Friday, April 20, 2012

Soapy Hair Stories: Appropriations of Roy Lichtenstein

Up close view of Susan's Boyfriend Loves Her Afro
It's quite an over dramatic notion- the way women obsess about beauty- whether it's makeup, body image, and age. It has gotten to the point of shallow ridiculousness due to media ploy. Yet hair roots are another story entirely nowadays, especially African Americans fighting a raging battle between staying naturally beautiful or getting the sleek, kink stripping perm.
Keep in mind, men never have to obsess with image as much as women do. They're allowed to keep their hair in any way, in any style while women resort to spending tons on weaves, relaxers, perms, and extensions to appear "attractive" and in turn, cruelly punishing natural sisters for not following suit.
Based on true accounts of a turbulent upbringing (was given the ugly nickname "Carpet" in school), the tragedy of African American women despising free style wearers and going as far as publicly criticizing and embarrassing them is a sickened hatred has always confused me. This destructive mentality of "nappy is ugly" and "African roots are shameful!" are the basis of this work.

The Straightened Mistake
Yet, I wanted to soften the harsh blow, put a lighthearted spin to the grueling events related to hair trials from my own personal experience. Two compelling books also came to aide- Tenderheaded: A Comb Bending Collection of Hair Stories edited by Juliette Harris and Pamela Johnson and Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Lips, and Other Parts by Akiba Solomon and Ayana Byrd. 
Now soap operas are filled with intense, fluffy drama- always characters plotting and scheming to tear apart loving relationships.
Isn't this kind of conflict similar to hair? 
With deceitful media and cosmetics companies selling a specific ideology that excludes afros and kinky enjoyment, there is a such thing as peer pressure.
Playing with this very cheesy theme, I used iconic pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein as an informative guide in creative process. So I appropriated his original concept, but ethnicized his traditional blond characters crying over boyfriends. In Soapy Hair Stories, these women are teary eyed over dreadful root decisions and consequences. Taking the seriousness of hair issues in graphically humorous circumstance, in every composition, pictured crying and looking like downright pathetic basket cases, these women are simply detailed in varied states of distress- passionate joy in Susan's Boyfriend Loves Her Afro, regret of a relaxer aftermath in The Straightened Mistake, or agony in To Relax Or Not to Relax.
Prismacolor colored pencils were another challenging aspect, especially with pressing down hard on the surface, trying to cover as much ground as possible, and constant sharpening, but I bravely managed to succeed my goal.
However, since I found myself enjoying the subject matter, printmaking may be the next step. For the feedback has been astounding and informative, giving me ideas on taking this concept further.

Soapy Hair Stories is universal though the characters are minorities, relating to just about anyone.
Long, straight, short, curly, kinky, nappy..... every women either passionately dislikes or ardently loves her hair.

Hopefully, more than anything, people with hair shame will not hide underneath the guise of hurt and anguish, but relish in the joy that Mother Nature created.
Laugh, cry, and be emotional, but love the value on your head too!

To Relax Or Not To Relax
Soapy Hair Stories: Appropriations of Roy Lichtenstein, the new body of six Prismacolor pencil drawings is up at Cachet G International Boutique and Gallery in downtown Dayton with the official reception being the next upcoming First Friday (May 4th!).
Special vegan treats will be on hand from local bakery, Thistle.
Please come out!
It'll be fun and downright amazing, I guarantee it.

Cachet G is located on 133 E. Third St, Dayton, OH, 45402 and Soapy Hair Stories: Appropriations of Roy Lichtenstein is up until May 8, 2012.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


With April being National Poetry Month, Parish picked a convenient time to come to The Neon Movies.
An astounding, vibrant piece of finely weaved storytelling and thoughtfully spoken artistry, this independent film centers on Brooklyn high school teen, Alike (pronounced ah-lik-e) an exceptionally good student and aspiring poet from a hard working middle class family. In her underground world, the shy girl hangs out with bold, outspoken, Laura, who has already proudly come out and lives with her sister.
Alike, however, is much too afraid of such honesty and chooses to entrap herself with dual identities- switching from hood gear to chic fashion, she is trying to do right by parents, Arthur and Audrey, but it's her little sister, Sharonda that begins suspecting the truth first.
Filled with hilarity, wit, and compassion, viewers follow Alike’s course of adolescence as she tries unsuccessfully talking to women, tests out her first strap on with Laurie’s aide, writes poetry in a colorful composition notebook, and privately shares her talents with the encouraging English teacher.
All the while Audrey is desperate to make Alike appear more feminine and attractive to boys and wishing Alike to stop hanging around Laura, someone she clearly detests. Yet Arthur turns a blind eye, seeming not to give a care about his overbearing wife’s feelings and accepts Alike "flaws" and all. 

Bina and Alike in the stages of love.
Fed up with Laura, an interfering Audrey wants Alike to be friends with "normal" girl, Bina. But unbeknownst to Audrey, Bina shows the kind of interest in Alike that would have had her head spinning. A smart, intelligent, and worldly artistic individual, she shares a lot of compelling ideas and music with Alike, striking up a friendship that soon blossoms into a refreshing first love.
Spending time at clubs and critiquing each others writings, things were so blissful.
However, her immediate discarding of their relationship the morning after was quite detrimental and heartbreaking. 
Alike breaks down, guttural and hurt by the strange 180, but sadly has no one to tell and transforms that anguish into poetry.

Alike with Audrey during happier times
Once Alike finally confesses to her parents, hell breaks loose tenfold.
In the very turbulent scene, Sharonda pleas with Alike not to get in between the battle of their parents who are loudly arguing about her sexual orientation, but valiant Alike bravely wages on and puts up with an emotionally distressed Audrey who then verbally attacks and violently beats her revulsion into Alike.
After that climatic horror, things change.

Alike and Arthur after that horrible scene.
With a condoning mother seeing lesbianism as a treacherous disease deemed unlovable, Arthur is the exact opposite. A man harboring his own secrets, he seemed to have always known that Alike was a unique case. Not due to her escalating intelligence and her disdain for pretty clothing. Their relationship is much closer and because of this, it makes his understanding of Alike’s lifestyle believable.
Sharonda loves her sister no matter what!
In Laura’s own story, she also has a mother disgusted by her choices. Looking disgusted, she makes no move to be affectionate and slams the door in Laura’s face even as Laura expresses joy over passing the GED. This makes her friendship to Alike all the more genuine. Their mothers' dislike for their lifestyle
Though she is an active flirt and very popular with the ladies, it’s perfectly clear that Laurie needs constant companionship and love and once she sees Alike having fun with Bina, her jealousy comes clawing out.  
A worthy note of mention, Dee Rees has done an exceptional job of not only showcasing strong female relationships, but also revealing the blunt shift that occurs when weakened and severed, especially the natural bond of a mother and daughter. 

The lovely, talented Adepero Oduye.
Adepero Oduye’s portrayal is touching, riveting, and beautiful as she plays a character struggling with the great divide, breaks free from timidity, and falls in love. Breathing sophisticated complexion into Alike, Oduye is divine poetry in motion, expelling words articulately and with tenderly, perfected bravado. From the moment she tearfully tells her mother she loves her and that end scene on the bus, Oduye showcases Alike’s proud acceptance into a promising future that only she can control.
Now this is the kind of African American role that the Academy is deadest against honoring. A woman who doesn’t allow herself to repressed by negativity and has the strength to move forward to better opportunities with talent driving her. To the conservative viewer- it’s crucial. Not only is this young African American woman smart and gifted, she happens to be gay. 
Definitely robbed of an Oscar nod, here's hoping that Oduye nabs another pivotal role that garners attention from the snubbing Hollywood elite.
The rest of the cast played their parts commendably, especially the incredible Kim Wayans, a famed comedian utterly unrecognizable in a very dramatic role. The polar opposite of Monique's character in Precious, Wayans was marvelous as the cruelly ashamed, Bible clinging mother.

Laura trying to change up Alike's fashion sense!
In terms of story holes, Pariah does have its little flaws.
Alike delivers two powerful poems like a heavenly prophet. Thirsting for more, especially with Bina making suggestions to open mic nights and poetry clubs, there was an expectancy to seeing Alike come further out of her shell and share her gifts to an audience that actually wants to hear fresh talent onstage.
Alas no such scenes came into play.
What of Laura and Alike's relationship?
Do they come together as a couple and bond even further?
What secrets was Arthur keeping under tabs? 
A scene of him on the phone and then changing into a silk black shirt while chatting to Alike seemed oddly questionable. With them being so close, one imagined that he would voice his affair to Alike.
Now if it were with another man, Audrey would never be the same...

Actress Adepero Oduye, Pariah Writer/Director, Dee Rees, and Actress Kim Wayans
I greatly appreciate the woman’s voice and their courage to tell such a profound story. Hoping that Dee Rees continues on the path of enlightening women and minorities to come forth and share their creative vision, bring their enriching narratives to independent screens and beyond. Let the age old statistics of white men being sole judge and victor be a thing of the past.
It's been high time for segregation in the film honor system to be buried. 
Women have more than breasts to bare, they have vocal hearts and fervent souls to unleash and set free.
Pariah passionately illustrates that though the uncertain future can be filled with failures, heartbreak, and disappointments, there are rewards despite the ugly, gritty turmoil that comes and goes.
That wherein lies life's bittersweet poetry.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Yellow Trolley Chronicles: Synopsis Update

The Yellow Trolley Chronicles

Set in fictional Montgomery, Ohio, The Good Girl is about shy artist, dreamer, library aide, devout church goer, and avid bus rider, Josephine Huffman, a young, African American woman destined to go places. With low self esteem, a horrible upbringing, and addictive thirst for living vicariously in romance novels, her world takes a downward spin just as she’s on the brink of discovering her true worth and enjoying a sweet, blossoming companionship with Mick, a trolley bus driver who sees something special in her.

The Bad Seed has Josephine taking art to places she always dreamed of. Finally attending art school in a new city and learning refreshing aspects about her beloved subject, she finds herself torn and isolated from peers and faculty while struggling to find creative identity. With studies not being difficult enough, commitment to an abusive, tumultuous relationship has her tasting darker sides of life, but a fiercely determined heart cannot let go of the simplest truth as her secret friendship to Mick continues deepening.

The Best One concludes Josephine’s poetic journey through art and life. Finally, she bravely emerges away from inflicting abuse and towards Mick, the man she has loved forever, but he has detrimental secrets of his own that could make or break their impending happiness....

Subject to change, of course.
Stay tuned!
Still writing and writing and writing and writing!!!!!