|Buck Naked Dress|
Vitenge from Morogoro, Tanzania
Wax print from Nigeria
[Image description: A brown skinned person is standing up with their arms at their sides. The person is wearing a lose fitting orange, yellow and white knee-length dress with circular designs. They have on a wrist full of colourful beaded bracelets and big earrings. They also have a green and purple headwrap on their head and a coy unimpressed smiles. In the background is an orange wall with an assortment of feathered head pieces.]
I just finished reading the book Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Whenever I read books by black female authors it takes me a really long time to get through, because I see myself. The words I read represent and speak to parts of me, some which I have confronted and others I haven't. I feel naked and exposed. Despite how captivating the book is, far too often I find myself putting it down, dwelling on passages that struck me then revisiting the book days or even weeks later.
In the forward by Toni Morrison she talks about the mystery surrounding the creative process erected by artists. She says that muses represented as a voice, an invisible guiding hand or a grey area are safeguards...inventions to avoid answering the question "Where do you get your ideas from?" for fear that if we know the intimate details of our process that it would fade away. I sat and thought for a long time about what this might mean for me. Where do I get inspiration from and what is behind the ambiguity of it all?
I saw this diagram that fed into my question of inspiration that got me thinking. Living in a afroblack, queer, gender kaleidoscope body (that can be read as female/a woman) that exists in a society that is violently patriarchal, racist and classist (among many other fucked up realities) that furthermore tells us we should be meek, docile or humble in the face of those realities is a hot mess! When I make art that says "I am" or represents what is "Mine" it is recognizing my own power. It's a radical and deeply political act. To be self-centered, selfish, having excessive interest in myself as suggested by absolute narcissism is to reject the ways that we are told to act in the face of gross realities. So absolute narcissism, where all the art I make has always been about my experiences in this world and my interpretation of those experiences? Nah, in the words of Audre Lorde caring for myself is self-preservation. Crippling self doubt about my existence and survival in this world, yeah.
I made this dress two weeks ago, the day before going back to school. School has been an endless journey for me and a heavy schedule weighs me down, so I started getting anxious and freaking out. To give myself space to breathe and meditate I got into it with my sewing machine and this T-Shit Dress tutorial by Ovoke. I also really hate wearing clothes, especially under wear. So, I decided to make this lose fitting dress that gives me all the comfort and coziness I need to confront the tasks ahead. Anxiety and a nudy booty acted as a muse for my creative process.
Art intersects with the many layers of our identities. Indulge in and confront yourself. Create and express your truths.
"First off she cut her hair. That was one thing she didn't want to have to think about anymore. Then she tackled the problem of trying to decide how she wanted to live and what was valuable to her. When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world? Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old." - Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison (1977)