*Illustrator Kadir Nelson talks about capturing some semblance of hope in his new cover for The New Yorker’s Nov. 23 issue.
The image shows a young girl of color – a blue flower in her natural hair – holding an American flag and looking forward with a smile brimming with confidence. The image appears to honor both the generations of young Black girls who now see themselves in the nation’s first female and African American vice president, Kamala Harris, and the untold legions of Black women whose political activism was the sling-shot that got Harris and President-elect Joe Biden into the nation’s highest office.
“What’s most important is communicating the feeling behind the image, and, in this instance, less is more, Nelson says in an interview with The New Yorker about the image. “The sole figure forces the viewer to focus on the idea that I’m trying to convey. That idea is about hope and promise, but it’s also about work—the work it took to achieve the results of this election, and the work we’ll have to do in the months and years to come. The blue iris flower in the girl’s hair represents hope, and her rolled-up sleeves gesture to the work that needs to be done.”
“I hope the world will safely open up once again after the pandemic has passed,” he continues. “I hope for certainty and finality with our recent election and for a peaceful transition. And I hope that young girls around the country and the world will learn and accept that there are no barriers they can’t overcome. Sometimes all we need to know is that what we want to achieve is possible.”
Nelson is known for painting African-American icons who have inspired him, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball star Jackie Robinson and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
Below is a CBS News interview with Nelson from April 2020 about his work offering inspiration during this pandemic-filled election year.
Former MLBer Micah Johnson Wants His Paintings to Inspire Black Kids (Watch)
*Micah Johnson, a former second baseman and outfielder for the White Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Rays, has indulged in his longtime passion and is now a professional artist of critically acclaimed and highly sought-after fine art paintings.
His latest work, which opened at Art Angels over the summer, was inspired by an overheard question posed by his nephew: “Mom, can astronauts be Black?”
Per MLB.com’s Michael Clair:
Many of his paintings feature real subjects wearing an astronaut’s helmet, while they paint or draw or learn the cello or simply play hopscotch. The helmet represents the dreams Black kids have and the opportunities that are hopefully open to them. He uses colors and images that children can relate to. He wants Black children to see themselves in a fine art world that is historically dominated by white artists and subjects.
“My whole mission is to inspire children,” Johnson told MLB.com. “But I try to have that looseness to it. And that’s just how I am. I work a lot with just my hands. Sometimes I don’t even have a paintbrush in my studio. I try to do these really bold lines and have that perfect blend of whitespace and also color. That’s how I’d define my style now.”
“If I try to really, really focus on the eyes, make the viewer feel this connection — and if they feel that connection — then maybe it will change their perspective on something,” Johnson said.
“In the beginning, it was all inspired by my nephews because I just wanted to inspire them. And that’s how my approach is — I tried to focus on inspiring one person,” Johnson said. “So, a lot of my subjects are real subjects. And I think that’s a message for everybody else — just focus on impacting one person and you’ll really impact the world. So, for me, it’s my nephews, and they’re young, and maybe when they grow up, and they start looking at this, maybe they’ll feel inspired.”
The theme is present in his most recent work, “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” (pronounced sovereignty), but the presentation is drastically different from anything Johnson has done before.
This piece is a digital artwork available to view on Apple TV or on a billboard at 901 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles from Dec. 7 through Jan. 10. It features two young children (Jacque, 8, and Rayden, 7), who have experienced tragedy in their lives staring at a closed door in a field, with an astronaut standing on the other side.
Unlike a painting, viewers can watch “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” change in real time. The light shifts from day to night and with each passing year, the door will swing open a little wider, giving Jacque and Rayden a wider glimpse at the astronaut who awaits them on the other side of the door. A QR code connected to a bitcoin wallet also appears on the children’s birthdays, allowing viewers to donate directly to them.
Watch a trailer for sä-v(ə-)rən-tē below:
Watch a July 2020, CBS Los Angeles report on Johnson below:
OWN to Air Director Oge Egbuonu’s Powerful Ode to Black Women ‘(In)Visible Portraits’ (Trailer)
*OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has picked up the evocative documentary film “OWN Spotlight: (In)Visible Portraits” from thought leader, storyteller and filmmaker, Oge Egbuonu, as her directorial debut to air in 2021.
Nearly three years in the making, (In)Visible Portraits is a powerful celebration of Black women sharing their stories of struggle, resilience and beyond. Described by Egbuonu as a “love letter to Black women and a reeducation for everyone else,” the documentary shatters the too-often invisible otherizing of Black women in America and reclaims the true narrative as told in their own words. The film illuminates the history of how we got here, dismantles the false framework of the present-day reality and celebrates the extraordinary heritage of exceptional Black women whom have come before as well as igniting hope for the next generations.
“Creating this documentary was a personal feat,” says Egbuonu, “as a Black woman, I have been told all my life the things that I cannot do and why it has been impossible for people who look like me to live full, unapologetic and authentic lives. Joining forces with OWN, who is so passionate about amplifying the message of this film, is a deeply gratifying opportunity. This film unapologetically affirms Black women and offers a poetic invitation that says I see you, I hear you and you matter. This documentary speaks to the times and my unshakable belief that healing begins when voices are heard, so I could not be more grateful for the enthusiastic support from OWN and their passion to share this with their audience.”
IndieWire described the film as “simply another facet of a story that demands to be watched” and Variety said “the documentary’s emotional generosity and mindful elegance impress.”
Watch the official trailer below:
“Oge’s artistry and visionary storytelling in this beautiful film will deeply resonate with our viewers,” said Tina Perry, OWN president. “I am so proud showcase its important message which so perfectly aligns with OWN’s commitment for Black women to see themselves and their lives reflected and celebrated in our programming.”
Prior to creating “(In)Visible Portraits,” Oge produced films like “Loving” (the critically acclaimed film starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga about Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case which legalized interracial marriage in the United States) and “Eye in the Sky” at the independent production company Raindog Films alongside co-founders Ged Doherty and Academy Award®-winning actor Colin Firth. Oge also previously held a seat on the board of the Diversity Committee for the BRIT Awards, where she collaborated on revamping the voting academy and tackling diversity within the music and film industries.
Misty Copeland: Ballet is Listening after George Floyd
*Ballerina Misty Copeland says her profession has to evolve along with the world’s racial reckoning or else it will cease to exist.
“As the world is changing, as it grows more diverse, if the ballet world doesn’t evolve with it, then it’s going to die,” Copeland told reporter Jenna Adae.
The first black woman to become the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre said that after George Floyd’s death and the focus on Black Lives Matter, for the first time in her 20-year career, people are starting to believe her when she says the lack of diversity within the global ballet industry is a problem.
“There’s so many communities that are not going to support an art form that they feel doesn’t want them to be a part of it,” she says.
Watch her full interview below or HERE.
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