Monday, December 27, 2010

A Creative Life: The Art of L. Frank Manriquez

The Bowl Twists by L. Frank Manriquez

Sometimes in life we are lucky to come across people who make us stop and think, and appreciate our surroundings, history, and experiences on a deeper level. Artist L. Frank Manriquez is just such a person. Her strength and creativity extends to so many realms, from visual arts and storytelling, to singing, weaving, gardening, and preserving the rich history of California's Native Americans.
Condor Time I by L. Frank Manriquez

L. Frank is from Southern California and belongs to the Tongva and Ajachmem tribes. A tribal scholar and self-described "decolonizationist", she is a Board Member of the California Indian Basketweavers Association (which does awesome stuff like making sure that parents of adopted Indian children receive the handwoven baskets babies were traditionally carried in), and co-founder of Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival. She has a wonderful way of making folklore and history come to life with her engaging stories and extensive knowledge. Her colorful paintings have been featured in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. This Is Yo Luck by L. Frank Manriquez

Manriquez also cultivates an extensive garden at her Sonoma County home. She lives on nearly a half acre of land in Santa Rosa, and has three gardens: one for growing basket weaving materials, herbs, and medicinal plants, another for vegetables, and a cactus garden. She grows corn, butternut squash, radishes, onions, lettuce, acorns, and watermelons. The garden also produces many fruits, including blueberries, Santa Rosa plums, raspberries, and blackberries. "Gardening makes it necessary to value a season's passing," she says. "[It's] not something somebody tells you; it is something that you learn for yourself. It is not as technical as people think. It is an emotional relationship, it's all about how you feel." L. Frank is passionate about sustainable living, and builds straw bale and waddle and cob buildings.

One of the things L. Frank is best known for is her "Acorn Soup" cartoon, which appears in News From Native California. The cartoon features the adventures of Coyote, who is the mischievous trickster of Native American folklore. Coyote is also the subject of many of L. Frank's paintings. Female Coyote by L. Frank Manriquez

Stop the Dance by L. Frank Manriquez

Many of Manriquez's paintings are of animals, and contain symbols of nature and spirit. A core theme in her work is respect for the land and those we share it with, and showing appreciation for the animals, plants, and people whose homeland we are guests of wherever we go.
Not to give the cockroach a bad name by L. Frank Manriquez

In addition to her works on canvas, L. Frank paints murals, creates jewelry, photography, and weavings. The mixed media installation in the above photo reflects her wry sense of humor. Most recently she was part of a workshop at this year's Bioneers Conference focusing on "native efforts to revitalize indigenous watercraft and navigation systems as a way to restore indigenous knowledge and address climate disruption."
L. Frank Manriquez is a powerful force for good. She has done so much to preserve Native American history and culture, and constantly expresses her deep knowledge in new and different ways. She is an inspiring example of how we can preserve and share our traditions.

For more about L. Frank and her work:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Otherworldly Creativity: Karine Fleurima

So many words come to mind when describing multimedia artist Karine Fleurima: soulful, surreal, transformational, fluid, muse...I could go on. The Haitian-born artist creates a hybrid sound and visual experience: If Gal Costa, Grace Jones, and Bjork had a musical love child, it would be Karine.
Her latest offering is "An AfroFuturistic One Womyn Show" entitled AIN'T NO RESPECT (for the Soulsinger) which has its debut at FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn next Saturday. The story goes a little something like this:

After several years of singing on planet Earth and getting no respect, soulsinger Xyana (zhy-ana) decides to leave Earth and explore the solar system for other performance possibilities. After being lost in space for 20 years, she finally lands on an unknown planet in the outer regions of the solar system. Join her as she embarks upon her epic journey to find other beings on this NuPlanet and discover the different realms that force her to confront the realities of her new home and her true nature... Catch Karine Fleurima's AIN'T NO RESPECT (for the Soulsinger) at FiveMyles Gallery, 558 St. John's Place in Brooklyn, New York. Saturday October 23rd at 8pm and Sunday October 24th at 2pm.
For more about Karine and her body of work, check out her website:
http://www.karinefleurima.comPhotography: Carlos Ramirez
Styling: Afua Addo
Makeup: Alsarah Abunama-Elgadi

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Deep Soul: Roberta Flack

Many singers have beautiful and strong voices. But then there are those who can sweep the listener away, the ones who can make you feel every single note, and their words feel etched upon your soul. You close your eyes and it's not just a song on a record, it's your man walking out the door for the last time, it's you sitting in a dimly-lit smoky nightclub being killed softly with someone's song.

Roberta Flack's music is like a rolling thunderstorm. It kind of creeps up on you at first, and then suddenly it surrounds you, enveloping you in its powerful depth and grace, and crackling with electric energy.

Born Roberta Cleopatra Flack, the singer grew up as a member of a musical family in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She started playing piano at age 9 and studying music at Howard University (where she earned her Bachelor's degree in music) at age 15. She was discovered playing at a D.C. nightclub by piano great Les McCann, who presented her debut album 'First Take', and wrote that "Her voice touched, tapped, trapped, and kicked every emotion I've ever known. I laughed, cried, and screamed for more..." in its liner notes.
Roberta went on to have a string of Grammy-award winning hits such as 'The First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face)' and 'Killing Me Softly', and while those amazing singles speak to her incredible talent as an artist, if you just listen to her greatest hits you are not getting the whole story. My favorite Roberta Flack songs are those unsung gems that never made it on the radio. I have almost all of her albums, and each one in its entirety is a masterpiece. When it comes to Ms. Flack, it's best to go off the beaten path with incredible songs like 'I Told Jesus', 'Feelin' That Glow', and her gorgeous string-filled version of the folk classic 'Suzanne.' And of course the entire 'Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway' album of duets is EPIC.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Funk and Soul from Coast to Coast

Okay folks, I hereby declare July Funk and Soul Month on both coasts! We're gonna kick it off early because the festivities are already getting started. And watch this space throughout July as we continue the Black Butterfly Funk and Soulabration. So what's happening in July?

For all you Brooklyn funk fans, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and The Ohio Players (!!!!) will take the stage July 12th for a FREE Concert at Wingate Park in Brooklyn, park of Wingate's Martin Luther King Jr. Free Concert Series. I have a feeling this show is gonna be EPIC. For more info. check out their website:

Meanwhile, Guerilla Cafe continues to add soul to the Left Coast...
Guerilla's game was already tight, but they just keep stepping it up. Over the past year this Berkeley, California favorite has extended its hours, going from the prime spot for coffee and brunch (Waffle of the Day, anyone?) to including an evening menu with scrumptious appetizer plates, wine, and sangria. And they are always throwing fun events (get on their mailing list so you don't miss out). This month the house of art, coffee, and vibes debuts Bay Area Funk & Soul Legends, an art exhibit celebrating the anniversary of Ubiquity Records, and the reissue of music by their Bay Area funk and soul artists on the Luv N' Haight label.

The exhibit will feature the work and inspiration of Darondo, Eugene Blacknell, Sugarpie Desanto, and Twilight.

Opening reception is Friday, June 25th from 5-9pm and the show will be up until August 29th, 2010 with special events featuring DJ sets and guest appearances by the musicians throughout the summer. For more info, check out:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Camille Rose Garcia: Sweet and Sour Storyteller

Camille Rose Garcia tells stories in which sticky sweet characters maneuver through monstrous worlds of greed, temptation, and destruction. She uses pink swans and smiling cupcakes to tackle issues like addiction, environmental destruction, and corporate greed.
Each of Garcia's paintings has an accompanying story or theme. If you have the chance to catch one of her gallery shows, you'll see the paintings are usually displayed with a beautifully lettered painted piece outlining the story for that particular body of work. The story behind the Dreamtime Escape Plan series (featured above) was "Created a short time after the giant tsunami that wreaked havoc on parts of Asia. Disaster is an everyday occurrence in this flooded world, the characters take pills, sleep a lot, and plan elaborate escapes from the quagmires implding around them."
Camille's paintings have a balance exhibits her incredible skill as an artist. Her pieces are elaborately layered and have a real sense of depth and texture while also being "super flat", so they look like the pages of a storybook.
Camille grew up in Orange County, California, and was very much influenced by living in close to Disneyland, the "happiest place on earth", while witnessing darker things happening just outside Disney's walls.

Visiting one of Camille's exhibits is literally like stepping into another world. There are huge sculptural pieces surrounded by theatrical looking sets, and plush dolls that scale the walls. In addition to her amazing artist books, she also has a series of limited edition vinyl toys.
Camille Rose Garcia holds a wonderfully distorted mirror up to our society, and tells stories we all know in a new and different kind of way. She blends the sweet with the sour to create a mix that is intoxicating and irresistible.

To see more of Camille Rose Garcia's work, visit her website

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spoken Truth: The Art of Talia Taylor

It is hard to put into words what a treat it is to witness Talia Monique Taylor aka Klassiq bless the mic. Her poetry washes over you like colorful waves, the beauty and light of her message is powerful, her delivery intoxicating. Talia steps to the stage, grabs her audience, and draws us upward to the heavens.

The Oakland, California based poetess and emcee has been writing and performing for over 10 years, and has performed alongside artists like Janelle Monae, Mystik, and Ursula Rucker. One pf her most recent performances was at Momma's Hip Hop Kitchen in the Bronx.

As of late, Klassiq has been rapping, transforming her poetry into lyrics and laying down tracks with beats by Bay Area producers Gavin Grant, Nick James, and Bicasso. Talia has talent for days, and even sings the hooks on some of her tracks.
photo by Ian Davis

A graduate of the Creative Writing and Africana Studies programs at San Francisco State University, Talia has also started a scholarship fund, the FLOW Scholarship, to assist students interested in traveling abroad, an experience that enriched her own life.

We'll definitely be hearing a lot more from this talented wordsmith.

Here are some ways to keep up with Talia's offerings:

Hear her tracks on myspace music:
Follow her on twitter:
Her blog:
Her youtube channel:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The World of Mallory Michelle Dover

Mallory Michelle Dover is a Kentucky-based artist who addresses themes ranging from black women's relationships with their hair to domestic violence with vibrant color and texture. Dover, who is currently an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Kentucky, says her work "is rooted in cultural acceptance, perceptions and identity. " Mallory has literally created her own universe, a language of elaborate shapes and symbols that are both eye-catching and thought-provoking. When she isn't teaching, Dover spends just about every waking moment hard at work in her studio, as she gears up for her M.F.A. Thesis exhibition, Strange Malaise, on April 2nd.

What was the inspiration behind your most recent body of work, The Angry Hair Series? What did you discover in the process of making and exhibiting this work?
My inspiration behind The Angry Hair Series came from personal experiences with relaxed and natural hair, along with the experiences of other women of African decent. At age 21, after 14 years of relaxing my naturally thick, curly hair, I cut it all off and began wearing it natural. I was angry with all the women in my life that encouraged relaxed hair and discouraged natural hair. After awhile, I realized that even with my hair in its natural state, I felt that similar need to always do something to it. In the Angry Hair Series, I include women with natural and relaxed hair. I also include expressions that don't look so angry at all to comment on how we often mask our true emotions because of social constructs.
While making and exhibiting this work, I discovered that the issue of Black hair is multi-layered. When older women see these paintings (i.e. my Gramma), there is a completely different discussion that occurs than when people in younger generations view them. With them, there is a stance that has been taking against natural hair that runs deeper than vanity, it is a means of protection. With these works, I leave traces of my actual thought process because of my desire to get people to talk about what is actually driving the need to permanently alter the natural state of their hair.
What was the inspiration for your extensive crocheted installations? What has the process of creating them been like?
My crochet installations are inspired by issues of domestic violence and family dynamics. The process is monotonous, yet comforting. Tedious and uncomfortable, yet familiar and necessary. Crochet for this project is ideal, to me, because it serves as an umbrella for emotions that run deep within the dynamics of family.
The wigs you create are colorful and very tactile. What inspired you to create wigs "no one would actually wear in real life"?
The Wigs are a direct result of the Angry Hair Series, haha. I was doing public projects and interviewing so many people about hair--people of all races, both male and female and realized that no one was satisfied with the hair they were born with. I had people draw their favorite hairstyle and not one person ever drew something the resembled what they already had. So these wigs were created by drawing from the imagination and asking the question, "How would you like to see yourself?"

What artist has been particularly influential to you and why?
There are so many artists that I enjoy, but I would say Chakaia Booker has been one of the most influential. I admired and met her when I was in undergrad and she is just amazing. The way she dresses is uniquely and is unapologetically her. I am also always drawn to artists that think outside of the box. I love materials that are clever, so automatically I am wooed by what she does with tires. Her sculptures have such presence. You have to see them in person-photos just don't do justice.You explore various aspects of African American culture in your work. What places and people have you drawn inspiration from?
I am very interested in African American history and varying family dynamics within this and other cultures. I draw inspiration from my grandmother and the older people in my family. I love listening to old stories-it's like a free history course. I also observe my own relationships with people-not limited to people of African decent-and am very much inspired.

You are currently working towards your MFA in Arts Education. Has working on art with young people influence your practice in any way? And what made you want to go into arts education?
I am currently a MFA candidate in studio art, although there was a period of time that I was going to get an additional degree (Masters in Arts Education). I am no longer pursuing that at this time but working with young people is still very important to me because these people need someone to help nourish their dreams. Working with young people has inevitably influenced my practice--I want to create work that inspires, encourages, informs, and transforms.

What is the legacy you hope to leave as an artist?
I want to make great art that opens the minds and hearts of all people. I want to make art that touches lives. That's the legacy I intend to leave as an artist.

Mallory Michelle Dover's MFA Thesis exhibition, Strange Malaise, opens April 2nd, 2010 at the Tuska Center of Contemporary Art on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. The reception is from 5-7:30 pm

For more on Mallory's work, check out her blog:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Karen Seneferu Presents: Techno-Kisi

A few months ago I shared an interview with artist Karen Seneferu, who was then installing her latest work Techno-kisi, at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, California. Seneferu's piece got a lot of positive feedback, and was recently the subject of an interview for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Open Space blog, which you can read here:

Check out some video of the installation here:

And here is the artist's statement on Techno-kisi

Monday, February 8, 2010

Performance: grunge*quest movement 10

The atmosphere in Jon Delorme's playspace one cold February night was one of hushed awe. Audience members descended the staircase into a darkened room to find the floor scattered with "Kellyisms": purple glitter, a mirror framed in gold, candles, safety pins, honey, panties. A technicolor image of gumballs was projected on the back wall, casting a soft glow over a host of instruments: a drum set, an accordion, a keyboard, guitars. Tonight would be a special performance for many reasons: it was the 10th movement in Kelly Shaw Willman's remarkable grunge*quest series, her first live collaboration with avant-garde musician Jon Delorme, and the end of her New York residency. Willman will return home to Iowa for some quiet and space, along with a lot more bang for her buck.
The 10th installment of grunge*quest was delicate and magical in sound and imagery. Kelly utilized her voice, chanting her desire for "a quiet year." Delorme moved between a tabletop steel guitar and a Turkish banjo, building a sound that went from pixie dust to a thrashing crescendo. Kelly moved ritualistically through the space, cutting apples, placing panties at the feet of an audience member, spreading glitter. grunge*quest 10 was a perfect finale to the Brooklyn-based phase of this series of movements. It was the work of a woman coming into her own, and sharing that transformational journey. Her creative presence will truly be missed here, but I'm certain we'll be seeing much more of this energetically rising artist. Here is the full video of Kelly and Jon's performance:

grunge*quest movement 10 from Marissa Arterberry on Vimeo.

photos by Arhia Kohlmoos
Kelly Shaw Willman's blog:
Jon Delorme's blog:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Marissa's Visual Diary: African Inspiration

Africa is the root of so much creativity which has spread throughout the world. Whether it's music, visual art, or fashion, you can find the presence of African aesthetics. I study a lot of images to feed my own creativity, and I wanted to share some of what I have in my "visual diary" that comes from Africa. The majority of these images were taken in two locations: The main library in Philadelphia had a wonderful exhibit of photography and sculpture over the summer that I was fortunate to get a look at, along with the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection of African art. My work is heavily influenced by African imagery and sculpture, and I create facial markings, jewelry, and symbols for the characters I paint based on images such as these. Often it's not easy for African Americans to pinpoint what country in Africa they came from (although we do know that most descendants of those brought to the US during slavery have roots in West Africa), and my response to this has been to draw on the continent's rich cultural history and use my imagination to tell the story of my ancestors, powerful survivors and creators. My purpose is also to infuse the current phase of our journey with magic. Because as Mos Def says, we are living "life in marvelous times." I also must give honorable mention to Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. What a resource! They have a photo archive where you can go in and request photos from a particular group, era, or topic, and they'll bring out boxes and boxes of archived material. You can lierally spend a day there just looking and soaking up visual information. I recently spent time there viewing photos from Bahia in the 1800s.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now Showing: Marvelous Color

The Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diasporan Institute in Manhattan's latest exhibit is Marvelous Color, a tribute to Black superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe. The exhibition includes artwork from various comics series from the 1960s to the present. In addition to comic book sketches, covers, and illustrations, each wall was hand painted with these superheroes in larger-than-life size. The exhibition was produced by Somos Arte with the help of Marvel's editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada (who also created The Santerians, a team of superheroes based on the Orishas of the Santeria religion:, and includes some of Marvel's most popular superheroes, such as Storm from the X-Men and The Black Panther, along with other heroes who had their heyday in the 60s and 70s, such as Luke Cage and The Falcon.

My personal favorite ( I was a HUGE X-Men comic book fan growing up) was the wall devoted to Storm, particularly the illustrations of her in that fabulous 1970s costume (she looks part superhero, part Bond girl!) Marvelous Color is on display until February 26th at CCCADI, 408 West 58th Street in New York City. For more information, log onto: