Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star

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Waiting on a Prime-Time Star

Somewhere in Washington D.C. earlier this year, I saw an artist rendering that grabbed me. It was of a woman, and it looked like a random collage of magazine clippings. The woman was dark and lovely, and she was propped up elegantly and sassily on a sofa as if she was waiting for her lover to serve her a chilled glass of champagne. I glanced at the description of the piece for the name of the artist, but I didn’t keep it in my memory. Certainly now, I know it was the work of Mickalene Thomas on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Portrait of Mnonja stayed with me for a while.

A while later, I came across an article about an exhibit at the Newcomb Art Museum on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans. It featured the works of a woman named Mickalene Thomas. The name didn’t sound familiar at the time, but the preview of her work was familiar. It was similar to that of the Portrait of Mnonja that had stayed with me. This past weekend, I visited the Newcomb Art Museum to view the temporary exhibit Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star.The exhibit featured several of her pieces in all of its rhinestone, acrylic, and enamel glory. It also showcased photos that Thomas took of women in preparation for her work. Some of those photos didn’t need to be transformed into art pieces because the women themselves were so captivating.

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Studio Be’s Ephemeral Eternal

On an eery afternoon at the end of 2014, I found myself at an abandoned public housing complex in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. It rained lightly during the earlier part of the morning, and the clouds still hovered over the area. Despite it being December, it was still about 70 degrees and humid outside. I mean, this was New Orleans. What else would one expect?

I had just left a Basquiat exhibit at the Ogden Museum, but a more captivating piece of art was about to reveal itself. The ground still wet, I walked over to parking lot of the blighted property. Standing there surrounded by buildings that once held so much livelihood, I looked up and down, then turned slowly in a circle. This was my introduction to Brandan Odoms and Exhibit Be.

This was Exhibit Be, a graffiti art space that displayed some of the country’s bravest civil rights advocates. The property was supposed to be torn down right after the showcase ended, and redeveloped into a multi-recreational facility and/or a hotel space. To the surprise of no one, it still sits untouched today. Prior to this was Project Be, a similar installment that occurred in a housing project in the Bywater neighborhood. The final installment of this trilogy is Studio Be, which was recently unveiled at a warehouse in Bywater.

I was at the same warehouse a few months prior for Art4Rights, where Albert Woodfox was featured in artwork by Odoms. Just a week ago, Woodfox was finally released from prison after serving 43 years in solitary confinement. For the record, 2016 has turned out to be the best Black History Month ever! ✊🏿

Take a step inside Studio Be next, which features Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Muhammad Ali, Eldridge Cleaver, and more…

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Road Trips with Mayonaka: National WWII Museum

The Road to Tokyo

While I was checking out Amnesty International’s Art For Rights event in Nola this weekend, I decided to stroll on over to the National World War II Museum on the opening day of its new exhibit called Road to Tokyo​, I’m not a history buff and I hate the idea of ware, but since I was in the city and had time, I figured I might as well. I only had 2 hours to devote to the museum because I was being cheap and didn’t want to pay $12 to park in a lot, so I parked on the street for 2 hours for $3. The museum itself was $24, which is a decent price point for a museum with such rich history.

WWII MuseumFYI, if you ever decide to visit the museum, you need wayyy more time than 2 hours. There are thousands of artifacts and a large collection of memoirs and oral histories. This was my first visit, and I didn’t realize the amount of information this museum holds. The Road to Tokyo was just one of several exhibits located in three buildings, and I JUST realized I missed one of the buildings. I basically did a fast forward stroll through the museum while only viewing a small percentage of the information available, and I missed A LOT of necessities, There are guides at the ticket counter, and I’d recommend getting one. I didn’t pick up a guide, so I ended up more or less wandering around.

With a ticket into the museum, I got this card that represents a dog tag, and was instructed to start my journey at the train car a few steps away from the ticket counter. Inside the train car, I took a seat and used my dog tag to activate the interactive screen. I was introduced to my special “tour guide,” who was an actual soldier during the war. Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was my guide for the day, and I learned that he was the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. The museum holds his official flight log of the day he dropped the bomb as if it was just another day. There were about six different areas to use the dog tag to get more information about Col. Tibbets, but there were too many people in the museum for me to get a chance to use them all.

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Road Trips with Mayonaka: #Art4Rights

Art for Rights

This weekend I had the opportunity to check out Amnesty International’s very first Art for Rights event in New Orleans. The event sought to bring awareness about human injustice across the world by presenting 12 murals by 12 artists from around the world. The end goal for Amnesty International was to inspire attendants to write letters to appropriate officials and take action. I don’t even remember how I found out about it. Surely it was via social media, so Mayonaka and I started up early Saturday morning and rolled through.

The event took place over on the corner of Royal and Press St. – near the location where Homer Plessy was arrested in events that lead to the Plessy v Ferguson case that challenged segregation laws. In the words of Lil Wayne in “Sky is the Limit,” “ain’t got sh*t to do with this, but I just thought that I should mention!”

Anyway, it was open from 10am – 6pm. Usher (ya know, Usher Raymond, AKA Ursher) was expected to attend later in the evening to speak on the need for reform in the justice system. I figured there would be a huge crowd at that time, so I went early to avoid the madness. My 14-year old self would have jumped at the opportunity just to breathe the same air as Usher, but I’m older, wiser, and way less starstruck. There were a lot of people when I got there some time before 11 am, but it seemed like many of those were volunteers and security.

Incarceration Stats

Artwork by Brandan Odoms

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the event.

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