In these dark times with The Orlando Massacre, the recent attack on the Istanbul airport and so many daily killings that are taking place in my hometown of Louisville, KY and all over the nation along with the shift in my art practice to begin making work about the 64,000 Black women who have disappeared in America, my heart has been very heavy. Watching the verdicts of the Freddie Gray trails are particularly heartbreaking because Baltimore taught me so much about being an artist, teacher, activist and healer. As an empath and a champion of social change I have spent so many sleepless nights crying in 2016. As I heal another tragedy occurs and it's a vicious cycle. Because my work and research is no stranger to dark historical and contemporary atrocities I am reminded and reflecting on my grounding ceremonies and the things that I keep around me in my studio that give me strength. (I use the term studio loosely because I am nomadic these days).
Orange is a healing color for me. When I lived in my first apartment in Baltimore above a natural food store called OK Natural that was a 5 minute walk from MICA's campus where I was majoring in painting my walls were painted burnt orange. After my 6 hour studio classes or my long shifts at BeBe, the clothing store that I worked at near the harbor, I used to fill my essential oil warmer with orange oil, wear burnt orange colored sweaters or dresses, turn on Nina Simone, Fela Kuti , Billie Holiday and Miles Davis and paint/draw until the wee hours of the morning. The color orange seriously got me through undergrad! I recently purchased a table that has a burnt orange top and now this table (featured in the image above) is where I like to do majority of my studio work and writing. Upon returning from Lagos I went to Out of the Closet and found perfect burnt orange pants and an electric orange sweater from Old Navy and on days when I am feeling immobile it has become my KACH Studio uniform. Orange is also the color of the Kentifrica Project and I don't install without it.
Reading section of the Kentifrican Museum of Culture 2015
Herbal tea is also very healing for me. I didn't begin drinking herbal tea until art school. Being from the South I was so used to Lipton iced black tea with tons of white sugar! It wasn't until I left Kentucky and moved to Baltimore did I begin to thirst for organic Hojicha roasted green tea, jasmine tea, Holy Basil leaf tea, and red raspberry leaf tea. All I had to do was walk downstairs to where the store was in the basement and go to the herb library in the cellar/back of the store. I could mix my own concoctions of dried leaves and could chose from what seemed like thousands of jars. Since then I have never been the same. I can drink cups and cups of tea throughout the day and I know the right tea I need for my mood. It's something about letting the leaves steep in the pipping hot water, nestling my hands around the warm cup and letting the leaves do their magic that helps to stir up my imagination, calm and focus.
Kentifrican Healing Tea featuring fresh orange, mint, ginger and assam black tea. Made in collaboration with Chef Isaac DeLamatre at Antioch College in 2014
I also received my first bundle of sage in my very first apartment above the store. My neighbor and really great friend Berkeley who introduced me to Sonny and Linda Sharrock, Bob Kaufman and Amiri Baraka's work gave me one to burn and purify the grumpy dark energies of his former neighbor. I must admit that I was terrified to burn it and waited weeks to do so. I had been raised with the horrible soapy perfume headache inducing incenses that were brightly colored and brought not a pinch of zen to any home. Little did I know that 11 years later I would be smudging myself, my creative space and installation spaces before I began my creative work and that it would also become a daily practice.
White sage I foraged from a local state park in Los Angeles, CA 2016
Going back and remembering these natural tools that give me sustenance, clarity, focus and cleansing energy help me to face the unthinkable and unimaginable. I am realizing that sometimes it's not about posting or sharing actual artworks in process to show growth and investigation within my studio practice. Sometimes I AM the work in progress. I am the conduit of these stories that I have to tell. It's not easy and shouldn't be. Sometimes it is about knowing what can comfort you in these dark times and allowing yourself to participate in much needed radical self-care. Sometimes it is not until you stop to do these things that the art can begin to reveal itself. While on a walk with my son at the neighborhood state park I discovered a huge patch of sage that had been dried by the drought and the California sun. So many people say that Los Angeles does not have seasons but I always beg to differ. I love the way everything turns golden brown in the summer and lush green in the winter. For my 29th birthday this year I vowed to learn how to do the things I always wanted to and one of the things on my list was to make my own smudge sticks. So I did!
My completed handmade white sage smudge bundle, 2016
Gathering this bundle made me think about how important the cycle of life and death is and that even when we shrivel, wither and transition we still transform and continue to bless others in so many ways. I am so excited to make a few more and find so much comfort in knowing that Wholefoods ain't getting no more of more smudging addiction money!! lol For the past three years within the Kentifrica Project I have been incorporating and researching healing garments, recipes and practices so I am not sure if this new smudge stick preparing skill will be featured in a new piece or body of work. My art often imitates my life and vice versa.
It is my wish that we all continue to heal and ground ourselves with things that nourish us inside and out so we can continue fighting to do the work that needs to be done.
Ancestor Paginas & Anti-Doodling
June 18, 2015
Chromophobia: My Evolution With Painting
April 4, 2015
Site Specific Sculpture: My Fascination With The Head