District 5 Volume 1

Page 1

August 2010


Vol. 1

TABLE OF CONTENTS _______________________________6 Introduction Q&A with Charles Jean Pierre _______________7 Robert Cole ________________________________13 ___________________________17 Graciela Lopez

Q&A with Sheldon Scott ____________________21 Daniel Cima _______________________________27 ___________________________________33 Credits

DISTRICT is a collection of artists based in Washington DC. I have met all of these artists personally. Each one specializes in a different medium, however all are multi-faceted in their artistic talents. As an artist, I come into contact with other artists from all walks of life. I enjoy nothing more than getting to know these creators over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. All of the conversations documented in this volume began as structured interviews, however more often than not, they veered off into the realm of simple chat, chewing the fat, shooting the breeze etc... So we did. Meet the

“District 5”

Photo: “splash of light” - marcus hedgpeth


Your hometown is Chicago, Illinois, how does that background affect your work? Can you compare the art scene in Chicago to DC? Chicago is one of he most beautiful cities in this country. It influences my work first and foremost because of its diversity and culture. From the north side to the south suburbs you can find almost every nationality in every tax bracket you can think of. Yet and still, it has its fair share of social issues. Segregation, poverty, and crime are ramped in the Chicago land area. It’s truly a love hate relationship. I try to depict that contrast and balance in the works I create. I want my art to spark conversations and inspire solutions to the situation back home. The art scene in Chicago is much larger than D.C., but bigger is not always better. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other. I consistently work in both cities and look forward to working in both for many years to come. Speak a little about what DC means to you (art-wise or otherwise) and what things come to mind when someone says “Washington, DC”). DC is where I co-founded the Culture District Artist Collective. No matter where I move next that will always hold value and weight. When I think of DC I think of Chocolate City. It’s the home of government and Howard University. It’s the home of the most affluent African Americans in the country, and was the home of Freedman during slavery. It’s the home of the highest educated folks in the country. It’s the home of national museums and local eats. It’s beautiful. It’s a cradle for culture. When I think of DC, I also think of employment. DC has a good mix of everything from white-collar young professionals to retired military. That diversity and stability is good for the economy and it’s good for the art market. As an outsider I literally view it as land of opportunity. Everything I just mentioned is not that apparent to many of the youth here in the city. I try to do what I can to open their eyes. Your art is definitely socially conscious. Are there any issues, socially, politically, etc. that are especially important to you? Also, how do you feel that your art addresses these issues? Sociology is my forte. The issue that is most pressing to me right now is the situation in Haiti. I recently went down to Haiti to make an assessment of the situation with my own two eyes, and I believe there is hope for the people of Haiti. Their issues are social, political, and even spiritual, but a lot of it has to do with capital or the lack thereof. Although many of them are living without the bare necessities, they are not immune to the lofty desire to have the “finer things in life. My post-Haiti digital art series addresses the themes of Violence, Voodoo, and Poverty under the arch of hyper-capitalism. I’m using the proceeds from art sales to fund my outreach in Haiti with the assistance of the Mamelodi Project. Art for Ayiti addresses their lack of capital by providing artist with free art materials to promote sustainable growth and development in Haiti.


Q&A with Charles Jean-Pierre


The long-term goal is to sell the Haitian artists’ works abroad at market value with the majority of the revenue going straight to the artist and their surrounding communities as opposed to foreign galleries, dealers, managers, or vendors. It’s important for me to address social issues, but still remember how to have fun. Tragedy and conflict can easily overwhelm the best of us, so it’s important to me to use the arts as a tool for empowerment If you could describe what you do in one sentence, what would you say? I am an artist here to preserve our past, critique our present, and inspire our future. What’s in your iPod? The better question might be where is my iPod. I have an 80 gig iPod that has close to 2,000 songs loaded on it, but I rarely use it. I play CDs and records at home and in the studio for the most part. When I’m out I try to utilize that time to take in my surroundings. I feel earphones tend to shut people out from the rest of the world. I still buy CDs and go digging for records for fun and for the artwork. I really feel like the easy access to music lessens our appreciation for it and its accompanying artwork. I remember having to choose 5 of my best CD’s for my Walkman before going out. Now with 7,000 songs I don’t even know what kind of crap is on my iPod. I touched on that with my pieces entitled “walkman.” There is a stuffed animal trapped by his souped-up futuristic music player. Its getting to the point where people can spend half of their time awake doing something tied to their MP3 player or phone. If I had to choose five CDs to listen to today it would probably be Kanye’s College Drop Out, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides, Common’s Be, and Lauryn’s Miseducation. Another day it might be Nas’ Stillmatic, Jay Z’s In My Life Time, Tribe’s Peoples Instinctive Travels, Marley’s Catch a Fire, with Erykah’s Baduizm or Andre’s Love Below to round it out.

Q&A with Charles Jean-Pierre

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Tell me one secret talent or passion that you have that not many people know about. What is Charles’ way into that no one knows (artistically or not)? If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret. Just kidding, but I’ve been into wrestling since I was kid. I went to my first show in my freshman year of high school with one of my classmates. It’s one of the few things I watch on television and I even go to the shows when they come into town. It makes me feel like a kid again. Wrestling is fun because it’s really political and psychological. Wrestlers play to your emotions much like politicians. I think that showmanship carries over to my art just a bit.

Any advice for aspiring fine artists? I would tell any aspiring artist to stay consistent, and to have purpose. Those are the two things that will give you longevity. I would also tell them to create timeless pieces and make sure you are growing with your art spiritually as well as artistically. Last but not least, “say no to drugs.”

WEB: charlesjeanpierre.com CONTACT: charles@charlesjeanpierre.com

Q&A with Charles Jean-Pierre

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Robert Cole

Fire, metal, copper, two keen eyes, and hands weathered by time and passion; this minimalist’s list of ingredients has made twenty-foot sculptures emerge from the ground. Robert Cole has been hammering, twisting and shaping the earth’s elements, then placing them back in the environment for mere mortals to awe at for over two decades. Influenced by life and the human forms, as well as the human condition, Robert’s pieces, abstract or grounded in realism, are the physical manifestation of thought, time, strength, love and other intangible themes in life. Robert’s wife, Susan Cole, is a professor at my school; this is how I first heard of him. Later when I came up with the idea for this book, another professor suggested that I interview him. My long time fiend Emma who, coincidentally, had grown up with Robert told me how her father, a woodworker, continues to work with Robert. I had to look into his work. I did and. . . “Wow” was all I could say. Robert began his journey studying architecture at Virginia Tech in the late fifties, moving on to theatre, painting, and sculpting. Robert plays guitar and for twelve years he designed and built stringed instruments from wood and stone. During the seventies Robert worked in Los Angeles, gaining recognition early on in his career. He was interviewed on national television, featured on the Steve Allen show, and invited to teach and lecture on art around Los Angeles. Opportunities to work in LA, New York and internationally were offered regularly to the talented sculptor, but as he says “It was not [his] scene.” Robert returned to DC, where he became a leading light in the Renaissance of the U street corridor, creating sculptures, furniture, and functional pieces to many of the business owners in the neighborhood. Robert was happy to return to DC where he could avoid the nuisances of “fame” which haunted him in Los Angeles. He presently works in a studio on 15th street NW, and many of his works can be seen in public spaces, parks, businesses, and private residences. Talking with Robert I felt like I gained a huge amount of insight into the artistic profession. He has little gems of wisdom that he shares, which I am sure fill the pages of his memoirs of which he often speaks. “If I could give you one sentence to describe my work I’d say: I look for the prime owner, or the system or force behind an idea: why does this idea work? That’s a huge thought!” He told me how his ideas are formulated. “Art is about someone trying to say something, trying to make sense of the world.” These are the kinds of thoughts Robert offers throughout our conversation. My favorite piece of advice was about going after the things you want, “I gave up color for form. . . know what you want and go after it. . . My son used to say I wanted to plant another flag on the moon.” If anyone could do it, he could.

Robert Cole


“ T he real experience for me is to have an idea or vision and then to find the best way to cut and hammer metal to make that realization come into being. This method involves problem-solving and a good deal of spontaneous choice. The truest nature of the artist happens when the unconscious is allowed to have a say in the creation.� 4-22-08


WEB: studiocole.com CONTACT: studiocole@hotmail.com

Robert Cole

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graciela Lopez

I met Graciela through a mutual friend. Graciela’s energy is contagious and positive, and she shares it freely with everyone. Originally from New Mexico, Graciela studied International Services with a focus on Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University here in the District. Graciela, who claims to have been an awkward dancer until the age of eighteen, has received various grants from organizations like the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities to promote herself as an artist, and to organize events such as Sacred DC, a festival which builds community through the arts, culture, activism, and healing. One of the main focuses of Sacred DC is to re-connect people in various artforms, which is one of the things Graciela wishes for the DC arts community: to be more united. Using her passion for dance, activism, and healing, she has her sights set on another goal, to re-shape and reclaim the way women are seen in history by telling their stories as she continues to write her own. Recently, she performed a one-woman show of spoken word and dance called Mother, Traitor, Lover: The Tale of Three Mestiza Spirits, which re-tells the story of three Mestiza women from a feminist perspective. She also uses dance, including African, Aztec, and flamenco, as therapy sessions for young women to gain healing through the act of simply moving their bodies. Graciela uses her creativity to empower women to speak about their experiences with issues such as sexual harassment, and to use those experiences as inspiration to speak, dance, write and be creative in sharing their stories. Graciela told me of two dreams she had that inspired her artwork, both very intense and deep with meaning. One in which she was shouting “Belly dancers for justice!” at a peace rally, and was suddenly shot three times. She remembers the words clearly spoken as the shooters approached her dead body to feel her neck ­— “Yup she’s dead.” In another dream, Graciela found herself as a skeleton on stage yelling, “Don’t remember me for just these bones, I’m more than just these bones!” a chilling resemblance to her show’s message that gives women of the past a chance to be remembered. Graciela has, and will continue to travel and tour, performing, and reaching out to people, sharing her energy, and spreading her strong, compelling message. Graciela believes the arts scene in DC, although

Graciela Lopez


photoshop piece by graciela lopez

(CONTD.) disconnected at times, is growing, and that DC promotes the arts in a way that many places do not. She is a great example of the growing diversity in the DC arts community. After interviewing the woman who dances when she talks, we laid a blanket on the grass in Dupont Circle, and looked up at the trees, and chatted. She spoke about her passion for video production, Photoshop, and walking on stilts! I never got the chance to experience one of Graciela’s performances, but her presence was healing in itself.

WEB: peacefulchicana.com CONTACT: peacefulchica@gmail.com

Graciela Lopez

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Where is your hometown? Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. When someone says “Washington D.C.”, what does that mean to you? ie. What do you think of? Art-wise, community-wise, people-wise, anything really just speak about what DC means to you. DC is a city rich in black history in a way unlike any other city in America. I see that history starting to translate to a rich future for black Americans and artist. If you could explain who you are as an artist, or what you do in a sentence, how would that go? I am a storyteller, writer and actor. What inspires you to be an artist? I come from a family of performers. I always found my mother’s with [to be] sharp and incredibly entertaining. She inspires me to be as good as she is and to share what art I have with as many people as possible. Are there any issues you feel strongly about? In the community, politically or socially? Also, how do you feel that your art addresses these issues? My work is informed by many of the issues I deal with, including, race and sexuality. I feel like my art should create a shared experience for people who don’t have the reference of life I have. Creating that empathy allows people to experience things unknown to them and would hopefully inform their experience or understanding of issues, which could enact change. What are some of your most definitive moments as an artist? For example, did you win any awards, or was it your first stage show, or any other moments that made you feel like — “Hey I AM an artist” or “I have successfully evolved into an artist.”? My first show in the Fringe Festival* in 07 made me say — ”yes it can be done.” I think before I can claim the role of artist, I would have to be living off the work that I do. That’s less of a qualification, more of a goal.


Q&A with Sheldon Scott

What’s on your iPod? Fela, Sade, Stan Getz, Mary J., Zhane, Tribe, J.Davey and yes, R. Kelly Favorite meal at Marvin (Restaurant on U street, which Sheldon Manages)? Dijon Mussels If there was one talent or passion that you have that no one or not many people know that you have (artistic or not), what is it? What don’t people know that Sheldon Scott is way into? Dead flowers Any shout outs? All the artists who are committed to making it happen in DC!

Sheldon was the Capital Fringe Artist of The Month for June 2010.

Q&A with Sheldon Scott

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“ I am addicted to Gummi Bears, I swallow gum, my favorite cable channel is “BOOMERANG” & I am 33. The only reason I grew up was to buy more toys!” 6-15-10


WEB: facebook.com/sheldonscott CONTACT: sheldonascott@aol.com

Q&A with Sheldon Scott

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Daniel Cima

Working at a little bistro/ lounge in Adam’s Morgan; Bossa I have met a large number of interesting folks, including photographer Daniel Cima. Bossa’s the walls are covered with Cima’s beautiful photographs from all around the world. One particularly conspicuous piece is a huge photo montage above the bar called The Last Supper a modern day depiction of the Bible scene that includes a prostitute, a man covered in tattoos, a homeless man, and a female Christ. Cima’s award winning photos can be seen everywhere from The Washington Post and Fox News to National Geographic I was thrilled to get a chance to meet him, sit down with a glass of chardonnay and talk photography. The son of an Italian man, and a French woman, Daniel Cima was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cima moved to the Washington, DC area in 1978. He photographed and edited for the Red Cross for 18 years, documenting disasters around the globe. Cima has been able to travel and photograph some of the most interesting people in the world, spending time (and sometimes his own money) to absorb different cultures and to convey his experiences through his lens. India, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Central Africa, Russia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Philippines and the US are places where Daniel has artfully worked as in his own words “a documentarist, not an artist”. Inspired by people in extraordinary conditions, and especially religion, his work is very much an emotional experience as much as a visual one. “I have a hang up with religion” he says, “I don’t like to work in low light situations, but if I have the opportunity to shoot a Voodoo priest in Haiti — you bet your ass I’ll pull out every trick in the book.” Talking with Daniel you get a feeling that he is a no-nonsense sort of guy; He gives it to you straight. “Photography can be an ugly job, photographing some testimonial on Capitol Hill with some visually handicapped asshole as your boss”, he says. You also get the feeling that this is a man who will do whatever it takes to follow his passions and to photograph the things he feels are important, “I became a saving machine, that’s how you get to work freely. . . even if I am living off of ten dollars a day in Ethiopia, I’ll do it.” Money isn’t the only resource that Cima has used to get him through his journeys, “People” he explains, “should never be underestimated. Do not pre-judge, because you never know what people can offer you. A person with absolutely no education, you can spend just a few minutes with them, and they can change your life, and give you a completely different, although simple, point of view”. I’ve spent more than a few minutes with Daniel, and I know he has inspired and changed the lives of many people, his point of view is a beautiful one. I’m glad he was able to share it with me, and am looking forward to seeing more of his work.

Daniel Cima



WEB: danielcima.com CONTACT: danielfcima@verizon.net

Daniel Cima

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text images interviews by Marcus Hedgpeth

artwork by Charles Jean-Pierre Robert Cole Graciela Lopez Sheldon Scott Daniel Cima