“The origins of YouWannaTellHer Instagram page began as a promotional page for a visual project of men reading a collection of poems I wrote that explore the subject of Love, and all its incarnations. Because I am a writer and IG is a visual medium, it wasn’t enough for me to simply post the photographs – I also intended to explore the idea and feelings that the photographs evoked through text. Sometimes the point of view is that of a man expressing his feelings, other times it’s a woman. However, all begin with the tag line “YouWannaTellHer”. The page has evolved over the years: Initially being a page that highlighted all women, very quickly, within weeks, the post began to highlight Black Women across time and space – from West Africa to the Bronx. My aim with this page is to show the complexity, the beauty, the sensuality, sexuality, victories won and the crushing injustices experienced. It’s my hope that my page can add a layer to the visual representation of Black Women to highlight our complexity and move beyond stereotypical depictions. I am in love with Black Women because I am a Black Woman and if you feel the same way I do go ahead and tell her. She needs to hear that declaration.” – Yasmine Lancaster
This work was created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Ntozake Shange’s first work and most acclaimed theater piece, which premiered in 1976. For Colored Girls consists of a series of poetic monologues accompanied by dance and music, a form Shange coined as the choreopoem. The piece is a series of 20 separate poems choreographed to music that weaves interconnected stories of love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a complex representation of sisterhood. The original cast consists of seven nameless African-American women only identified by the colors they are assigned: They are the Lady in Red, Lady in Orange, Lady in Yellow, Lady in Green, Lady in Blue, Lady in Brown, and Lady in Purple. Subjects from rape, abandonment, abortion and domestic violence are tackled.
This artwork illustrates the poem of the Lady in Orange, who reflects on her life as a dancer, the music and experiences that brought her joy, and the heartbreak that ensued. It has exhibited at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, NY, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the exhibition, I Found God in Myself exhibition, curated by Peter “Souleo” Wright in commemoration of Shange’s seminal work.
Quilt, fiber, and mixed media artist Laura R. Gadson explores and often blends the worlds of quilting, felting, painting, collage and Fine Art as a result of her love affair with textiles, paper, and mixed materials. She is a graduate of the renowned Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the City College of New York. Her work has been widely exhibited, reproduced as public art in her community, and is proudly part of various public and notable private collections, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She is co-founder of the Harlem Aesthetic – an entrepreneurial venture that showcases artist and artisans of the African Diaspora at the Gadson Gallery” – her Harlem, NY brownstone, studio, and personal show place since 1993.
Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014), the dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, and designer used his manifold talents to infuse the arts with the flavor of his native West Indies and to put a singular stamp on the American cultural scene.
Despite an illustrious career in the performing arts, painting was a constant for Holder, who lived and created in the New York City loft he shared with his wife, Carmen de Lavallade. He absorbed himself in developing work that drew on folk tales and often delivered biting social commentary. On canvases throughout the studio, sensuous nudes jostled for space with elegantly dressed women, ghostly swimmers nestled beside black Virgin Marys, bulky strippers seemed to burst out of their skins, and mysterious figures peered out of tropical forests. Like many fine artists, he was inspired by the female form, informed by his personal experience with the body as an art-form, and, especially inspirited by his beautiful wife, Carmen.
His work was shown at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The multi-talented Holder was also a photographer and his sculptor.
Nigerian-born Jide Aje pays homage to the goddesses of his native Yoruba culture through this mixed media composition combining traditional African motifs, ceremonial sculptures, and layers of textured pigment. Each Orisa, or deity in Yoruba religion, represents particular ideas, objects or natural phenomena. Aje’s panels are imbued with the spirit of female deities, who are believed to preside over healing, wealth, air, love, fertility, the sun and moon, and magic.
Jide Aje was educated in Nigeria and the United States. After earning a Fine Art degree from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife Nigeria, he relocated to the United States to pursue a career in the creative design field. His first show in the area was with the Redd Apple Gallery, Detroit in 2004. He is an active member of several local arts and cultural organizations. This artist’s studio is currently based in the City of Hamtramck, Michigan.
Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery is celebrating the lives of everyday Black women with its latest exhibit, Move The World. The exhibit — which debuted in mid-February and runs through the end of March in honor of Black History and Women’s History Months — features work by both local and visiting artists. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…
Created specifically for the Move The World exhibit, this latest body of work was meant to capture the kaleidoscope of beauty, strengths, hues, and facets of black women.
In contemplating the black woman, the artist was further inspired by the life and grace of Ms. Cicely Tyson, whose passing occurred while the works were in progress. As a teenager, BAI loved watching her movies and admired her unfailing dignity and excellence. He hopes these paintings have captured all those elements.
Carl Karni-Bain, known as BAI, is a New York City-based artist who was born in Blackstone, Virginia. He describes himself as having been “born with the gift to draw” and sold his first work of art in 5th grade. He went on to study at the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, CA, and has been inspired by the Renaissance Period and Fauvism. BAI’s art has been exhibited at galleries and cultural institutions throughout New York, North Carolina, and California, and can be found in the permanent collections of the Harrison Museum of African Museum of African American Culture, University of North Carolina, Kaiser Permanente, and private collectors. BAI has lived and created throughout the U.S., and in Western Europe, Panama, and Korea.
Cracking Up, 2021
Acrylic, enamel on canvas
48 x 60 inches
Jonathan Harris’ “Cracking Up” displays the artist’s signature drip enamel style in his largest work, to-date, utilizing this technique. The depiction of a young girl enthralled in laughter is meant to dispel the myth of the “angry black woman” by conveying the joy, innocence and hopeful simplicity of girlhood, and embracing the girl that lies within every mother, sister, colleague, friend or wife.
Born and raised in the city of Detroit, Jonathan Harris attended the Detroit School for the Fine and Performing Arts, and Henry Ford Community College and Oakland University, where he majored in Graphic Design and minored in Studio Art. Working primarily in acrylics, oils, pen or charcoal, his work focuses on current events and the African American experience. Bringing awareness to social and world issues, in addition to instilling pride into the black community, are goals he wishes to accomplish through his art, which currently resides in the homes of local collectors and has been presented during special programs at the Detroit Institute of Arts and in local galleries. Harris was Artist-In Residence at Irwin House Gallery from October 2020 through March 2021 and is currently curating BONDED – an outdoor group exhibition presented by DTE at Detroit’s Beacon Park April 23-25, 2021.
Art and fashion photographer, Donn Thompson, is a native of Barbados based in New York City. He has documented the beauty and essence of women of color in print publications, ads, and for personal clients and collectors for over twenty years. This image stems from a body of work featuring African and Black American models, emphasizing not only their natural beauty, but individuality, confidence, and strength.
Featured image: Nude Yoga (Black Nikky), 2020. 40 x 40 inches.
Canon EOS-1D-X Single Edition* photographic print.
Ricky Weaver is an image-based artist from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her practice employs what she calls “The quantum ontology of images” as portals to elsewhere. She explores the idea of alternative modes of existence through themes of magical realism, the archive of the everyday, and dark sousveillance.
Weaver has participated in the Applebaum fellowship and Carr Center Independent Fellowship where she began her relationship with friend and mentor, Carrie Mae Weems. She has exhibited work in the 13th Annual Havana Biennale, Photographic Center Northwest, Page Bond Gallery, and more. She received her BFA in Photography from Eastern Michigan University in 2014 and an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2018. She has since worked as Part-time faculty in the photography departments at Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College.
This work renders moments when black women’s cultural and spiritual practices of community and care provide breadth and substance for creating spaces of leverage. These images locate a specific vernacular of facial expression and body language that can be traced back to the Middle Passage. This vernacular disrupts the problematic ways of archiving blackness and outsmarts surveillance technologies as such. The life that these images begin to imagine exists in a reality outside the constraints of social and political constructs.
“Black women factor prominently in my work, as heroines, mythical beings, and sources of inspiration. I feel women are harmonious. They have seductively brilliant figures and are often sought out for their presence. There is an inherent artistry in the female form that easily offers itself to a composition. The style of framing that characterizes much of my work involves the idea of something being bigger than the frame that surrounds it – unable to be boxed, caged, or limited – giving thought to infinite questioning and expression.
Most artists tell stories, depict truth or thought; some record history. Since our Black history is scarce and spread thin, at least in the art world, I can catalog and record historical artists through colorful portraiture, infusing a touch of their work for personality. I studied Ms. Alma Thomas in college along with other great artists that paved the way for emerging artists, working to push the boundaries of artistry, like myself.”
During the 1960s, Alma Thomas emerged as an exuberant colorist, abstracting shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her. As a Black woman artist, she encountered many barriers, yet she did not express racial or feminist issues in her work, believing rather that the creative spirit is independent of race or gender.
In Washington, D.C., where she lived and worked, Thomas became identified with Morris Louis, Gene Davis, and other Color Field painters active in the area since the 1950s. Like them, she explored the power of color and form in luminous, contemplative paintings. I can only repay Ms. Thomas, et al., back in living color and creation.
Painter and sculptor, Damien Mathis, is a Fayetteville, North Carolina native and resident, and an avid Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club member. A Marine Corp Combat veteran, Mathis served two tours in Afghanistan with 1/6 Bravo Infantry Battalion before earning a Bachelor’s in Visual Arts from HBCU, Fayetteville State University. Mathis recalls drawing as a child even before he learned to write, but only began painting eight years ago, in his early twenties. His art has since been collected and exhibited throughout the U.S., including the Art Council of Fayetteville, the Harlem Fine Arts Show, Fayetteville University, and A&T.