants and part of American History, before doing this project did, you associate the Statue of Liberty with African American history? Like most, I saw it as an icon to represent freedom, but not at all related to the abolition of slavery.
Once you completed this project, what did you uncover about yourself in relation to its subject?
The film took off quite rapidly in the first six months obtaining 1 5,000 views and I received lots of positive feedback. I don’t defend my work as Art is always open to debate.
The project reinforced my belief of social responsibility and that we have obligation for equality and justice, which applies when presenting our history.
How do you think your work has contributed to the conversation about equality, injustice, and search for liberty? What might be the message to resonate and go beyond America to a global conscious?
What sorts of things were difficult about completing this project? The only difficulties encountered were in the collation of research material as it was very difficult to locate certain information.
When creating the film in 2011 , I wanted to impart what I felt was an injustice to this aspect How did the law degree come in handy with of African American history, I hope that it gets this project? more people to explore and discover their own cultural history and identity. I think having a legal background helped evaluate the credibility of sources.
What I like about your piece is that it strums up a series of wistful questions such as, what if Lady Liberty in New York City depicted a black woman? Would having a Black Statue of Liberty alter American History by providing a reference or reminder that would hold the country accountable to its promises? Or would it, as the existing Statue of Liberty, duplicitously stand for
For more information about Alex Bland visit, www.alexbland.com
Lock City Thieves on choices that led to the band they are today and the band they wish to become in the future:
Lock City Thieves has impacted our livesA Forming The Lock City Thieves has impacted our lives in a big way. We’re playing more shows, audience reception is now higher, the music has been regenerated and molded into a somewhat familiar, but new sound, and the bands vibe is at an all time high. We’ve met and played with some fantastic bands. The guys from the band Cometa tell us how much we’ve improved since the Bonethrower days. At Two Boots and Seaside Tavern, to name a couple, the fans love the fact that we’re not stiff on stage and how Dan plays the drums like an animal. This all keeps us going.
We started as two-piece band, moving to a four piece, moving back down to a two, and then a three-piece band. When we were a two-piece, people would come up to us saying that we had something special and the next person would ask, “What happened to the other two guys?” Jimmy and Dan were having a lot of fun as a two-piece, but ultimately, decided to bring in Justin, our bassist. Adding a bassist balanced out our sound, The young band’s vision and aspirations gave Jimmy room to solo and Justin has added great backups. We envision ourselves going to the next level, being signed by a good label that’ll pick When we added Justin the band's sound hopefully our EP and put us on tour and having this as a completely changed for the better and so we up We are currently booking more shows, changed our name from Bonethrower to The Lock career. on the next video and planning the next EP City Thieves. The Bonethrower name didn't reflect working to get We want to stay consistent, our musical identity as a hard rock blues band. continuingthere. to play as many shows as we possibly Some venues wouldn't book us because they can, continuing release music and making sure thought we were a cheap metal band or people that our music istotrue to who we are as a band. thought we were a metal band and were surprised to find out we weren’t when they heard us play.
Forming the band and creating music as The
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For more information about Lock City Thieves, visit https://www.facebook.com/thelockcitythieves
Finding Your Voice
hroughout my whole life, I have faced constant obstacles. This does not mean that I had a sad childhood. I come from a very humble family, which at a very young age, instilled in me core values that are important to have as a human being, such as, humility, courtesy and respect. And although my parents have given their all to help me, the less resources you have, the harder it is to move forward to achieve your goals.
My biggest challenge is my own mind and myself. One of the hardest things for me to overcome has been not to going to art school; this was one of my dreams. Though I tried repeatedly, my dreams lived parked for a while, but this does not mean they remained dormant. One day I started creating and for the past few years, I have pushed and challenged my mind and body to create despite these obstacles. I think I still have to find my authentic selfbut this is my path as an artist. I think the life of an artist is never ending. I think the day your mind stop search stop being an artist. That is why today I think I have much to become one. For more information about Juanma Rojas visit, www.jnmrojas.wix.com/juanmarojas
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by Juanma Rojas
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T HE ROAD TO JACKLUCY Interview & photography by Stephanie Harris
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had the privilege of talking with singersongwriter, JackLucy in her apartment in East Harlem, New York. In her room, also equipped as a studio, JackLucy shared the life experiences that led to the release of 1 827, a revealing EP with five of her most intimate songs, released early last year.
"I remember feeling like I didn't fit in anywhere or couldn't relate to people around me or to my familyalthough with them is where I felt most comfortable." from musically inclined family, everyone plays--mostly for the church though. I am the oldest of six, which I think lends itself to my serious demeanor.
I knew that I was gay at five years old because they showed videos of the damnation of gays in church. It was tough to watch, hard to understand, easier to stay silent and Recorded in just one week, at a protective of myself. I went friend’s L.A. apartment, this through life this way for about Pittsburg native opens up about 25 years. growing up in a single parent Christian family, forgiving an I remember feeling like I didn't absent father, her sexuality and fit in anywhere or couldn't relate her evolving music, which she to people around me or to my notably describes as Urban family-although with them is Folk. How does an urban folk where I felt most comfortable. artist find the courage to tell her story, transform her artistry and When I started playing music own her identity? An identity and started to peruse it that she says, gives her the professionally, I ran from freedom to create who she is. anything that had to do with being gay or expressing myself And she is JackLucy. using any sort of pronouns.
What was your childhood like? What were some of the lesson you learned that in retrospect, help create your identity and passion for creating the style of music you love?
I didn't go to school for music like I had originally hoped to because my family questioned my decision and made it seem like it wasn't a good idea. But when I look back It would have been the best idea. I played like JackLucy: My childhoodVI 11 instruments, started a guitar grew up with a single mother. class for my high school, played She was wonderful. I come
everywhere, played professionally at 1 5, and in bands.
Really, so no to music school? JL: I just didn’t understand how to say, well this is why I want to do it because years prior to that I had no choice of my own. It was, you’re going to be religious, you’re going to be this girl, you’re going to be xyz. But I can’t fault my parents for it because that’s all they knew.
How did that impact how you make music now? JL: As far as how I create my music now, it’s really about being super honest about who I am, being honest with myself and even to the point of just stripping down. I just want it to be me, guitar and in your face lyrics about me waking up in the morning next to whoever I want to wake up next to. That’s what I am working on now and that’s where the name JackLucy comes from.
Yes, tell me about the name JackLucy. JL: So my nickname is Sonji, that use to be my artist name dekit | 59
JL: So my nickname is Sonji, that use to be my artist name for many years. Sonji was reserved for family and close friends except, everyone else was calling me that and hacking it up. It lost its intimacy. I thought about it after having to rebound a couple of times, if I were a Jack an All-American white boy, I would have a deal already; they wouldn’t ask me to write music for anyone else. If I were a Lucy, girl next door, feminine, singing the same thing I’m singing, I would have a deal already. So, I just matched them together and called it JackLucy.
So does JackLucy give you the freedom to do what you feel you otherwise couldn’t do? JL: JackLucy gives me the freedom to create who I am. Sonji holds on to all of these systems of my family, childhood and confusing pain. JackLucy is a way of breaking those systems. Even though I am neither one of those, a Jack or a Lucy, if I put them together I am all those things.
I feel like I play folk music but I’ve been sent to many R&B labels. I don’t play R&B, but I don’t have a traditional folk sound either. It’s urban. I really feel I play folk music, but you put urban in front of folk and people can usually guess it’s going to be a black person playing folk. You know folk with a little bit of a tan. Urban folk on SpotIfy!
J ACKLU CY
G I VE S M E THE F R E E D O M TO C R E A TE W H O I AM . S ON J I H O L D S O N TO ALL OF THESE S Y S TE M S O F M Y F A M I L Y, CHILDHOOD AN D CONFUSING PAI N
You describe your music as This issue is in part about urban folk, what is urban folk rebounding, bouncing back, music? I'm interested in how artist choose to persist despite the JL: I use to say hip-hop folk all plethora of obstacles that with creative the time and when I was putting come aspirations and how those out 1 827 that I didn’t fit. I was obstacles help shape who sitting down with my good are, tell me about the friend, Eric Downs, who they experiences that challenged produced the whole thing and it you and helped you grow as just came to me, it’s urban.
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an artist? JL: Mental challenges, that’s the hardest thing for me. As for a situation, going to a label for instance and going as an artist and them telling you, ‘we don’t want you as an artist but we’ll take your song and give it to someone that looks like this’ -that fits the box. Instead of taking that as the next step, I definitely took it as, 'why am I not good enough to perform for this box?' That shaped the way I would respond in such a meeting now or I’d put out the EP on my own like I eventually did and not worrying about a record label at all. Also, growing up without my father, who is also musical and yearning to be a part of his life. Yet at that time, he didn’t know how to make me a part of his life because of his addiction and I didn’t understand that. When I saw him begging for change one day that completely changed the way I viewed him and my position in his life and changed how I make my music.
The song, Father is a song that resonates with the people who grew up without their father-- it reaches even with those who did grow up with their father in their lives, and I think it’s because it is so honest and has a message of forgiveness, tell me about why this song needed to be made?
H AD B E E N HOLDI NG ON TO T H E M E X P E C TI N G TH I S H U GE, B I G T H I N G , TO H AP P E N I N M Y LI FE. JL: One day he reached out, about six years ago, after he sobered up. I didn’t answer the phone until I realized it might be part of his sobriety. He would call every morning at 6:00 a.m. So, I started picking up and all he would say is, ‘Hey, I love you.’ We talk a lot more now. He’s definitely my biggest fan. Father is one of the most honest songs that I wrote about my dad living on the street. This is a conversation we had. He loves me anyway and no, I don’t have a perfect family, most people don’t. 62 | SPRING| 201 5
In another interview, you talk about the 1 827 EP as a project to close a chapter and this is evident with each song, how important has this EP been to you as an artist and in what way does it give way to your next project? JL: Well a lot of the songs on the EP, unlike Father, I wrote when I was 1 9--so, a while ago. I’m 34. I had been holding on to them expecting this huge, big thing, to happen in my life. I went to L.A. and I was going to write a whole new record, but I said I have all of these song-there were more than five. So being able to ship those ideas from the past 1 5 years of my life, when I was really working hard to make music, was a big deal—even just to put it on record to get some feedback. Father being the song that most people connect to and the song that I was the most honest in, it made me more honest in my music. I had to close the chapter of painting this picture of, “maybe” I’ll just be a songwriter and I’ll only write about these imaginary things.
Tell me about the experience you had with, at the time, a very young Taylor Swift. JL: This was when Taylor Swift signed to a development deal with RCA. We played a songwriting workshop together with another artist. As far as my experience with Taylor, she was really nice and really, really, young. She had a lot of backing and people around her. As far as that went, that was fine. This was back in 2004, when I got back to Pittsburgh on the billboard was Taylor Swift. I had a little bit of a breakdown. Even though we were both casted to do an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, at the time, for whatever reason it didn’t work out for me. Truly, after that that’s when I started going by JackLucy.
If you could, from your perspective, speak about your experience as an artist who does not fit the typical standards of mass media. What do you think is different or status quo about the ability for an artist to have a successful music career?
JL: I’m not blonde, I’m not the All-American white girl next door and not really feminine. I don’t know if the industry has changed or if how I look at the industry and how it works for me changed. There are still pop artists that fit in a box and are easily molded. And if you have soulful songs coming out of white voices that tends to sell and capture people. That’s been since the beginning of music. African Americans have always driven popular music—that’s forever. That box, to be honest I don’t think is ever going to change, but what I think is changing is because of social media, what can get out without the need of a label. That’s changing the identity of the industry because now, that person that doesn’t look like XYZ and doesn’t have $300,000 in advertising for their first record to come out, they can just throw a video up on YouTube and get a million views and then someone has to listen to them.
were two different parts; I’m comfortable with my family, yet I don’t know what to do with myself and I don’t know who I am. At the time, those were the two things I battled. I love my family, but I am not the Christian they want me to be, or the girl they want me to be. However, now they are so much more comfortable with me and who I am.
What do you think contributed to your family tell her ‘I can’t be around you, I embracing who you are? can’t see youVI can’t.’ When
JL: I don’t know, but my mom makes attempts to be very open with me about sexuality or the music that I’m doing. Even to mention one time, ‘Oh your sister showed me a picture of a girl you’re dating on Facebook’ and saying ‘Oh, she’s really pretty.’ To me it’s freaking startling that she even said that. I have no idea how to react. I have two identities, one that I found is me and one with my family and I’m still trying to bring them together- JackLucy, How has your family shaped I guess.
JL: They shaped two of us. I was one person with my family, but in a way that seemed very, very comfortable because it was all that I knew. Yet, at the same time, I was dealing with being gay, dealing with the music that I wrote, dealing with the fact that I wasn’t able to listen to great artist to draw from them, dealing with the fact that I had no friends. So there
One of the songs I really like is Free Your Heart. To rebound oftentimes requires one to let go, Free Your Heart seems to be all about that, what inspired this song? JL: Ah, my first love. That’s where that song came from. I literally did move 3,000 miles away to be away from this person. I wrote the song so that she could hear it. I needed to
we were together we pretended that things would work out when she really had someone else. So, ‘I need to free your heart and free mine.’ It freed me too; I needed to move away from her.
Name some of your favorite artist that if they never played or became the artist they became, JackLucy would not be here? JL: Ani DiFranco and Kurt Cobain. If Ani Difranco never played, I think I would definitely be a very different type of a guitar player. I listened to her inside and out. My friend gave me a cassette tape of one of her songs. I was like, ‘What is this percussive, crazy guitar playing that I never heard before? It was drop dead amazing. If she didn’t exist I probably wouldn’t have moved to California. I probably wouldn’t have experienced the granola things that I’ve experienced—marches that I’ve dekit |
gone to. You know, she is a good or bad. very politically vocal person. And, because I was big on the I don’t want to be that person grunge music, Kurt Cobain. that says I use to play guitar, or I use to sing, or I use to do that. Again, someone made me a And literally what I picture, is an tape, with Kurt Cobain, Radio old man with a beer belly, with Head, Offspring--everyone was three kids saying, "I use toV" always giving me tapes. I Not that I would be that, but started to play guitar shortly that’s what I feel like. And really, after I got hook on this if I stop playing music, cassette. I don’t know what I everything would have to go. I would have done if I didn’t have would have to sell my guitars, the tape with Nirvana or that computer, everything that tape with Ani DiFranco. resembles music, there would be no other way of "existing if I Oh, I can't forget Nina Simone. stopped playing music. I can’t What a powerful voice, so deep image myself doing anything and strong. Her voice and song else. writing--it’s moving. She is so honest and blunt with simplicity Wait, what are you currently working on? Any new and fearless grace.
projects in the works?
He’s a delta blues singer, Eric Clapton and Jack White sample things from Robert. I wanted to make this like very folk-y delta blues kind of soul record, but still I call it urban folk music. Its urban folk music--I’m telling the story of my life. In the way, I feel like, if this is the only record I get to write, I want people to know who I am. There could be some elements of other types of music, but if something happens to me tomorrow, they know who I am. They could even know what I ate for breakfast every day, so that’s project two. The other project, I’m putting together an all girl band that will dip it's music in many different arenas.
One, I’m working on my next For more information about I have many rebounds because EP-more old songs. My new JackLucy visit, I am always learning and stuff is a mix of blues. Do you www.jacklucyfm.com improving through change, know who Robert Johnson is? 64 | SPRING| 201 5
CANNOT BE POLISHED WITHOUT FRICTION NOR MAN WITHOUT TRIALS . ~CONFUCIUS
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Something Greater BY
Sky Child Digital Media Courtesy of Pbjpeg
hen I was younger, I was a very selfish person. I cared for nothing but myself, and could care less what came of others. That all changed, however, when I saw the birth of my son. Seeing him born flipped a switch inside of me, and it is something that I cannot explain, fully. From that point on, I not only viewed the world differently, I also knew there was something within the human child that we as adults have failed to fully realize. To me, children are the closest thing to God that we will ever see. I am not a
religious person, by any means, but I do believe there is something greater. My story is really no different than anyone else's. I work in a corporate office where human emotion is absent, at every turn, and your lives are determined by a bottom line. I want something more for my friends, strangersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; children, and my childreneveryone. I love life. I have a deep love, admiration, and appreciation for the human soul and will do whatever I can to see the human spirit overcome. Through my art, I want people to see that. For more information about Mario Aguilar, visit www.instagram.com/pbjepg_v2
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Water Child Digital Media Courtesy of Pbjpeg
Mike Geffner's The Inspired Word Interview and photography by Stephanie Harris
Photography by Jay Franco
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ess than 30 minutes before six of The Inspired Word’s poets jump on stage to perform for Activism Through Storytelling: The Second Annual Slamnesty—one of the scheduled events at this year’s Amnesty International USA’s 50th Annual Human Rights Conference--I met up Michael Geffner. We are standing in the far corner of the Marriot lobby in Brooklyn, NY. Nearby, crowds of people, activists and advocates are gathering before their next event. As we got started, the blaring crowd made me question if the lobby was the best place to conduct an interview with my phone’s recorder. With The Inspired Word's poets and poets from around the world ready to perform in celebration of human rights activism through storytelling and spoken word, Geffner would not be anywhere else. In fact, these days, it is all about The Inspired Word. As a former journalist for more than 30 years and a columnist for the Village Voice, Geffner has a wealth of experience, but what is most compelling is the life he fell into- delivered by chance. The Inspired Word, which he founded in March of 2009, began as a poetry series in a vegan organic restaurant in Scarsdale, Queens. The owner of the restaurant asked Geffner to produce a poetry series to add to some flavor to the business. He was hesitant to take the job; 20 years had passed since Geffner, read poetry or even attended to a poetry showcase. Out of touch with the community, Geffner did not think he could pull it off, but they made an offer he could not walk away from-- free food. He recalls, “I said, ‘well I am eating a lot here and the food is pretty good, it might be a good trade off.’”
produce a poetry series, or which poets to feature, in four months time he created a buzz worthy poetry series, one where he boasts drew in over 50 people from the outer Burroughs to Queens. “It was horrible at the beginning,” he says, “But I got better and better and by the time I finished there, which was four months later---cause the venue went out of business in four months---we had turned it from just a nothing little poetry event to something that everyone in the city was talking about.” Since 2009, Geffner has managed to create a space where, everyone feels welcomed and uninhibited to be vulnerable, there are no pressures to perform, the judges are left at the door, and whether you are there to surmount your fear of reading an old poem or to just find a muse, for the night you are Inspired Word family. A family that reaches and includes, Grammy nominated recording artists, Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actors and actresses, awarding winning novelist and many remarkable talents that have yet to be known. Geffner and I talked about the unforeseen impact The Inspired Word has made on his life, his relentless passion for mentoring and the special community of artist he has fostered overtime.
So, are you saying the beloved Inspired Word started out as favor?
Michael: Yeah, they just wanted to do a poetry series. I told them, I said, ‘I think I’m the wrong person, I’m a journalist and were about on opposite ends.’ I said,’ as a journalist, were pretty hardcore, poets tend to be dreamers and journalists are not dreamers.’ But, I did it So, Geffner obviously took on the challenge and I ended up liking it- I love challenges. I and despite having little knowledge of how to never thought it would take over my life. I was an active journalist, working as a freelancer for dekit |
Activism Through Storytelling: The Second Annual Slamnesty Brooklyn, NY There are quite a few art communities within New York City, but I feel none of them compare to Mike Geffner's Inspired Word. This is the place I happened to stumble upon when trying to figure out where I wanted to perform for the first time. Not only was the crowd attentive, passionate, and welcoming, but Mike and Marvin both have a vested interest in the people that walk through their doors. You don't see much of that in this densely populated city let alone within the arts community. I've met some amazing people because of the Inspired Word, and I'm always grateful for their dedicated efforts to cultivate the artist within anyone who chooses to share a piece of themselves. This is the place I go to when I feel like sharing new work or feel like going "home." No matter the size of the audience, it's always engaging. The Inspired Word has been a constant in my life for over two years now, and I don't see that changing.
For more information about Danny Matos, visit www.dannymatos.com Cigar Aficionado. At the time and slowly but surely, I started to doing less and less writing and more of Inspired Word, to the point where I’ve pretty much been retired as a writer for the last 3 years. I devote all my time to [The Inspired Word].
twice a month then but we’ve since evolved to not just spoken word—we have storytelling, comedy and music, even some dance and magic occasionally. We opened up the series to openmicers and the open mic took over, then we became an open-mic series with features. The open mic series went from 5 slots to 30 and now we do occasionally one feature a night with about 30 open micers.
How did you manage to grow the poetry series from a “belly up,” vegan restaurant to the celebrated Inspired Word today? Open mics offers anyone willing, the opportunity to get on stage to showcase their M: When we left the vegan-organic restaurant in talents, but there are still those who are on July of 2009, the series was dormant for a few stage and those who hesitant to hold the mic, months and after searching in vain for another what do say to those who waiting on the venue in Queens, we found a place called Le sidelines?
Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. In January of 201 0, we started back up again, again as a spoken word poetry series, showcase only, features only, no open mic. We drew 90 people the first night, so it was a great success. It was 72 | SPRING| 201 5
M: It depends, are you waiting on the sidelines because you have no desire to be on stage or you’re frightened of the stage. I don’t want to be on stage. I’ve been in the limelight all my life, I’m
happy to retreat and let other people become the stars. For the people that have no desire that’s cool- just enjoy it, get inspired by it, write, and meet like-minded people. But for the ones letting fear get in the way, I would say, let this be a challenge to overcome the fear. That, if you really want to share, but there’s something holding you back in your personality, it would be a great way to break through that ice. I tell people all the time, because I see friends trying to push friends on stage, if you don’t want to do it-- don’t do it. Go where your heart wants to go. At least for me and this is true with almost everything in life, when I go where my heart wants to go, it always turns out right. When I go where my heart doesn’t want to go, it always turns out wrong and so, go where your heart wants to go. That goes, not just at the Inspired Word or open mics, but for everything; go where
your heart tells you to go.
So it has been 6 years since you started Inspired Word. M: To me the official date is January of 201 0. It’s sort of like being off Broadway; we were off for 5 months before we were on Broadway. We just had our 5th anniversary. I don’t even look at the time we did in Queens. I was just building it and I didn’t quite have a vision yet. The vision really happens in Manhattan.
What has been the greatest reward for you, as the founder of Inspired Word? M: I love mentoring, I’m addicted to mentoring. Since I had such a successful career as an artist, as a full-time writer and I see these people
Luis "Da Storyteller" Cordova
Activism Through Storytelling: The Second Annual Slamnesty Brooklyn, NY I am a spoken word poet from Brooklyn, East N.Y., but I truthfully wouldn't have been able to say that without the guidance of Michael P. Geffner and the whole Inspired Word family influence. February 1 4, 201 4 was the very first time I touched a stage to perform poetry; I carried skeletons and trouble wherever I breathed and just wanted to speak on it. It surprised me how welcoming the series was to everything I and everyone else shared. I learned through Mike and many others how honest and subtle poetry must be, which in turn helped me to be more honest with myself.
I consider myself lucky to have found such a good They taught me that with the responsibility of family and for it to be my first stage ever, even more stepping on stage and pouring ourselves vulnerable, so. we MUST say something worthwhile and meaningful. I tell Mike this all the time, but I appreciate and love both him and the series. I've been given so many opportunities through The For more information about Luis "Da Storyteller" Inspired Word. Cordova, visit www.openbookpages.wordpress.com They know more about me than most people I've known all my life. dekit |
BERRY Activism Through Storytelling: The Second Annual Slamnesty Brooklyn, NY
Inspired Word has been the catalyst for my growth as a performer and writer. Being around so much diverse talent has sparked my progress in the presentation and promotion of my work. The sheer exposure alone has gotten me so many gigs! I'm proud to host and created lifelong friends there, too! For more information about Berry, visit www.browngirlbluegrass.com want to be fulltime artist and writers, it gives me the platform to mentor them. A lot of them come to me and say, “Mike, I really want to do this,” and I can give them, unlike their other friends, I can actually give them the point of view of someone who did it and did it successfully. I often say, ‘Don’t get professional advice from amateurs.’
Dekit and The Inspired word share common ideas, inspiring creativity and community, why is community for The Inspired Word important?
chance to break down cultural barriers, racial barriers, age barriers, genre barriers.
Has there ever been any unusual performances? Has it ever gotten too intense or weird, what do you do? M: We’ve had a lot of crazy things. I try to steer the craziness away from our series. We had so many powerful performances, some people baring their souls on stage, telling a secret they’ve never told anywhere else and feeling comfortable in a room of essentially strangers. There’s been performers breaking down and crying; there’s been so many instances of those. Including breaking me down, there’s been many times I’ve broken down from a performance on stage. You hear about the abuse; we had a woman talk about men abusing her all her life including her father. We have a lot performances about abandonment by adults, by parents. People feel very comfortable in our setting to talk about very private issue. That builds community; we get to see people as people, not what they’re putting up as an image.
M: I was developing community before I ever got to the Inspired Word. I did it with journalist; I use to have get-togethers with journalist to bring writers together with editors that didn’t know each other, so they could meet each other and work together. So I was doing community before I ever did the Inspired Word but once I developed the vision for it, which again, didn’t happen in Queens it happened in Manhattan, I realized that I wanted the series to be a community disguised as a performance service. And that community was so important that I felt that we need to be around people like us, so we What has been the impact of The Inspired can talk and get to know each other. It’s also a Word on your life? 74 | SPRING| 201 5
I have been writing poetry as prolifically as I can for about six years and began performing my pieces at poetry slams about three years ago. I had some success in the slam scene, however I found that my poetry didn't quite fit the slam paradigm. I met Danny Matos (a terrific poet/rapper and Inspired Word fixture) who suggested that I check out the Inspired Word. I began attending the open mics regularly about two years ago and was overwhelmed by the familial warmth and unconditional support displayed by everyone there. Mike Geffner, Marvin Mendlinger, and Nicole Acosta as well as a group of stellar hosts have helped build and reinforce my confidence, drive, and aspirations in producing art. Since becoming affiliated with the Inspired Word I have been afforded the opportunity to preform at a slew of poetry events including Slamnesty, 3Po3try, and Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery. I guess what I'm saying is that; The Inspired Word is like a big sturdy tree for independent artists. If you are dedicated and committed to climbing it's trunk, you will be Activism Through Storytelling: The Second Annual rewarded with the fruits dangling at the ends of Slamnesty it's many branches. Brooklyn, NY
M: I gave up my career for it. I’m no longer a writer, I published over 1 0,000 stories as a journalist and I thought I was going to die typing out stories. I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever give that up. I wrote every day for 33 years, not every day in a journal or diary, every day for print. So the idea of going from writing 1 500 words minimum to zero- I never thought that would happen. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to write, now I don’t write at all. So I’d have to say that this has become a mission and such an important mission that I’d be willing to give up everything that I did for 33 years prior to this.
Where do you see it going in the future?
goes. If I had stayed with the poetry thing only and made it just a feature event, I don’t think it would be where it is now. The fact that I was open to other possibilities, to bring in music, comedy and spoken word and open mic and to shake it up a little bit, I think that’s the success of the series, that I wasn’t inflexible. So I don’t know. There’s a scene in Jurassic Park, where he takes a drop of water and he says, ‘you see you don’t know where that drop is going, it goes where it goes,’ and that’s what I feel about the series. It’s going to go where it goes, but I think I’m pretty good at sensing where I need to be, including here tonight. What a great thing to be at Slamnesty International with six of our poets.
M: I have no idea. I have no idea because it For more information about Michael Geffner and changes. The one thing that I’m proud of is that Inspired Word, visit www.inspiredwordnyc.com I’ve been flexible enough to let it go where it dekit |
ASTRAL CARTOON TECHNIQUES BY ERIC RODRIGUEZ
his year my work has really started to find its direction, which is very exciting. This had always been the biggest struggle for me as an artist. I always asked myself, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What techniques could I use and stay consistent with, that would also represent
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me well?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I wanted to find a style that set me apart from others, where people could look at my work and know it was mine. I started experimenting with a lot of childhood cartoon characters that I enjoyed and still do today, such as, Mickey Mouse, Mario, Pacman, and so on. I added little twists, such as, using differ-
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rent color combinations or three eyes.
through their eyes. And because everyone knows cartoons never die, I always liked the idea of astral travel, they are there to see what itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like to be and I have had this reoccurring thought immortal. that I wish I could be a cartoon character for a day. This inspired the idea of placing masks of childhood For more information about Eric Rodriguez characters over the heads of the people visit, www.instagram.com/drigo._ Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m painting. The whole idea is that, my characters are astral traveling into a cartoon realm to see what it is like to be a cartoon, and experience things
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E VERY FLOWER MUST GROW THROUGH DIRT.
Rhythm & Remedy, bringing remedies to the world, one HeartBeat at a time Interview by Stephanie Harris
osalind “Pozzie” Lott co-founder of Rhythm & Remedy-Where Hip Hop Helps, along with cofounder Lawndon “NC Abram” Grant, are on a mission to empower young people around the world using art and music. Committed to their vision, they initiated the HeartBeat Project, an art and music institute that aims to educate and empower Senegalese youth, in Dakar, Senegal.
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Now living in Dakar, Lott and Grant, after a seven-day trip to Africa turned into a stay of over a year, felt an overwhelming need and urgency to support a country where the average age of its population is 1 8. Pozzie says, ‘Some change the world with their doctorate or law degrees while others trail blaze, fortifying change through the arts.’ Dedicated to the recording artist AKON, the
HeartBeat Project, in partnership with the Give1 Project, a global organization that aims to engage young people as leaders in creating and building strong and healthy communities, has been a remarkable feat for the two artists originally from the U.S. They endured tremendous obstacles, a lack of considerable funding being the biggest challenge as they had hoped to build a state of the art music studio, but even this did not stop them from launching December 201 4. Lott, a Philadelphia native, and Grant from California, have always purposefully used their talents and recognition to help and give back to others. In addition to the work they are doing with Rhythm & Remedy, and the HeartBeat Project, to assist in the eradication of Malaria, they have developed the first all-natural bug repellent sold in West Africa, called NoSquito Spray. With plans in place to expand the HeartBeat Project to over 22 countries within the next two years, the duo’s commitment to their mission of empower youth throughout the world is only just beginning.
What made you guys want to create an art and music institute particularly for Senegalese youth? Pozzie: Well, it all started with the vision of Rhythm & Remedy – Where Hip Hop Helps. Both, NC and I being music artists, we wanted to create a platform to utilize our talents to give back. Our trip to Senegal in March of 201 4 inspired us to start in Africa. We were supposed to be in Senegal for seven days and have been here now for more than a year. After performing throughout Africa and receiving the support and gained fans, we knew we could use our voices here to fortify change on a greater level. We recognized there is so much talent around the world, but those that are in impoverished areas lack the resources to seek out their dreams. We
came up with the idea to offer training to the youth in their creative fields. The HeartBeat Project was birthed to bring life to the talent here in Senegal.
The HeartBeat Project in Dakar is dedicated to Akon, how involved is he in the HeartBeat Project of Senegal? Pozzie: We dedicated The HeartBeat Project to Akon since he is from Senegal and has accomplished some great things in his career. Many people assumed because the studio/workshop was being dedicated to him that he had direct involvement with the project or even funded it. This is not the case! Rhythm & Remedy saw this vision out from concept to completion, funding it ourselves from our own pockets along with the help of Speak Up Africa and we also used GoFundMe to raise funds as well. And we are very thankful to Give1 Project for hosting the classroom and workshop at their offices. Our initial goal was to create a state of the art classroom/studio with a budget around $35,000. We definitely didn’t meet our goal for that amount, but we made it happen with the little we had and we are continuing to fund raise and build on this vision. Our first launch was in Senegal, but we are planning to launch this project in 22+ more countries. Our goal is to empower the youth through the arts around the world.
In an interview, Pozzie, you made an interesting comment, in which you talked about how the world views Africa as a place where everyone is dying and you said that you want to show Africa’s beauty. In the U.S. and certainly, throughout the world there is a lack of comprehensive portrayals of people of color in the media, Can you explain how an institute such as HeartBeat Project can help empower the youth of these communities and particularly their perception of themselves in relation to how the world views them? dekit |
NC Abram (left) and Pozzie (left) with Akon, Music Producer & Artist (center) and Thione Niang, Founder & President of the Give 1 Project (right) in HeartBeat Project studio, Photography courtesy of Rhythm & Remedy
Pozzie: Yes, and this is why The HeartBeat Project is so imperative in helping to not only shape tomorrow’s young leaders but also giving them a voice that can be used to drive forth this change we all seek. For example, with The HeartBeat Project one of our requirements for the students enrolled in the program is to create a song that is focused on global health issues and even political issues. One of the first campaigns we will touch on will be the eradication of Malaria. Its things like this alone that can begin to shape, change and empower the youth here and globally. If the media is only showing one side of something, it’s up to the people in those areas to be the voice of reason. And what is the universal language that captures the attention of almost everyone? Music! It’s like I always say, ‘Some change the world with their doctorate or law degrees while others trail blaze, fortifying change through the arts.’ Our goal is to give a platform to those creative trailblazers.
realize that HeartBeat Project was a done deal and going to happen? Pozzie: To be honest we worked down to the very last minute of the launch date. After investors pulling out and not getting certain grants, we thought we would. I mean we had ZERO dollars and this was within weeks of us launching the studio. We already had press scheduled to attend. We had also built an International Music Summit around this studio launch. We had guest speakers like Gibson (Konvict Music Producer), guests from the U.S. flying in, Hip Hop pioneers of Senegal like Matador, Duggy Tee, Simon, Bouba Ndour. The list goes on. It was basically a big deal. We had no idea how we were going to pull a studio off with no money.
We took to GoFundMe and raised as much as we could, Speak Up Africa assisted us in getting some studio materials and the rest we funded With such an undertaking, when did you two out of our own pocket. Somehow, by the grace 86 | SPRING| 201 5
of God we pulled it off! We launched what seemed to be the impossible. We didn’t get the desks needed for the students, computers and many other needed items but we launched with what we had and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
in others to, also, see their dreams through.
Many people immediately said to us, after seeing how we struggled to pull it off, “Why don’t you guys just ask Akon for the money?” My response is this: When you want to do something in life, you do it! You don’t set out to create change that will inspire others to make something from nothing by then asking for a handout. If you want something in life, you will make it happen, no questions asked. Period. How can one truly appreciate the accomplishment without the hard work? I love the story of the underdog, the ones who fight and earn their awards in life, and faint not. When I look back on all of this I will be able to say, “Wow, I did that?!” To me there is nothing greater than that. Rhythm & Remedy’s passion is to create that same determination and passion
Pozzie: My journey with Give1 Project began in Paris. I was fortunate to be chosen to attend a Global Leadership Program. This is where my working relationship with Thione Niang started. After Paris, I was invited to attend a Women’s Empowerment Network in Senegal in March of 201 4. We had already done local things with Rhythm & Remedy like Celebrity Shoe Drives and Food Drives but we wanted to take our charity global and this was the opportunity. After spending time in Africa I knew our initial global launch would be in Africa. Give1 Project provided the space to make the HeartBeat Project possible and for this, we are so thankful. This is just the beginning, there is more to come.
Why is the partnerships with the Give1 Project important to the movement of Rhythm and Remedy and how did it come about?
In what way has Rhythm and Remedy’s previous fundraisers, drives and work in
NC Abram & Pozzie with HeartBeat instructors & students at Give 1 Project tech lab. Photography courtesy of Rhythm & Remedy dekit |
NC Abram & Pozzie with Give 1 Project. Photography courtesy of Rhythm & Remedy
California and New York communities help What impact has opening the HeartBeat Project made on you as an artist and prepare you for the work in Senegal? individual? Pozzie: I don’t think any amount of shoe drives, food drives or our previous fundraisers could have prepared us for Africa. It’s just all together different here. I posted a video on my Instagram page a few weeks ago while I was commuting in a taxi here in Senegal and I wrote a caption that said something like, 'Many people say if you can make it in New York or Hollywood you can make it anywhere, I lived in both and I say the person who has ever quoted this has never lived in Africa, because if you can make it in Africa, that’s when you can truly make it anywhere!' And these are words and a belief I will always firmly stand by. After living here, I’m truly humbled and I also realize how fortunate I am. Not only am I living on a continent that is on the brink of change, I am a part of creating that change and that is just amazing. 88 | SPRING| 201 5
Pozzie: The impact of seeing a vision through to reality is definitely life changing. It only further encourages one to push the envelope even further. It’s kind of like an, “oh snaps” moment. “Did I really do that? Ok, what’s next?” The impact it’s had on the youth here is also great to see. At the moment we are both teaching English out here as well, which we know is fundamental in anyone’s growth. If you want to communicate globally, you have to know English; it’s one of the requirements of our classes. You have to take English. As an artist it definitely adds more to our plates. But, eventually we look forward to hiring teachers and trained professionals to run the courses while we are touring. For now, we are juggling both.
Pozzie (left) with Akon, Music Producer & Artist (center) and Thione Niang, Founder & President of the Give 1 Project (right), Photography courtesy of Rhythm & Remedy
are both are artist, how do you balance What were some of the challenges you two You your philanthropic work with your own faced while bringing your vision to life? projects? How does one impact the other? NC: One of the major challenges was not allowing our circumstances to affect our vision. A lot of people have no idea of the struggle both Pozzie and I endured. When you get a little bit of success, it’s highlighted to the point where people just look at you and wonder how you did it, or they think that you have “made it,” but to us we are still in pursuit. In all honesty, I think that’s what fuels us, we will never get too comfortable. We are actually working on our documentary, which will highlight not only our victories but our defeats as well. It’s important for people to experience both. When people only see the glitz without the grit, they don’t really appreciate the work we put in and are still putting in to get where we are and will be. The challenges will always be there but the courage to push through and overcome them is what separates the haves from the have-nots.
Pozzie: It’s definitely not easy. For instance, like right now, NC is traveling while I’m here in Senegal teaching English, studio electronic courses and performing. When we are apart the workload increases for sure, but we have to sacrifice for the bigger picture. A few months ago, I left to the states while he stayed behind to continue work. In addition to our music careers, we also have a business here. We created an all-natural bug repellent called NoSquito Spray, which is the first bug repellent to hit the market in West Africa. Our product will greatly assist in the eradication of malaria. We definitely have our hands full. But we are living up to our slogan, “Where Hip Hop Helps” and we look forward to growing our team and lightening our workload so it frees our schedule up to continue dekit |
recording music and touring globally.
What I love and admire about you both, is that you have made it a mission to help youth throughout the world and by any means necessary, where did this passion to impact people’s lives come from? Pozzie: Everybody has a story. Some were born into everything. While others (like us) had to create something from nothing. But after our travels we were even more inspired by those who had even less than what we came up having. We knew our purpose had to be bigger than just creating music. Don’t get me wrong music is where it all ties in at. It’s the core of how we even started all of this. But we understand that to whom much is given, much is required. God blessed us to be performing for crowds larger than we have ever performed for in the states. I’m talking thousands of people. We see that as a responsibility. We have to do something with our voices. Something many artists aren’t doing and that’s giving other artists a platform and resources to also live out their dreams.
so that we can have five or six more institutes open within the next two years. Many people are wondering if we will open one in the US and the answer is, yes. We will also be launching in the US as well. We have not decided on city and state just yet.
How does one get involve? Pozzie: Anyone interested in working with Rhythm & Remedy or volunteering abroad can email us at email@example.com. We have so many wonderful opportunities available for students looking to work abroad for school credit. We are open to work with anyone, so you don’t have to be a student. If you have never traveled abroad and you have always wanted to, send us an email. Tell us what your ambitions are and why you think Rhythm & Remedy would be a good fit for you.
Thank you so very much for being who you are. We admire the work and especially, the no matter what attitude. You both are such an inspiration!
NC & Pozzie: The pleasure is all ours. We thank Are you currently working on another you for the interview and thanks to the readers. HeartBeat Project location or anytime in the We hope you all continue to follow us along on near future? our journey! Pozzie: Yes, we are planning to open a music institute within six to eight months. We are For more information about Rhythm & Remedy & considering somewhere in South America. We the HeartBeat Project visit, are hoping to gain more investors and sponsors www.rhythmandremedy.com 90 | SPRING| 201 5
TALK DOESN ’ T COOK RICE . ~CHINESE P ROVERB dekit |
the reason, the movement, collage Interview by Stephanie Harris
avior Elmundo is an artist, filmmaker, and dancer. He is also the producer of COLLAGE, a weekly live painting party, meeting ground and celebration of art and life based in New York City. Every Tuesday night, like clockwork, a host of artist begin lining the outer walls of the DL rooftop. With their easels, diverse mediums, styles and passion, they take on the challenge of the night to create based on the theme or honoree set by Mr. Elmundo. Accompanied 92 | SPRING| 201 5
by a fusion of music ranging from Hip Hop, to Disco, to Salsa to Reggae, artist, dancers and on lookers are free to let loose as they enjoy drinks and great company. I sat down with Elmundo in his art studio in Brooklyn, N.Y. Surrounded by his artwork, large pieces, such as, portraits of Salvador Dali, Jean Basquiat, and the like, Goya cans from a previous installation, and the â&#x20AC;&#x153;MAKE ARTâ&#x20AC;? tag, we had a real talk about the philosophy he lives by, his unwavering enthusiasm for art, helping artist succeed,
and what makes COLLAGE the place to be Take me to the beginning. How did it on a Tuesday night in New York City. start? Throughout the 80’s and 90’s he spent most of his time dancing for artist in their music videos. Though it opened up doors, he slowly got out of that business. Following his dance career, at the suggestion of a friend, he fell into filmmaking and the artworld.
I started COLLAGE in 201 0. It started as a weekly event at the Diva Lounge, on Grand St. and West Broadway and at Salt, a small restaurant that fit like 50 people. I use to have the artist outside painting, facing the street. So, while people were walking they would have to go inside to see the artwork. It started out as an event only for women, His first short film was a narrative about a but eventually, other people started to come near death experience he had on the out. streets of New York. A crack addict mistaken him for another man and with a At the time, I felt like women weren’t getting gun pointed to his head, Elmundo any recognition. I wanted people to see convinced the man that he was not the one woman painters. But it grew as a family, he wanted to kill. Elmundo recalls, “He with men and women. That’s what realized I wasn’t the guy,” he continues, “1 5 COLLAGE means, it’s about bringing years later, in Washington Square Park he everyone together. runs up to me with a wife and his son, who he named Savior.” He says since then, he How did it evolve to what it is today? has produced four short films that went to What has been the evolution of the Tribecca Film Festival, Manhattan Film COLLAGE? Festival and the New York Film Festival. In the very beginning, people were In 2006, while in California producing a film freestyling. I decided I wanted to challenge about the type casting of minorities in the artist, give them a theme, and see what Hollywood, Elmundo’s father died. With the they came up with. It was funny because help of a friend, he immersed himself in his some of the young artist didn’t know about art and took a break from filmmaking. Basquiat, Picasso, Dali or Keith Haring. Shortly after he started painting, he Every year I do a tribute to them, the iconsexperienced a whirlwind of gallery shows the masters. So they learn, they look up the and acclaim, which he says, led him to artist, they study them. They’re like, ‘wow, I create COLLAGE in 201 0. didn’t know this person.’ Now you know, because without them you wouldn’t be here, Elmundo comes across, as a tough Puerto they open doors for you. Especially Rican from New York, but under his tough Basquiat, he open doors for all minorities. guy exterior is a man who has experienced some highs and lows of life, including It became a challenge for the artist. Doing homeless. These are the experiences that that bought about a change, it helped inform his dedication to help other artist with COLLAGE to grow and the word spread. a platform that welcomes everyone, at any We don’t discriminate, you can be a new level and any walk of life. This is why we artist learning how to draw. I’ve seen the COLLAGE! evolution in some of the artists, many 94 | SPRING| 201 5
We don’t discriminate, you can be a new artist ‘Who are you? Tell me about yourself.’ You need learning how to draw. I’ve seen the evolution in to know how to speak, to sell art, to hustle. some of the artists, many become great artist Every week there is a new theme and every over time.
week the DJ’s bring it, with Hip Hop music, You talk about how you’ve witness artist grow break beats and even disco blends. How and become greater artist. Why do think an important is Hip Hop and music to COLLAGE? event, such as, COLLAGE is important? It’s important for me and the artist to have a home. It’s also a therapy. People go through so much [stuff] in life and are stressed at home. I tell them, come to COLLAGE, paint and express yourself. They come and afterwards feel better. And that’s what COLLAGE is all about, helping others. You know, come sell your art- I don’t want anything from you, keep your money. Artist leave with money in your pocket! A lot of my artist, who were around when I began COLLAGE, are blowing up. Gia Gutierrez and Lexi Bell, two females I started with are traveling the world, doing different art battles and shows, after they were found at collage. And Ben Angotti is doing very well painting murals, just to mention a few. So artist can come to COLLAGE and network. It’s good for artist to be out there and to learn how to talk to people. You could be the greatest artist, have a one-man show and if you don’t know how to talk to people, how are you going to sell art? The buyers are going to look at you and ask, 96 | SPRING| 201 5
Well I come from a Hip Hop background, breaking and dancing for Hip Hop celebrities. It is a powerful tool, but I also want to flip it with Afro beat, Salsa. I want it to be different. We want to mix it up as a collage so when you hear the music, you’re like, ‘Wow I haven’t heard Blonde in long time’ or ‘I haven’t heard Prince in a while.’ I tell my DJ they gotta be different.
What else would you say distinguishes COLLAGE from the other painting events? The main difference is I’m still here after five years, every Tuesdays, nonstop! The only time I ever stopped was when hurricane Sandy hit. We were back on the next week with the theme hurricane Sandy and we went hardcore. I’m dedicated, every Tuesday I am there. You seen it. This is a passion for me and my artist. Again, my goal is to help others. This is a movement. MY goal is to take COLLAGE on the road, so we
could travel the world and do bigger things. Little by little, it’s getting there. But I had to deal with myself first, do these great art show and win these connections. So that I can say, ‘Hey, by the way I do this event called COLLAGE every Tuesday,' and they come. The art dealers, the people that put me in the galleries come to COLLAGE.
the police brutality going on. It was a huge group show. It was featured in the New York Times. Things like that I want to support. I was just in a show April 1 7th, called Brooklyn is Our Future. And coming up May 1 4th I’m currating a show outside on a restaurant patio. It’s all about the Mexican culture.
Speaking of your artwork for a moment, how With all of the projects that you manage and would you describe your style? are involved in, what keeps you motivated? I started out with abstract painting. I wanted to develop a style inspired by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Claude Monet, René Magritte, and Jean Basquiat. Then, I would test things out and even if I failed, I would do it until I got it right. I wanted to be different; I grew a lot since I started. Now, I’m sending messages through my art.
For me, the goal is to help others, for my children to say you did it, you left a legacy. And I live it, I breathe it and love it. You have to dedicate yourself to your work. Trust me, no one is going to forget about COLLAGE.
What were some of the challenges you faced? Or perhaps, what were some life experiences that made you become the Savior we all know My work is a mix media of styles, street art and today? collages. I want to use collages to bring people back and with my art, people buy history. I want people to say, I remember those days in the 80’s or 90’s, and life stories of artist like Biggie. I definitely paint things for myself, but I also paint what people want to buy. Sometimes it depends on the show and the themes. The last show I did was called RESPONSE in response to the all of
I’ve been homeless and as a dancer sometimes I’d be starving. We’d get a check, but a lot of times that check is already spent. I got kicked out of my house and I ran away as a kid. But without all those things I wouldn’t be who I am. I know the streets and I know the other world- the rich world. With all these elements together, I’m wiser. dekit |
world. With all these elements together, I’m wiser. lot of people know this, but I am doing a film I understand life and know who is real or not real. about COLLAGE. Right now we just have b-roll, I’ll tell people straight up you’re full of shit. but the next step is the documentary, and an art show.
In your own words, what does it mean to rebound? And word of advice for anyone who might want to live and do as you? Every human being has the courage. But they have to find that courage and find themselves. It’s like that saying, ‘You have to love yourself before you can love others’ and that’s the key. When you love yourself and you know yourself, then you can get back. I can’t get back without knowing who the hell I am first.
It’s tough out there but it’s about attitude. I don’t accept, ‘I can’t do it.’ F-, I can’t do it! Or, ‘Oh, I’m trying.’ No, trying is weak! The goal is to do it. And if you fail! Get you’re [butt] back up and do it again until you get that. And everyone doesn’t have that in them. I get that people are different, but you focus on yourself, right it on a paper, put That’s what I like about COLLAGE it’s an it on your wall. It’s like if I’m shooting a film and opportunity for artists to challenge there’s a sign that says “No Trespassing”, themselves and they can come back again, Savior’s gonna climb over that fence and get the and again. There’s no judgment shot. That’s who I am and that’s what I’m about. No discrimination, you can be whatever, you could be in a wheelchair, we’ll help you up the stairs that’s who we are. That’s the goal. Seeing people paint, it makes me happy, seeing people enjoying the art, it’s a home and it’s a movement. What is the ultimate goal?
You have to be a leader. First you have to be a leader for yourself. You have to know yourself and once you know yourself, you have to test yourself. After dealing with challenges, then you can come to the world, and say, ‘I’m ready.’ I have all the ammunition. You can build your army. And in my army we are all leaders. We My goal is the own a gallery and always to help have all different elements and like Voltron we others. I plan to keep growing COLLAGE. Not a come together as one.
Albertus Joseph www.albertusjoseph.com " I love the setting, the music, the crowd, and my fellow Artist. Live painting gives me the opportunity to get out into the public and show what artist do and show our different approaches to a particular theme. The themes are edgy and the art is raw! The DL is also an amazing place for it. Everything falls into place nicely. I love the experience and look forward to it every week. It's a great place to be on a Tuesday night."
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Priscilla Perez www.instagram.com/pris_cilly The Collage has allowed me to reimmerse myself into my passion and has led me to step foot into the art world. It's been since high school, about ten years ago, since I've really spent time on doing what I love and being able to do it in a space with so many others that are all feeling just as passionate about art in their own unique ways is very exciting! I have ways found myself to be more of an illustrator and using watercolor or prismacolor colored pencils were the mediums I could express myself best in. It's been really fun taking a stab at painting with acrylics on canvas and finding that I'm actually getting comfortable with it and learning to use it to share my voice. I am grateful for this event and that's it's held as
often as a week. Now, there's no excuse for me not to keep in touch with my inner artist, and my inner performance. After all, we are there exposing every stroke of the brush, in sync with our minds, the music playing and the flow of energy between all of us...we are all there putting on a show, with pride! I am thankful for Savior for making such an event happen.
Jose De Olio http://www.Josedeolioart.com "I believe the Collage movement is really great for any starting or established artist alike. Because it's a stomping ground for great networking and get some really good practice being in front of a crowed. I started painting at collage about two years ago and since then I have not looked back, the amount of practice hours you get plus the crowed is just out of this world. Every artist that goes there have their own unique style
For more information about COLLAGE visit, www.facebook.com/CollageMovementNYC dekit |
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by Xavier Ayers "Colours" is a project created with the vision of stirring up emotion in the viewer. In this collection, my focus was to capture the pain and emotion of normal every day people. Even though we may have different appearances to the eye, we still deal with the same trials and tribulations as Human Beings, whether white, black, brown, green or red.
represents the afflictions that we all go through every day. We should appreciate our uniqueness and strive for it. The only way we are going to change the world around us is if we change how we perceive the world. Let's search for each other's beauty, not ridicule people because of their uniqueness.
This is not only a response to recent tragedies For more information about involving African Americans Xavirer Ayers, visit and police; this is a project instagram.com/fflphotograpy involving all races and dekit |
Dammed If You Do, Dammed If You Don’t by Michael Nicholas Photography by Katya Nicholas
ave you ever heard of ‘flow’? It is one of the terms used to describe when you are doing something you love and you seem to lose all track of time—you are truly living in, experiencing, and creating in the moment.
Take a minute to think about an artist who has had a huge influence in your life. They can be a visual artist, a musician, a filmmaker—anything. Remember all the experiences you’ve had with their art, and try to experience the emotions all over again through your memories.
This is an important place to be for any artist, but Now imagine your life without those experiences. too often we let our creativity be dammed up by What if this person gave up years ago and never fears, self-doubt, and other negative thoughts. achieved success due to fear and self-doubt? When we project past negative experiences into What if you had such a strong impact on the lives the future, we prevent ourselves from getting into of others? Do you not feel a sense of duty to the ‘flow’ and, ultimately, from achieving success. share your gifts with your audience? To inspire them and enrich their lives? So true creative freedom can only be achieved by identifying and discarding all foreign thoughts You should. The world needs your art. that we have internalized over the years from our parents, teachers, the media, and even our closest friends. If you would like to learn more about how you can achieve creative freedom and success Only by getting in touch with your core desires please contact Michael at and values can you achieve complete creative firstname.lastname@example.org or visit freedom: once you do so, you will feel so http://www.icreatemyownway.com powerful and motivated that you will not stop at anything to share your gift with the world. 1 02 | SPRING| 201 5
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S ZJERDENE London, England
B RI S TEVES Philadelphia
WINDS & WALLS
Queens, New York 1 08 | SPRING| 201 5
Toronto, Canada @unbuttonedmusic
Tell us your passion in a tweet, instagram or facebook post for a DEKIT shout out & a chance to be featured in our next issue!
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