What is up Grapevine!?!?!

This weekend I received Sharita's package of our collaborative print and it gave me the push to go ahead and dig up my password to this account so I can finally get to posting! Thanks so much for sending it Sharita and for having the fantastic idea to begin with!!

SO... I have wanted to share soooo many things with the Grapevine community over the last few months, I'm just going to try catching up with a few now...

WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO- In September and October enacted a new performance project that is oh so very grapevine in theme and form: community involvement, community uplift, and printmaking in the form of custom silkscreened sandwich boards! Fellow Grapeviner Elena Sto was an awesome project volunteer- love that collective support! I'm hoping to bring this project back next September on a bigger scale and I'll need even more collective support then, hopefully a few from the group will be in and around NYC then... In the mean time please check out the details of the project at

FILM RECOMMENDATION- I saw this a few weeks back and thought of the printmaking crew...

I highly recommend it! It's well shot, informative, and oddly inspiring as a printmaker.

READING RECOMENDATION- As I've discussed with a few of you ladies I'm researching for a forthcoming video project on the intersections of Native American and Black Americans in the U.S. I came across a dope essay by a dope young writer named Wendy Walters along the way and thought of the group again. It's discussion of identity, gender, representation, and performance is right up the Grapevine alley. Check Wendy and her essay (“After the Death of the Last: Performance as History in Monique Mojica’s Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots”) out!

Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds

Finally, this is really a repost.... Chanel shared this with my on facebook, and I enjoyed it thoroughly... and again, it is oh-so-Grapevine! it's very own way...


GrapevineINK/Harlem Textile Works Re/Union

I was back in NYC for the weekend! This past Sunday at Harlem Textile Works, myself and GrapevineINK members (and fellow HTW teaching artists) Elena and Shani met up with our interns Denzell, Giselle and John for a day to catch up in the studio. My old friend Ged Palmer, a graphic designer and typographer from Bristol also stopped by.

After I took this picture of my old stack of screenprint inks, I show it to Giselle and she says, "It looks like you!" Indeed, a self portrait of sorts.

Ged showing Denzell some new Illustrator tricks.. "Chanel! Why didn't you show me pathfinder!!" Also schoolin' from one Jedi to another (we call Denzell our Harlem Jedi) about some serious typography. It was my secret ambition for these two young men to meet o(^-^)o
Definitely check out his work at It was a pleasure Ged, thank you for stopping by!

Off Denzell's Sketch pad. Look deep, he constructed an entirely new alphabet/language.

Denzell's [monkey] 'King of Abels'. Can I get this printed on some gear please?

All about teamwork. Denzell helping Giselle out with her screen.

Queen Giselle getting busy in the inks. Now that I moved, she's takin' over the excessive use of hot pink that we all need in our lives. HTW (and I) thank you Giselle!

Fierce. Look at that face- John's designs here are getting some added color and sparkle on Illustrator. He's getting prepared for Design school applications.

OOOooh, check out these colors! Lookin' hot. Mmmmen's Wear!

Elena and I reunited!

Fam Fam FAM for life! Shani and I are birthday twins which explains a lot about how we became friends so fast. Virgo artists down to the last drop.

I'm so thankful that I have this community in my life. Combining community, arts, education, taking charge of what we need in our lives to keep making our work and ourselves.


Upcoming Show: Hot Harvest

Hello again!

A dear friend and fellow women printmakers are curating a show in NY. I'm def checking it out, and if you are in the area- you should too! ;-) Here's the info
HOT HARVEST: The Gowanus Studio Space 2010 Printmaking Fellows and Friends
Opening Reception Friday, November 12th 7pm-11pm

The Gowanus Studio Space is pleased to announce a group exhibition curated by its three 2010 printmaking fellows: Johee Kim, Rachel Ostrow and Maggie Wright.


Please join us at the reception on Friday, November 12th from 7pm-11pm.
DJ POLKADOT spins that old-time country vinyl. DJ CHEWROCKS later, when the night gets dancey.
E FOR EFFORT tees by Beka Goedde and Rachel Ostrow for sale!
FREE Kiss prints by Angela Conant

While the three residents have each had extensive professional printmaking experience in New York City printshops, their show focuses instead on the self-made print, culling from a wide variety of technique, including etching, lithography, woodcut and silkscreen. Traditional uses of the medium are abundant, but several prints blur the boundaries of the expected. Inked-up Reeses Peanut Butter cup wrappers, stamped balloons and faxed pages (edition numbered by their times through the machine) prove a dedication to the idea of printmaking without the use of a press or drawn matrix. Other prints are manipulated by additional media: pencil, collage, hand-coloring; media is also manipulated by printed matter. There are experimental uses of common printmaking effects - careful cut-outs of chine collé, collages of rainbow rolls – and plates which have been cut out, sandblasted, and etched with the impression of fresh pie.

A common thematic thread was not intentional at the outset, but as the curators selected work for the show certain themes became evident. The natural world provides a strong current, with nods to folk art and the mystical. Several animals and plants make appearances, as do depictions and abstractions of the natural and man-made landscape. In contrast, many works, often saturated with color, demonstrate a geometric precision in line and detail. Humor and wit is apparent and important – the exhibition does not intend to provide a serious analysis of recent DIY printmaking. Alternatively, it strives to offer an inclusive, light-hearted view of the variety of approaches and experimentation possible within the constructs of the medium. It is a harvest of many fruits united by the same tree.


The Gowanus Studo Space is a non-profit organization and a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts, providing equipment, exhibition opportunities, and space to work for the artists and designers of New York City. To learn more about our space and mission, please visit
The Gowanus Studio Space
166 7th Street, Ground Floor
Brooklyn, NY, 11215


Print/Book Fairs in NY

Hey Ladies and all the followers of the blog!

Finally to catch up! I wanted to write sooner, but these past months were very eventful for me personally, I hardly set in front of my comp. Also a lot was happening in the print-making world in NY.. ;-) ...things slowed pace lately and here I am!
This weekend in New York, there are 3 Print and Book Fairs that I'm pretty excited about.
Thursday was the opening day for the IFPDA Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. It totally worth running on the rain to see the show! One could find prints from Durer to contemporary artists.. and it really makes a difference to see them in person, than from a reproduction. If you are interested there is a list of all the print-shops/ galleries on the website

Yesterday I visited the book fair at PS1. Overwhelming ! Everything from small print editions, silk-screened art books, activist DIY zines, and much moreee .... I was in printmaker's wonderland :-) Check out the show, or the individual publishers are on the site

Today I'm going to the Ex-Dia space in Chelsea, where the Editions/Artists' Books fair is taking place. I am expecting it to be nothing less than the previous ones... Here is the info

That's all for now! Running for the train...!
Catch up with you pretty soon!


Monumental Ideas in Miniature books II (MIMB II)

Dear GrapevineINK artists:

I want to invite you to participate Monumental Ideas in Miniature books II (MIMB II), traveling exhibitions.

I coordinated MIMB I last 2 years ago. this set of MIB went on show at total 40 Univ. in USA and Japan, Taiwan, China and Korea,Spain, Scotland.

deadline Dec. 30, 2010

Hui-Chu Ying,


Monumental Idea in Miniature Books II


Coordinator: Hui-Chu Ying, Professor, The Myers School of Art, The University of Akron


Size: No more than 4” X 5” X 1”(10.16cm x 12.7cm x 2.54cm) but when opened can be expanded to any length, width, and depth. Three-dimensional forms are encouraged.

Weight: Not to exceed 1/2 lb.(225 gr. Or 0.23kg)

Catalogue & Traveling Exhibition: 100 books will be selected by Jurors for traveling exhibition and catalogue publication.

Deadline: Dec. 30, 2010. International deadline: Dec. 15, 2010

Fee: $50 (make check payable to University of Akron). Mail check & 5 books together. No fee to outside USA participant due to the complication of foreign check and their shipping cost .

Juror: TBA

Edition number: At least 6 editions (artist may choose to do more).

First edition: Southern Graphics Council Archives. (This set will travel in the US.)

Second edition: Washington University in St. Louis permanent collection. (This set will travel in US.)

Third edition: Traveling Exhibition. (This set will travel internationally.)

Fourth edition: The University of Akron. (This set will travel internationally.)

Fifth edition: Spare. (This set will travel internationally.) (mail $50 check & 5 books together)

Sixth edition: Property of the artist. Artist keeps the rest of edition.

Every MIMB books will go to selected permanent collections

Every Artists’ books will be photographed and listed on and

No books will be returned to artists.

Publication: 140 pages of MIMB II catalogue will be printed by (print on demand publisher)

Web Site:

First Exhibition Location: SGC International Conference 2011, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Contact: Hui-Chu Ying, 330-972-6030, 330-628-4154

150 E. Exchange St. The Myers School of Art, Univ. of Akron, Akron OH 44325-7801 USA


DOLLS: Sharita "me explico..." :-)

Hello GrapevineInk!

It's Sharita Towne, I'm writing from Berlin Germany. I'm in transition to Berlin, after living in Spain for two years. Amidst all these changes, I'm looking back at this summer in NYC and the Bay Area, where I got the chance to put in some time at two print studios, and visit a third shop in Dublin, Ireland. This is what my next posts will be all about.

First, I'd like to touch on my printing experiences at Harlem Textile Works, and some more insight into the print DOLLS...

Originally, I had planned to print a small edition based on a memory I had from my early childhood. One year at Christmas, my aunt bought all her nieces Barbies. These were the Twist and Turn stomach models manufactured during the 80's and 90's. My aunt bought each niece the same Barbie, except for my sister Shadya and I. She bought us the black versions, as we are the two "bi-racial" nieces. The family threw a fit. Why did she set us a part? Why did she show us we were different? Why couldn't she have bought all black dolls? Or some other gift altogether?

I sought out the exact sihouette from these years, and wanted to print it. One black, one white, or two black and 4 white, corresponding to the 6 nieces of my Towne family.

So I traced the headless silhouette, saw it standing alone, and thought of stringing them together, like a paper doll chain, repeated identical dolls all holding hands.
But once I came to the first day of printing, feeling so excited by the presence of 6 other amazing artists and women, I realized that each of our heads had to go atop these dolls, and I'd print 7. That we were our own dolls; playing, imagining, storytelling, holding each other up simply by making the work we make. I realized that I wanted to pay tribute to each individual, but also to the community we were making, and through sharing our stories in our printmaking practice.

So from Left to right here's brief explanation of each artist, there head, and links to their work by clicking on each first name.

Sharita. Little birds are flying from my head, which comes from an expression in Spain "pajaritos en la cabeza". If someone has "little birds in the head", it means they are a bit crazy and idealistic.

The next head is Ellen. It comes from this woodblock of hers. Birds are a very present element in her prints, and she told me maybe this has something to do with often going to visit birds at the zoo as a child.

Fumiko included this portrait she did of a woman, which reminded her of a doll. The circles are something she's been doing in her drawings and paintings for around 10 years.

Next there is Chanel's levitating bandaged head.This comes from a former print, and Chanel's rich imagination in character development, storytelling, and performance. I believe this may be of Queen Gidrea herself (correct me if I'm wrong Chanel :-).)

Tyanna, and "PJ Sparkle", or combine the two "TJ Sparkle" is next in line. This PJ Sparkle screenprint is just one example of how painterly and attentive Tyanna can be in this medium. Her work often depicts childhood toys, or toy ads, memory, and identity.

Next we have Elena.
She did this character with a Posca marker in about a minute. She can bust out a character like the one below with such ease, for all her years doing street art and graffiti. This image is of "GodPsila"... her bombing around town.

Last, but not least is Shani. No head at all, just a headless barbie saying "WORD". Shani has done a number of videos, and artbooks,with this element of comic strips,so the speech bubble is fitting.

It is my hope that each artist in the collective gets represented this way. Soon we can have a chain of women in printmaking, interconnected, supranational, and everwidening... WORLDWIDE!

I'm looking forward to everything we will be churning out this year,as individuals and as a collective. Again, thanks to everybody... your print from this rainbow roll edition is in the mail!



GrapevineINK Summer 2010 Throwdown!

DOLLS by Sharita Towne
with collaborations with Ellen Carranza, Fumiko Toda, Chanel Matunami Govreau,
Tyanna Buie, Elena Stojanova, Shani Peters

This past June 2010 members of GrapevineINK came together for their first ever studio collaboration hosted by Harlem Textile Works in New York, NY.
Give it up for these ladies- we truly came together and made this happen for ourselves!

Participating Members include...

Sharita Towne
Shani Peters
Tyanna Buie
Ellen Carranza
Fumiko Toda
Elena Stojanova
Chanel Matsunami Govreau

We chose the theme of ‘Dolls’ as a way to open up an artists’ discussion about our childhood experiences, cultural backgrounds, how we are viewed in society, and how we view ourselves. A simple theme to give us ground for sharing stories and creating work.

We started off with a discussion on our first day exploring our relationships and experiences with dolls and their presence in contemporary art.
Among the questions discussed-
What kind of dolls did we play with/not play with as children? What were the relationships you formed with these toys- mother, creator, puppeteer, lover? How did they affect our identity development? Who is represented and who is missing from the spectrum of dolls?

Studio Collaboration

Chanel and Sharita Printing

Ellen Printing birds/overlapping Tyanna's Busted Barbie Jeeps!

Large Textile Collaboration: Elena's background, Chanel's ranger, HTW intern Giselle's Heart

Shani working on her edition of "Reprogram" paper dolls featuring Florida Evans and Claire Huxtable.

Shani's Paper Dolls Complete!

The next two days we worked together in studio using screenprinting to create a large
textile collaboration piece, several smaller textile pieces, individual works and our collaborative print edition. We documented the collaboration and process with video interviews to be later edited into a short documentary. Sharing studio space and artistic process/technique, we were gettin' close, comfy and messy in the best way possible.

Portfolio Critique

Tyanna showing her portfolio

We do dessert with our critiques...

We finished our mini conference with a trip to the Lower East Side Print Shop where GrapevineINK member Shani Peters currently has a Key Holder Residency. Before
heading to LES Print Shop we chilled out and had lunch (and dessert) while sharing our
art portfolios, and giving critique and feedback. This was a rare opportunity to receive genuine support, dialogue and interest about our work and struggle and artists from oppressed and international backgrounds.

Studio Visit to LES Printshop

Hella Screenprint supplies at the LES Printshop

Yes indeed. That exposure unit is deliciously HUGE!

After lunch we went and checked out the LES Printshop. We might have been the loudest group in there for years. BOOM, BUST, CRACK, SLAM. YES!
How can you not be excited with this abundance of clean as a whistle equipment? However we all agreed they could of used some jams and color. Tyanna goes, "Yes, one day this will ALL be ours."

Shani Peters Artist Talk

Battle for the Hearts and Minds artist book by Shani Peters

sexy sexy transparencies

Shani shared her current work with us. Projects completed, in process and forthcoming.
We all dug in with careful fingers opening her edition of Dubois vs Garvey artist books entitled
Battle for the Hearts and Minds. Dope.

An incredible week of collaboration and discussion this is only the beginning.


Cerisse Palalagi

Fresh Pattern x
Print Community Revival

Collaborative Interview by
Melanie Yazzie and John Hitchcock

Yazzie: When did you begin printmaking and why is this medium important to you?

I started experimenting with printmaking when I was at high school. My art teacher showed me how to make a reduction woodcut, then other techniques such as monoprint and etching. I always ended up going back to woodcut prints because I liked the graphic quality, the bold contrasting lines and that juicy black ink.

I enjoy the element of serendipity. Even though you plan your print out, you never really know how your print will actually look until you've inked up your block/ plate/ stone and put that sucker through the press. I still get goose bumps every single time I see the result.

I have recently completed a lithography print residency at the Auckland Print Studio set up by Mr. John Pusateri. The Auckland Print Studio specializes in stone lithography,
 producing fine-art and architectural prints in limited editions. This really has been a dream come true for me as I have never made an edition of lithography prints before. I'm amazed at the consistency of each work that gets printed from the litho stone, the quality is outstanding and magical.

Hitchcock: In your prints you use pattern and portraits. Can you talk about the relationship between the patterns and people in your artworks?

The patterns I use are a reflection of my identity. I like the juxtaposition of the cultural symbols and people combined in my portraits. They are usually of people in my family, including myself. I design all of the patterns myself, as the Niuean culture does not have a strong recorded history of patterns. This is my way of reviving the culture, and showing people that our culture and language is not dead.

Hitchcock: Tell us about the Maori Printmakers Collective Toi Whakataa Press and the challenges of running a print press.

Toi Whakataa Press is an initiative set up by fabulous NZ printmakers Vanessa Edwards & Ruth Green Cole. One of the objectives I admire is to be aware of our roles as Maori printmakers/ Maori artists and to continually challenge and discuss what that means in a variety of contexts.

Toi Whakataa Press was established in January of 2006, and emerged from a need to identify printmaking as a valid means of Maori artistic expression. As a result, this Maori Printmakers Collective acts as a basic network for those involved.
I joined up in 2008, as I was invited with a few other artists at the time.
In the past when we worked on projects, we tend to do it all through email, since we all live in different parts of the country.
My printmaking process hasn’t really changed since joining. I have noticed that my imagery and symbols tend to lean more towards Maori iconography and influences from ancestral carvings. I feel comfortable with putting my own sway on these things and changing them around bringing them into the contemporary world ...(example of carving of & my image of b' boy taniwha or new print).
Since our collective is still relatively new, we are still building the group up. Most of us are young parents, doing the balancing act juggling work, student life, parenthood and our creative life.

Yazzie: How did you think of Inkteraction and why did you set it up?
I was already spending a lot of time on other social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace..searching for other printmakers around the world. I'd spend hours on the networking sites’ search engine with keywords like :lithography, serigraphy, woodcut etc., with not much luck. I guess I was hoping to find other printmaking fanatics like myself that might participate in print portfolios on a yearly basis.

I got invited by a Tutor of mine to join a social networking site called indigenous, as I was looking around the site I discovered that it was a D.I.Y networking site. From here, I decided to see what would happen if I started Inkteraction not really expecting much from it. Next thing you know, we have just under 5,ooo members from all corners of the earth.
Being involved with Melanie Yazzie in print portfolios, I loved how this gathered printmakers together from around the world. I often open my portfolios of prints and spend time admiring all the hard work that printmakers put in to each and every print. This was one of the main motivating factors in starting Inkteraction, so we can all constantly share with each other photos of new works, events, residencies etc. The list goes on.

Yazzie: What issues that are important to you? How can we learn more about who you are?

Issues in my work which are very important include language revival, living in the city & maintaining connections to your ancestral homeland, family, identity, change, and the cyclical nature of seasons and life and Celebration of Matariki - the Maori New Year (Mid June-July).

Im finding that the more prints I create, the more I discover about my own needs and desires culturally & aesthetically. I am currently working on a body of new works for a special show coming up in June of this year.

Entitled Motunei, this is my first exhibition at such a nationally recognised establishment. I have been a bit on edge lately because its such a huge deal for me, which is a good thing because its pushing me in terms of ideas and scale of works. The size of the printed mixed media works will range in size from 1400mm x 2000mm to 750mm x 500mm. I usually work on a much smaller scale, around 297mm x 420mm.

Motunei: Cerisse Palalagi
Deane Gallery
18 June – 12 September 2010

'Motunei'. In Niuean language it means, 'from this land'. I am part Maori and part Niuean, this is more of a comment on me having blood ties with both Tangata whenua( Indigenous to New Zealand) and Pacific Islander, Niuean ancestry.

Customary practices and contemporary methodologies; this is the pivotal statement in a new series of art works by Cerisse Palalagi. Of both Niuean and Māori (Ngāti Pikiao) descent Palalagi refers to the customary art making practices of her Polynesian forebears as a form of coding which relayed information about the natural and social environment of her ancestors. Following this ideology she poses the proposition that in the age of fibre-optic telecommunications, cell phones and social networking sites that ‘text’ language is now a valid contemporary form of coding. A code which she says “is increasingly becoming the choice of a new generation”. Utilising the distinctive and beautiful painted traditions of Niuean hiapo bark cloth art Palalagi provides a voice for the ‘Bebo’ and ‘Facebook’ generation, and in particular explores how young pacific people have embraced this coding in order to communicate with their friends and family all over the pacific.

'Motunei' will take place at The City Gallery Wellington, Wellington being the capital of N.Z.

As a contributing member of GrapevineInk, what do you want to see come out of the collective? How can we build a strong international network?

We can build a strong network by having regular contact with each other through artist exchanges, residencies, and print portfolios. Maybe even using Skype and MSN chat for direct communication.
The U.S has such a strong following within the world of printmaking and I envy this a lot. I really want to help be a part of a collective that can push print to the foreground of the arts realm here in Aotearoa ,New Zealand. I have much to gain from GrapevineInk and all members involved, inspiring!


Shani and Chanel Featured on M.I.S.S.!

GrapevineINK members Chanel Matsunami Govreau and Shani Peters were recently featured on the web-based M.I.S.S. magazine.

Click Here to check out their interview, bio, and pictures.


Eloisa Cartonera

Cooperative Art and Publishing in Argentina

Last month I attended Philagrafika and the Southern Graphics Conference in Philadelphia. I’ve been writing several different reviews/reflections on the exhibitions and events I experienced.

Discovering Eloisa Cartonera was a highlight of my trip.

The Philagrafika exhibition in the Print Center extended upstairs where I found books by Eloisa Cartonera, a publishing cooperative from Argentina that uses recycled materials to create handmade artist books.,
They describe themselves on their website,
“We produce handmade books with cardboard covers. We purchase this cardboard from the urban pickers ("cartoneros") who pick it from the streets. Our books are of Latin American literature, the most beautiful we had a chance to read in our lives, both as publishers as well as readers.”

The books published by Eloisa Cartonera were extraordinarily unique. Every cover is hand painted in bright colors that combine with the unique patterns of the rescued cardboard. With mass publication, many forget the craft that goes into bookmaking. Their collective has revived the intricacies and individual charm of simple bookmaking that has been erased by corporate publishing.

Their story is inspiring, and works to challenge the economics of art making. Funding seems to be constant hurdle. However, should lack of funding and grants be an excuse give up projects? Further, can funding restrict our creativity? Are we using too many material resources when we print without looking at other options and researching recycled materials?
As a teaching artist currently working with a screen printing and design non-for-profit with limited funding, Eloisa Cartonera has inspired me to be more creative and conscious about finding new resources. Stop moping about what we don’t have; discover and utilize what we already do.

As I’ve been thinking about the future of GrapevineINK, I’ve been considering dynamics of the independent artist vs membership in a collective. It seems many artists engaged in social justice have been involved in collaborative and community projects. Yet, there are artists that produce their own political work, and contribute to a larger movement in that way.
Eloisa Cartonera is an example of a successful cooperative of artists and community leaders pioneering in arts activism.
My question is, what is the balance? How does one sustain a collective commitment while still respecting one’s own ambition and need to express as an individual artist? For artists that are exclusive to one, either group work or individual work- do you ever feel as though something is missing?

I take this quote from their website, which is primarily in Spanish, but has
an English page. As a former member of a living cooperative, women’s collective, and now member of GrapevineInk, I found this very inspiring and exciting,

“Overall, the best thing that happened to us, besides meeting all of you, was to become a cooperative. It was a true awakening to how work can become the best part of your life, and never an obligation, something unpleasant. It became a dreamcome true, to work in our project.
We learned to trustone another and to be better partners, to strive for a common purpose, for something more than our own bellybutton. Cooperativism showed us our strength. That was how we learned everything we now know, and we remain eager to learn more.

We now have a new project. We will buy a piece of land in Florencio, in Varela. One hectare of land. We will build a house and start an organic food garden, and in the future a school and everything that might come to take us ...”



Above image:
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor meets with SISTER SOULJAH/

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).
(revised Alex Wong photo), 2009
digital print, 11”x15”
Ayanah Moor / Shani Peters
Discussing Ayanah's Souljah-Sotomayor Project

Shani Peters:
Your recent series Souljah-Sotomayor touches on the timely and highly recognizable appointment of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, yet simultaneously parallels this current topic to a public debate that is nearly 18 years behind in the collective memory of the U.S. – the public words of Sista Souljah, and former President Bill Clinton’s denouncement of them. While Sista Souljah continues to write and lecture and is surely a role model for some black girls today, she was best known as a key figure in the politically active hip hop scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Unfortunately, I’d venture to that today, she is what most mainstream media folks would refer to as “an obscure figure.” Now, I’m looking at “The Coldest Winter Ever” on my bookshelf right now and I’m peeping the side pony-tale in the work ; ),

What are your thoughts behind making a key character out of someone who so many viewer’s may not recognize? Do you struggle with decisions to insert these types of figures into your work? Are your intentions to educate? How do you answer the question when you are asked who is the audience for your work?

Ayanah Moor:
The Souljah-Sotomayor project developed over the course of about a year, and was largely informed by hearing cable news pundits and commentators describe certain political figures as having a “Sister Souljah Moment.” Cable news networks fascinate me, like MSNBC, Fox News and CNN and I also read a lot of news blogs/magazines such as Huffington Post, Wonkette, and Slate. As someone whose work is highly informed by popular culture, and has paid a lot of attention to hip hop, my curiosity was piqued by the repeated reference to Sister Souljah. Ultimately if the viewer didn’t know who Sister Souljah was, they’d only have the commentator’s usage, that is, to denote controversy. I regarded cable pundits’ conjuring Sister Souljah, (her name, absent her physical body) as a concept worth interrogating. As a result she is today both absent and hyper-present. She is not a participant in current political discourse, but is forever impacted by a political strategy Bill Clinton employed 18 years ago. And that is the very meaning of the Sister Souljah Moment. In fact if you look up the term on Wikipedia it states:

In United States politics, a Sister Souljah moment is a politician's public repudiation of an allegedly extremist person or group, statement, or position perceived to have some association with the politician or their party. Such an act of repudiation is designed to signal to centrist voters that the politician is not beholden to traditional, and sometimes unpopular, interest groups associated with the party, although such a repudiation runs the risk of alienating some of the politician's allies and the party's base voters.

Basically Clinton is regarded as using charged language by Souljah (outside of the context of her longer quote) as a means of distancing himself from Jesse Jackson when both were trying to earn the Democratic Party nomination for President. Clinton used Souljah as a scapegoat to appeal to mainstream white voters. So with this project I am drawn to both Souljah’s presence and absence. It’s a circular logic but one worth playing with. Use of my image as a surrogate is also a familiar tactic in my work. So performing Souljah is a way to examine public memory, or its mis-remembering. There was so much documentation of Sonia Sotomayor meeting with senators to win support for her nomination to be Supreme Court Justice, that I thought it’d be interesting to substitute white U.S. Senators with Sister Souljah. What would it be like if Sotomayor had to repeated meet with Sister Souljah in order to become Supreme Court Justice? President Barack Obama, it has been said, had his “Sister Souljah Moment” when Sonia Sotomayor spoke about how her Latina heritage impacted her decisions, and how this may be different from the experience of a white male (paraphrasing). So the Souljah-Sotomayor project is navigating a wide terrain. I am creating a fictional meeting of two women impacted by so-called controversies. I am commenting on the delicate tightrope women of color have to walk when they participate in political discourse, I am also revisiting, re-contextualizing, and revising the way that we think about Sister Souljah and Sonia Sotomayor.

Lastly in reference to your question, I never struggle with the figures I put in my work. My audience is the public, but depending on the viewer’s cultural/social/political context they may also have to share the thinking load of the work I’m presenting as well.