So honored to be the featured artist in their October issue. I love this painting, which commemorates Marie Curie, the ultimate alchemist! She won not one, but two Nobel prizes, the first in 1903 in Physics, the second in Chemistry awarded in 1911. The only woman to ever be awarded two Nobel prizes, and the only person to be awarded two prizes in DIFFERENT scientific fields.
Seasoned painters know that it pays to have a plan, an organizing principle to guide creative decisions at the easel.
Even stream of consciousness artists start off with an idea or feeling in mind. And a conceptually driven artist, even one like me who is working from Fluxus boxes set up in the studio, has to have an idea on how to build an image from the ground up.
Here’s how I got from the box still-life to my finished painting, Alchemical Bride 24 (Sojourner Truth).
Firstly, I reversed the bride, so the small figure was in front and the large portrait in back. The picture still bent in half, but now I had an all-seeing eye looking at me. Cool!. After a number of sketches, I zeroed in on the green reflections from the plants in my studio as a color prompt.
With green as my anchor color, I picked out a quadratic color scheme to complement the hues I saw in the box, and nudged others to fit my chromatic key.
I believe in organizing principles to guide my brush. But I don’t think artists need to become goose-stepping fascists, mindlessly following some art historical rule. That kind of rigidity is for theorists, not for those who actually practice. The easel is where the rubber meets the road, and any painter worth her salt won’t give up what will best serve her painting because of a rule!
Take the Rule of Thirds, a universally appealing way to distribute focal points in a painting, for example. To find my true thirds, I diagonally divide my painting in half in opposite directions. I then divide each leg in half, to find the “eyes” of my thirds. In my composition, the “eyes” are marked in red.
I wanted to create a strong movement from the bride’s vigilant and actively staring eye, to her hands, folded and waiting for action. A narrative suggested itself in these two gestures as I thought about the historical figure of Sojourner Truth. So I stressed the top right and lower right “eyes” softening the other two with shapes, moving with the rhythms of a Fibonacci spiral.
Now look here, I free-handed my Fibonacci spiral, so it’s not a mathematically correct spiral. No doubt, there’s a theorist out there clucking tsk-tsk with disapproval. Know what I say to that? Jimmy-crack corn and I don’t care! My painting is alive and bristling with color, textures, values, and implied narratives. And it moves with the rhythms of the spiral despite the organic imperfections of my hand.
I use chromatic keys and compositional devices as organizing principles like an artist, not like a fascist. Discerning mathematicians and art critics need not freak out.
I have been a professional artist since 1985, and was recruited to teach right out of college. For me, teaching has always supported the healing and activism at the heart of my studio practice. In turn, my commitment to service is at the heart of my pedagogy.
Last year I took a substantial pay cut to go on sabbatical (our school district is poor and we get docked for research). I took professional leave to create a documentary for use by the arts departments in our district and in our feeder schools. I looked at my partial salary as a grant to explore documentary film-making. I have no training in film, but I am an experienced visual artist and an educator. I knew from consuming films of various genres across different platforms, that audiences will gladly overlook rough edges if the content is good.
My husband joined my efforts, becoming my cinematographer, without any monetary compensation for his time or for the wear on his equipment. I researched, scripted, directed, edited, and produced not just the contracted hour-long educational film, but eleven additional shorts.
The purpose of the films? To reverse the white supremacy that blights the art world. And it is a blight. That’s not an opinion but a quantifiable fact.
In March of this year, The Smithsonian analyzed more than 40,000 works of art in 18 major U.S. museums’ online catalogs. What did their research find? Predictably, 85 percent of artists featured are white, and 87 percent are men.
Benchmarks such as the ArtReview Power 100 in 2018, tell a bleak story: 62% male/38%female, 60% Caucasian, 20% Asian, 6% Black, 6% Mixed-race, 6% Latino, 3% Middle Eastern. You might think, but that’s big art business, what does that have to do with education? A great deal, as it turns out. Classroom demographics reflect an equally disturbing dearth of minority voices in the arts.
But this story of white supremacy isn’t set in stone. It is in flux. If last year 60% of the Power 100 were white, the previous year it topped 70%, and just fifteen years ago it was an appalling 87%. This increase in diversity, while slow, is a direct result of efforts from the art world’s most dedicated individuals– people like Thelma Golden who support the health of our cultural ecosystems by challenging racist policies.
As a Latinx intersectional feminist, I felt strongly I had to do something. And my husband joined my crusade. The crucial question was how could we convince young creatives and their parents to fund a college major without established pathways to success? How could we entice young creators to lend their voices to our greater cultural ecology? Societies are judged by their cultural legacy. In the age of political crowds chanting “send them back”, of #BlackLivesMatter, of Latinx children dying under ICE custody, what does it say about us as people that minority creatives are silenced before they even have a chance to contribute?
Block-buster exhibits such as Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic at the Seattle Art Museum create visibility for success stories. However, they do little to disclose how aspiring artists break through institutionalized racism and market obstacles to become financially soluble professionals.
The purpose, then, was to bridge the gap between the young creative doodling in their sketchbook and successful arts professionals. The film was to uncover the pathways to success established by municipal institutions and funding sources as Artist Trust, 4Culture, and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and introduce students of color to recent equity programs and initiatives. The documentary also introduced students and recruits to a number of successful established artists of color in the community, as well as flourishing emerging talents entering the Seattle marketplace. At all times, I kept my ideal viewer in mind…that young creative who wants to follow their dream but thinks that it cannot be done.
The first short dropped nearly ten months ago, the most recent, was uploaded this Spring. Currently, I only have anecdotal evidence that it’s working. I am seeing more students of color enrolled in the nine art classes I teach in the Fall, and my colleagues report similar demographic shifts. My college hasn’t yet collected enough data to render a clearer picture, but already the feeling is that this project is reaching it’s intended audience, one download at a time.
Below are the links to the films. I hope you will enjoy and share them liberally. There are eleven shorts, all under 10 minutes, that faculties can use to introduce lessons, and one class-long film. All the videos are available for free streaming on YouTube.
Artists of Color in Seattle, documentary shorts:
Humaira Abid, A Life in Art, 8m36s:Features the internationally renowned sculptor and installation artist talk about overcoming challenges and becoming a success right out of school. Abid just won the prestigious $25,000 WA Artists Innovator in Art from Artist Trust in 2019!
Lisa Edge, A Life In Art, 7m49s: The last dedicated journalist covering art in Seattle and the region. All other arts reporting in the city is done by INTERNS or journalists who cover everything, from finances, politics, sports, food, shoes, whatever. Not any specialized training! Can you believe it? Features the arts reporter discuss her trajectory from anchoring the news to writing art reviews and artist features. She specifically talks about where she discovers talent and who she chooses to highlight in features.
Aramis O. Hamer, A Life In Art, 8m03s: Features the art entrepreneur and 2019 Neddy at Cornish $25,000 award winner discuss how she successfully left a career in nursing after matching her salary through art and the many creative income streams she cultivates.
Philippe Hyojung Kim, A Life In Art, 7m37s: Features the young artist during his residency at ReCology discussing how he makes connections to curators and critics, teaches, and motivates himself to make it happen.
Gabriel Marquez, A Life In Art, 7m11s: Features the young graphic designer and public artist/muralist discussing his successful careers and interrupting his studies to work after his daughter was born. He shares about his initial difficulties after moving to Seattle from Texas. Latinx artists still find it hard to make it happen in Seattle, And Marquez has recently moved back to Texas with his young family. He is currently painting one mural after another.
Sarah Meranda, A Life in Art, 7m20s: A graduate from Seattle Colleges art programs. Features the young jewelry designer discuss taking classes, juggling bills, and doubling what she makes in her full-time corporate salary through her “side-hustle” art business. Since publishing this video, Sarah has become a full-time jewelry maker and hired more assistants.
George Rodriguez, A Life In Art,6m09s: Features the well-known ceramicist thriving as a sculptor and teaching artist. From representation at blue-chip art galleries like Foster / White, to commissions from the Mexican Consulate, Rodriguez makes a Life In Art inevitable! He is currently living in Philadelphia.
Resources for artists in Seattle, documentary shorts:
Artist Trust, A Life in Art, 5m40s: Features Brian McGuigan, AT Programs Director enumerating numerous training opportunities, resources, grants and fellowships open to all artists and steps the organization is taking to prioritize equity.
4Culture, A Life In Art, 9m21s: Features Executive Director Brian Carter discussing King County’s funding programs and his own career trajectory from founding curator of NAAM, to Burke Museum and finally to arts administration. Carter is bi-racial, didn’t see himself or his family reflected in the arts growing up, and comes to arts funding as a critic and catalyst for equity.
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, A Life in Art, 5m23s: Features Director Randy Engstrom discussing the importance of building up the cultural ecology of our communities and the many different programs Seattle funds. He explores how specific programs are helping artists of color break into public art. The office has moved to the new King Street Station and is now more accessible than ever!
CoCA Seattle, A Life in Art, 8m27s: Features Nuura Ibrahim (who was a student at SCC not too long ago) and Judy Rayl discussing the Center on Contemporary Art’s commitment to all artists, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
Making It, A Life In Art, 54m40s: The narrative arc invites creatives to conceive of a career in the arts through studio visits and interviews. 4Culture’s Executive Director speaks about how broad the field is and invites the young creative to lend their voice to our culture. Participating artists share how they created plans to develop secure incomes in the arts, how they overcame resistance to their work and even personal losses. They share how to deal with rejections and prevail in their careers.
The last time I team-taught the Coordinated Studies class, The Power of Myth, I had a series of Big Dreams such as those that Carl Jung described in his writings. I was reading his autobiography, and studying the Red Book. I would teach during the day, and after grading and reading, was working on 50-foot long drawings until late at night.
I was reading about Chinese Alchemy and acupuncture one Saturday when I fell asleep. I dreamt the image that would become Full Immersion, one of the mural scale drawings from the MetaCorpus series. In my dream I rose out of the water, felt the flooding water recede from my body, which in turn transmuted into mercury.
It was the weekend, so I went downstairs to my studio upon awakening, only to discover that it had just flooded! We hadn’t had any rain in weeks. Where did the water come from?
I’d been reading about this in mystical alchemical texts: As above so below, as within so without. Jung himself experienced such strange occurrences– the internal life projects outward and manifests in material observable reality. Woo-woo mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, it happened for real. I had many archetypal dreams during this time of my life, as I was undergoing all kinds of personal transformations.
Some weeks later I had the most memorable dream of all. It unfolded not in the weird spatial and time distortions typical of dreams, but like a neatly edited film. It had a cinematic quality to it, mostly because it was symmetrical, had mirrored language, followed a narrative structure. In fact, when I describe the dream to others, I often call it a film and have to correct myself.
In the dream, I was tagging a castle with red spray paint, and yelling, “Burn the king’s castle!” over and over again, leading a mob carrying pitchforks, spades, guns, not unlike the storming of the Bastille.
I clambered on top of the castle, where Marcel Duchamp asked me to marry him. I agreed and we flew off together, floating above the melee below.
In the dream, I am back in my studio when a friend comes to visit and asks, “Hey Tati, what’s new.” I tell her I married Duchamp. I say “DiDi and I got married and he lives in the shack.” I am so delighted to take her to meet him. He is spotlit, cutting out tin figures and placing them on a chess-board. We watch this careful orchestration for a bit, when suddenly music plays and we begin to dance. It is a polka and we bounce off of walls, ceilings, floors, in what could be an infinite space even though the actual room is quite small– we’re inside a cardboard box.
When the music stops, DiDi goes back to his work, and I turn to my friend, who is laughing, breathless, and I exclaim, “Isn’t he a riot?” I woke up laughing.
It’s taken so many years for me to understand this Big Dream. It’s come back to me a number of times but has always been undecipherable. I get it now, as it unfolds daily in my studio. I think in some ways, I could never have conceived of the Alchemical Bride series, of storming Picasso’s castle with my Cubism 3.0 if I had set out to do so directly.
‘If I have ever practiced alchemy, it was in the only way it can be done now, that is to say, without knowing it.”- Marcel Duchamp
Last academic year I went on sabbatical to storm a different castle. A white castle. I set out to film documentaries that shone a light on PoC artists in my community who are making a living in their chosen art profession. They prove that you can have a good life doing what you love right here, in Seattle. Mind you, I’ve never studied film-making. I make films as a part of my interdisciplinary inquiry, like a Fluxus artist more interested in experimentation and experience than product. In this case, I wanted my films to topple the notion that only white European males can make a living in the visual arts. The videos were posted on YouTube and links sent to high schools with the hopes of encouraging the young creative to follow their hearts, and pursue careers in the arts.
I released them in the spring, and this Fall term I am already seeing more brown and black faces in my classrooms. I’m yelling “Burn the king’s castle!” hoping all the emerging talents coming to SCC will kick and stomp and tear down the walls of art’s gated community
Another Bastille– All during 2018 I often wore a beard in the studio, assuming my trans persona, Puer, the Eternal Man Child. I painted a series of landscapes, taking experiential trips to various landscapes using an Aleph (in actuality, my iPhone). I think it interesting that the only time that the city of Seattle has purchased one of my works for their portable art collection, was when I painted as this male persona. Things that make you go Hmmmm.
Puer, is a purely performative persona for me. I am cisgender, and comfortable with my skin. But by wearing a beard, I claimed for myself the privileges awarded only to gendered males. I gave myself permission to play at the easel, without any political agendas. Maybe giving myself that permission was psychological gold for me.
True alchemy, in psychological and philosophical terms constitutes tearing down the conflicting male-female duality, uniting Puer and Puella in the individuated Self, integrating the personality like a symbolic Gnostic Anthropos.
I realize now that DiDi and Tati sound very similar. That the fabulous recurring Big Dream that has always made my pulse quicken and brought laughter to my lips is none other than my feminist art practice. That the Alchemical Bride series is me, tagging the castle, getting ready to checkmate the king.
I cut out well over 1000 brides for my series, so I think I’ll be playing chess inside my Fluxus cardboard boxes, those little alchemical ovens known as Houses of the Chick. I’ll be dancing off of all those reflections and refractions, brush-stroke by brush-stroke fr some time to come.
I am so honored to be participating in this interactive installation at Neplanta Cultural Arts Gallery. Sponsored by @la_sala_seattle The Concentration Camp, an interactive exhibition curated by Juan Carlos Ortega is part of the 2019 La Cocinita series sponsored by La Sala. 😍
Come discover the stories behind the incarceration of undocumented immigrants and the racist policies that target the most vulnerable among us. The opening reception is tonight, September 14, 6-9pm! I can’t be there because we were rear-ended and our car and we shouldn’t be driving it until we get it to the body shop.
The exhibition runs through October 9. 🎞
Five of my films will be a part of the show, which features written material by Juan Carlos Ortega, sound installations by Camila Jade, and my videos.
This is such an important topic, I hope everyone has a chance to go to Neplanta as participate in this wonderful interactive exhibit!
I recently read Tracie McMillan’s riveting book, The American Way of Eating, which was published before Trump’s draconian immigration policies took effect.
In her undercover investigation, which took McMillan to work at a California farm, a Walmart, and an Applebees where she was drugged and raped, the author tried but inevitably failed to make ends meet on the money she earns.
The backbreaking work that McMillan describes while picking garlic, peaches, and grapes doesn’t even earn minimum wages, since workers are paid by the bushel or box rather than by the hour. No surprise, she was the only white face on the fields. The reality, McMillan discovers, is that only desperate undocumented workers will work for such miserable wages, wages which won’t even let them afford the food they pick.
Despite poverty, uncertain and often over-crowded unsanitary housing options, her fellow workers, mostly Spanish speaking Mexicans, are generous in advice and help. These are not the bad hombres and rapists that Trump describes.
I’ve been thinking about how I can disrupt the language of Us vs Them that dominates the anti-immigrant movement in this country. So I’ve started with a series of drawings that recall the style of Toile de Jouy, featuring images and statistics that point to the interdependence between our broken food systems and the undocumented farm-workers that feed us.
For example, Americans spend less of their annual income on food than anyone in the world. Partly because our farms stay afloat by hiring underpaid unprotected undocumented workers.
What will happen to our food budgets when ICE succeeds in rounding up all the undocumented workers? We already know from McMillan’s reportage, US workers won’t take such low wages. Who will work on our farms?
Don’t know about you, but I learned as a young child it’s better not to bite the hand that feeds you. If only our politicians had learned that lesson too.
Three of the Mourning Embroideries from The Lamentations series are included in Threaded, an exhibit of new works by 34 artists from across the USA who are engaging with fibers in new ways. Hosted by the MCC Art Gallery, the show runs September 3 – November 7, 2019.
My three pieces feature veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan posing as martyrs, saints, demons, and dead from Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Last Judgement. Embroidered from hair and tears onto military netting, the small clusters of hair define soldiers and join single strands to create explosive debris, dust clouds, and lyrics. No matter how full the composition, the embroidered contours are practically invisible from a distance– a visual parallel to private yet communal sorrow. Pure, simple, restrained.
Juried by María-Elisa Heg, curatorial fellow at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and Mark Newport, fibers artist and Head of Fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Want to read more news? Download my Summer/Fall Newsletter here.
I’m getting my summer reading on! 📖 Three of my Book of Hours collage drawings are published in the new Vastarien! Now in bookstores.
Get your copy of Vastarien Vol 2 Issue 2, and see my art on pages ii, 96, 150, right next to the juiciest short stories and poetry ever written. I’m just gonna curl up on the deck and enjoy my readings. There are some awesome art and spine-tingling writing in here, y’all!
I’m so honored to have been asked to show Shadowboxing just in time for the Seattle Art Fair. Woot!
The High Wall at Inscape is such an amazing program, and I couldn’t be more excited to have my animation paired with Amir Sheikh’s new film.
The outdoor projections have been visible after dark since August 1st, and tomorrow we will have a sunset reception with the two films, plus music, and a cash bar. There’s a suggested donation of $10 to raise funds for Shunpike’s ACES: Artists of Color Symposium, which is the absolute most amazing program. It was completely transformational for the community to be able to come together and stand witness to each other’s talents and stories. I have never experienced anything quite like it. So if you can support ACES, please do.
That said, you can get in for free with the code “High Wall 2019” is the $10 sets you back too much, because we all want for these programs to be accessible to everyone. oxox
For those of you who can’t come, here is a copy of the print interview that will be available at the reception. I get preachy, but you know, I’m not anything if not earnest and passionate. I discuss Trump’s election, deracination, what it means to be a LatinX in the PNW, and give insights to my process and animation set up.
Curated by Seattle Art Commissioner and artist extraordinaire, Juan Alonso-Rodríguez, the exhibit features select paintings from my Migration series along with work by Arturo Artorez, a Mexican artist, and the Cuban-born Hugo Moro. This is the curator/artist’s second exploration of the Latinx diaspora, and it promises to rock!
At the opening reception, enjoy light bites by Tarik Abdullah. I’m bringing my hunger. Are you?
You are invited, so bring your love of art and fun company! Do come by the Paramount Theater this Sunday for the opening reception of Re:Definition 2019: The Latin Diaspora.
Special Guests: DJ J-NASTY & SHESGUCCI Bites by Chef Tarik Abdullah.
Sunday, July 28, 2019 Doors at 5:00 pm Event ends at 9:00 pm
FREE! All Ages / Bar with I.D. Put it on your calendar!
The show continues through January 20, 2020.
The Re:definition gallery space is open to viewing during public performances in the theatre and special events. If you would like to view the exhibit outside of these times, please contact email@example.com to schedule a visit.