This will be a long blog post. Mainly because it’s been a long while since I’ve contributed anything to my blog. I often resist to urge to write when I’m busy, as I never want to post regurgitated, flat, art speak for the sake of filling in the void.
The long silence has been legitimate, as I just got back from vacation visiting the West coast (my home away from home). I spent 17 days in Washington State, primarily to visit family, with the first 5 days roaming solo on the colourful streets and quirky neighbourhoods of Seattle (my favourite city). I spent most of my time downtown, like what all good tourists are supposed to do, doing the tourist circuit (ie Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Monorail, etc.), and managing to get badly sunburned (yes, you heard that correctly) in the infamously rainy Emerald City. Ironically, it actually wasn’t rainy at all for the duration of my stay (mind the stereotype). It drizzles more in Seattle than it rains. I argue Halifax rains more, with horizontal rain than vertical, due to the windy temperment of the North Atlantic. During my visit, the enstranged Seattle sun managed to bop it’s always anticipated head through the dense cloud cover that flirts with Elliot Bay and the rest of the Pudget Sound 226 days a year. Locals would probably use a less optimistic word to describe it. Some of the stupid new facts I learned during my visit: there are apparently 420 Starbucks in Seattle alone, the city was originally built on top of sawdust, most of the old growth forest lumber was used to build Victorian San Francisco, prostitution funded most of the educational sector of the city, Victorian Seattleites dumped their poo in the harbour (sounds familiar to Halifax..), some of the clifts of the Queen Anne neighbourhood are reinforced with rubber to avoid houses landsliding during heavy rains…could be more myth than fact, but I know some of it has to be true..
The Pacific North West is a different world on its own. The thick – damp air, the moody atmosphere of dense foliaged forests, the wise countenance of the old man mountains that tell you their story of the dawn of time, the smell of wild sage that grows for hundreds of miles on the deserty, eastern side of the state. It was a joyeous, dreamy trip, and it now seems like it never happened.
Hinted in the title of this post, my allusion to sorrow is in fact not one of sorrow at all, but to update on my recent art activities. I wanted to post some drawings I contributed to the Veil of the Sorrow Songs Project, hosted and headed by Fulbright Scholar Quanda Jones, an African-American actress, visual artist, researcher and professional musician from Philadelphia. Her vision for the Sorrow Songs project was to create a dialogue in the Atlantic Canadian region concerning historical and contemporary attitudes toward the African descended community in the Western hemisphere, and in Canada in particular. The project was to illustrate historical African narratives through multimedia, with local talent performances combining African drum, modern dance, spoken word, live art and dramatic vignettes. The project was also in support and to bring awareness to Aidan David Cromwell, a young black man from Halifax who this past spring was controversially charged of second degree murder.
The Project was supported by NSCAD and Dalhousie University, and amongst the visual contribution to the project, I was asked to produce drawings that were to interpret some of the DuBoisian sorrow songs from the slave era. ‘Sorrow Songs’ or ‘negro spirituals’ were written by the African fugitive slaves who drew on both African musical styles and western European sources, creating an art-form sculpted from their personal experience and re-told through meaningful self expression. They used acapella song primarily as their medium in the early days of the songs’ formation. I interpreted ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, and ‘Roll, Jordan Roll’, and along with other artists’ interpretations, were projected as back drops for the various performances of the event.
I haven’t drawn in a while, but drawing inspiration from favourites, such as the drawings of Charlie Makesy & Käthe Kollwitz, as well as gesture drawing, I tried to create the feeling of fluidity and mood, and infused Judeo-Christian symbolism in lieu of the songs’ root content.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (2014)
Roll Jordan Roll (2014)
You can read more about the project here: http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/beyond-tolerance/Content?oid=4335966