Alison Saar on Transforming Outrage Into Art

first_img– Advertisement – Yemoja crops up in my work a lot. I first discovered her when I was living in New York in the 1990s, trying to grapple with being a young mother and having a career — it felt like a real balancing act. I did a piece then called “Cool Maman,” who is balancing actual pots and pans on her head, all white enamelware. I see Yemoja as not only helping me in terms of patience and balance and child rearing but also as a watery, life-giving spirit who nourishes my creative process.For your “Topsy Turvy” show in 2018 at L.A. Louver, you turned Topsy, the enslaved character from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” into these fierce warrior girls. You even did a mixtape for the show, “Angry Songs for Angry Times.” How would you describe the source of your anger, and was it tricky for you to channel or unleash it?- Advertisement – – Advertisement – Conking is a type of hair processing where a lot of really toxic ingredients strip the hair of what makes it curl. Early on one of the ingredients was lye. By straightening her hair, this woman was eating the “lye” or “lie,” trying to separate herself from her African-American body, and that’s why I show her head separated from her body. I did a lot of severed heads at one point — I guess I’ve had anger in my work for a while.Do you think it’s fair to say that a survey of your work is also a survey of things Black women do to their hair?Yes [laughs]. I’m a little obsessed with hair. I think part of it is being biracial and very fair-skinned, to the point of being perceived as white; my hair is the one thing that feels like a real connection to my African-American ancestry. And much of my young life was spent going with my mother to salons and going through these hilarious, hair-straightening rituals with my cousins in the kitchen. These figures are defiant but tender; they are beautiful warriors. Do you think about that contradiction? – Advertisement – I think it’s always about a balance, and that comes back to the Yemoja character, balancing so much on her head. A lot of my life has been a balancing act between anger and a kind of serenity, and that’s also reflected in my process. I start by thinking about things, dreaming about things, but the actual work involves chain saws and hammers and knives and blades and a lot of bandages — I get cut a lot. The physical grappling with materials is very aggressive.You have a history of using scavenged materials, whether painting on seed sacks or sculpting with ceiling tin. When did you discover ceiling tin as a material, and what does it give you that you couldn’t get from more traditional mediums like stone or wood?When I moved to New York from Los Angeles in the ’80s, I had a job at the Studio Museum of Harlem, working as a sort of registrar before I became an artist in residence there. Walking to the museum, I saw all of this amazing ceiling tin out on the curb from people renovating townhouses. I would drag it into my studio. On the one hand, it covered up imperfections in the wood sculpture underneath — I was using wood from the dumpster that had holes and cracks. But it also created a kind of skin or armor. I loved the pattern because it reminded me of African scarification, which in some ways is an external biographer, telling us who you are married to or what group you belong to. Your new sculpture for Pomona shows Yemoja, the Yoruba goddess associated with childbirth and rivers, carrying a stack of heavy pails on her head. What does Yemoja represent to you?center_img You come from a family of artists. Your mother is Betye Saar. Your father, Richard Saar, was a conservator and ceramist. Your sister Lezley Saar is an artist. Did you ever consider doing anything else for a living?I really wanted after high school to get out from under the shadow of my mother’s reputation. So when I was studying at Scripps, I worked with Dr. Samella Lewis and was looking to be an art historian specializing in the African diaspora and non-Western culture. I did a dual major: fine arts and art history. I just think, at the end of it, I felt I was better suited to making art than writing about it. It was more gratifying. It was something I had been trained to do all my life. Alison Saar likes to make sculptures of strong Black women standing their ground: broad shoulders, wide stance, unmovable in their convictions. She made a bronze monument of Harriet Tubman that presides over a traffic island at 122nd Street in Harlem. She created a small army of enslaved girls turned warriors, inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Topsy for a major gallery show in Los Angeles. And now Ms. Saar, 64, has a new public sculpture on the Pomona College campus, commissioned by the Benton Museum of Art there: “Imbue,” a 12-foot-tall bronze evoking the Yoruba goddess Yemoja.“Imbue” accompanies her biggest museum survey yet, “Of Aether and Earthe,” which will be held in two venues: the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, which plans to open its section in January; and the Benton, in Claremont, Calif., where her show is installed and ready to open when the state’s coronavirus guidelines allow. Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with the artist about her new show and ongoing obsessions. You recently made a benefit print honoring Black Lives Matter, titled “Rise,” which shows a woman making a power fist. Was there a particular source for your image?I looked at a lot of images of women from the Black Panther movement with their Afros and fists raised and then contemporized the hairstyle to say we’re still fighting the same battle. I didn’t want it to be one woman. I love Angela Davis, but there are a lot of other women that don’t get recognized, and I’m paying tribute to them all. Some people see the Black Panthers as militant and frightening. To me, the women were very much involved in education, free food, taking care of the elderly, these incredible community practices that are always being erased by the image of the guy holding the rifles. I’ve always wanted my work not to just be angry but point toward some resolution or express some optimism. But it’s been harder and harder to come up with something positive. After Obama was elected, we started seeing these horrible things bubbling up on social media — about growing watermelons at the White House or casting him and Michelle as monkeys.Since then, with Trump and the white supremacists, things have been getting even darker and more frightening. In “Topsy Turvy,” the last piece was “Jubilee,” a figure cutting her hair off and dancing, removing the social shackles and all the pain we are carrying around. But it’s still a painful piece in my eyes. I basically stopped worrying about putting out a positive message anymore; I felt that it was OK to express being furious. Printmaking is one of the most populist art forms, connected historically to ideas of accessibility and, at times, democracy. Do you see printmaking as a political tool?I’ve never really thought of my printmaking as political but very much about it being populist, accessible and affordable. I love the history of broadsides where people would print out a poem and plaster the city with them, and I’ve done a couple with poets. Your Benton show includes a disturbing sculpture, “Conked,” where a woman swallows her own long hair, made of wire. I take it the title refers to the old-school hair straightening process?last_img read more

Dream homes individually created for apartment buyers

first_imgDwell Newstead allows buyers to customise apartments, like Nelson Duan’s.Home buyers at Dwell Newstead are finalising their wish lists with the ability to customise their own apartments.The “create your own” feature is one of Dwell’s main points of difference, along with expansive podium green space and city views.Currently under construction, buyers can customise floor plans.Dibcorp managing director Franco Di Bartolomeo said it was not the typical customisation level you might find in any other development. “We meet with the client to finalise their wish list and within days our in-house team can produce a new architectural internal design that incorporates all the buyer’s needs”, Mr Di Bartolomeo said.Buyer Nelson Duan liked the idea of joining two apartments on consecutive levels by adding an internal staircase and he met Enclave Property Group principal Sharon Campbell to discuss his options. More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus13 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market13 hours agoDwell Newstead allows buyers to customise apartments, like Nelson Duan’s.Creating a unique 224sq m two-level skyhome on levels 9 and 10, complete with three secured car parks and extra storage was his dream home.“After being in the market looking for a place to call home for nearly two years, finding a development with such a high level of customisation and right in the heart of Newstead was exactly what I wanted,” Mr Duan said.“Since I travel a lot for business I needed a low-maintenance home that I could lock and leave, without compromising on size, amenities or lifestyle.”His wish list included a clear division of private and social spaces, a master retreat with walk-in robe and ensuite, a generously proportioned scullery, a media room, and it had to be dog-friendly for his french bulldog, Zegna.“Thanks to Dwell’s flexibility, I was able to incorporate a 6m void, adding an entrance with a huge wow factor, a unique personality to my home, as well as plenty of natural light and a glass facade that frames stunning city views,” Mr Duan said.“I really like the idea of having the second floor working as a private retreat, with its own entrance, secluded from the social areas.”Three, four and five-bedroom skyhomes and penthouses at Dwell Newstead are selling from $925,000.last_img read more

March for justice: Students trace footsteps of the civil rights movement

first_imgFor the past seven years, the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs has offered an alternative to tanning on a beach or hitting the slopes for spring break — an opportunity to visit the most vital landmarks of the civil rights movement.This spring break, 20 students and advisers will travel to five cities in Georgia and Alabama on a trip organized by CBCSA associate director Rosalind Conerly and Marshall School of Business graduate student Yasmin Scott. There, they will gain hands-on experience with black history and the present condition of black people in the South.For the students on the trip, traveling to the South is an introduction to a completely new way of life. For many, it is their first trip on a plane. Everything about the culture of the South — from the stereotypical Southern hospitality to soul food — comes as a shock for students who have never been to the Cotton Belt.This culture shock, according to Conerly, is an important part of a trip meant to open the eyes of students to both the past and the present experience of black Americans.“It’s an incredible trip because there is so much for students to take in and process at once,” Conerly said. “They’re looking at how far we’ve come from and, at the same time, the fact that there is so much work to be done. I think it’s really a very moving week for all of us.”The trip begins in Atlanta, where the group will visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the King Center and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.Then the group will travel to Birmingham and to Selma, where they will visit a variety of civil rights museums, centers and landmarks, including the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Brown Chapel.The next three days will encompass the service portion of the trip. For two days, students will work in local schools in Selma and Montgomery. They will also spend a day working with the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides free legal representation to defendants and prisoners.Founded and led by acclaimed lawyer Bryan Stevenson, the Initiative will provide a chance for the USC students on the trip to get a hands-on look at how the color of one’s skin can still affect justice.“It’s interesting because the students see how people are still being jailed, they’re still being oppressed and there are still people in the South having to fight every day to do something about it,” Scott said. “It’s eye-opening.”The final leg of the trip takes place at Tuskegee University, a prominent black college, before returning to Atlanta.Each night of the trip, Conerly makes sure that students have the opportunity to meet USC alumni who have moved or returned to the South. She believes it is an important part of connecting to both the history of the civil rights and to the current lifestyle of many Southern black communities.There are two major reasons that the CBCSA travels to the South every spring. One is to see where the South is now, to see a way of life still steeped in both racism and poverty and to bring that reality back to USC.The other is to see where the civil rights movement came from, to see the roads where leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. marched and were beaten and jailed.It’s been 50 years since King led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, but the city still remains poor and segregated. When students first step foot in the slow-moving city, Conerly says they all ask out the same shocked question — “Do people really live like this?”“It’s a different type of poor than they’ve ever seen before,” Conerly said. “And I think it’s important for students to see how other people live, to see where other people are coming from and to see just how different it is from their own lives.”While in Selma, the groups meet with a variety of USC alumni. The most prominent is a couple who moved from Los Angeles to Selma to reopen its movie theater. Once a major hub of life in Selma, it’s now labeled as “historic,” a relic of the past.When the Selma movie theater first reopened, older locals broke down in tears as they stepped through the front doors. For many older members of the Selma black community, this was the first time at the movies when they weren’t forced to take the back door and climb steps up to the balcony.The theater closed years later, unable to make a profit in a poor community where going to the movies on the weekend is a foreign concept.Students also visit other important landmarks in Selma, such as the home of Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson, where Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders stayed whenever they passed through.At Jackson’s home, they see the table where King sat while planning many of his greatest marches. After hearing about these landmarks for so long, students are finally able to see some of the most important pieces of black history.“You go through this house, and [Jackson] will point at a chair and say, ‘Martin sat there,’ or point at a bucket and say, ‘That’s where Martin would soak his feet after a long day of marching,’” Conerly said. “It makes it real. It’s shocking, how real it makes it all.”One year, during their tour, a student noticed Rep. John Lewis, a former Freedom Rider and an integral leader in the civil rights movement, taking his own tour of the Jackson home. After a moment of hesitation, the group approached Lewis and spoke with him.It is these types of moments that Conerly says make each trip unique and special for the students on it. Although she and Scott have carefully planned out each day of this year’s trip, they know that unexpected surprises are bound to come up — whether this means meeting a former Freedom Rider or simply speaking with someone who can remember listening to Dr. King speak in person.“It’s the type of trip that is going to change these students’ lives,” Scott said. “It makes that big of an impact, and we are incredibly excited to be able to provide that experience.”Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the trip was organized by the Black Student Assembly. It is the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.last_img read more

Muhammad Ali planned details of funeral himself, spokesman says

first_imgMuhammad Ali began crafting details of his own funeral years ago, insisting on an open and inclusive service, a family spokesman said Tuesday.”This began with ‘The Champ’ a decade ago,” spokesman Bob Gunnell told reporters at a news conference. “As he convened the meeting, he said, ‘This is what I would like to see, this is the type of program that I would like to see, that is inclusive of everyone, where we give as many people an opportunity that want to pay their respects to me.’ “Ali also said it was important that the memorials be conducted in the Muslim tradition, Gunnell said.The three-time heavyweight champion died Friday night at age 74 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease.The planning for the memorials involved many people in the Louisville, Kentucky, area who were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, Gunnell said.The plans will begin to play out Wednesday in a series of events expected to draw thousands of friends and fans of the late boxer to his hometown of Louisville as well as reporters and dignitaries from around the world. While organizers say they will not release a full list of dignitaries attending Friday’s memorial service — the cornerstone event — they have said that former President Bill Clinton, actor and comedian Billy Crystal and journalist Bryant Gumbel are among those scheduled to give eulogies.Actor Will Smith, who played the title role in the 2001 film “Ali,” and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will be among eight pallbearers, according to organizers.Here’s a schedule of the planned events:Wednesday: ‘I Am Ali’ festivalThe city-sponsored festival Wednesday will “celebrate Ali’s life journey and fierce determination,” according to the city of Louisville. In addition to arts, entertainment and education offerings, “there will also be a wall where children can write what they want to be the greatest in.” Thursday: Islamic funeral prayer programA brief program of prayer, called a jenazah, will be held Thursday at the north wing of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, with an overflow crowd allowed in Freedom Hall, where Ali’s last fight in Louisville was held in 1961. Imam Zaid Shakir, a Muslim scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, will lead the service.”To be properly prepared for burial, prayed over and then buried is a right owed to every single Muslim,” Shakir said in a statement provided by organizers. “If no one fulfills those rights, then the entire community has fallen into sin. In the case of someone of Muhammad Ali’s stature, to leave any of those rights unfulfilled would be a crime.”Friday: Funeral procession and private burialAli’s funeral procession will travel along the street named for him, Muhammad Ali Boulevard, and past his boyhood home before heading to Cave Hill Cemetery, where he will be buried. City officials are encouraging residents to line the streets to greet the procession as it passes. Memorial serviceThis service will be the main public celebration of Ali’s life, to be held Friday afternoon at the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. The event will feature readings from the Quran, remarks from leaders from other faiths, eulogies from Crystal, Gumbel and Clinton and a poetry reading by Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s eldest daughter.Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, also will read a statement from the President. Obama cannot attend, because the service conflicts with his daughter Malia’s high school graduation, Gunnell said.Ali’s widow, Lonnie, has spoken with Obama on the phone, and she “has appreciated his kind words and condolences,” Gunnell said.The city is largely giving itself over to the memorial service, offering free bus rides to ticketholders, urging downtown businesses to use common sense when deciding whether to open and imploring residents to offer a heaping slice of Southern hospitality to the throngs of out-of-towners. The police department is calling on some off-duty personnel to help, and the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau has lined up about 1,000 volunteers, its director said.last_img read more