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was created to form diverse communities and support the arts in various ways, including concerts, workshops, art shows, film screenings and our magazine, INSIGHT. We believe the arts enable people to rise above barriers in society as evidenced in the diverse audiences that attend our events. F.O.K.U.S. brings together art forms, both traditional and non-traditional, to expand the views on what is considered art.
Volume II | Issue 1
02 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 03 STREET STYLE 04 KWAK'S CORNER 08 BLUE MORPHO 10 THE PINK SERIES 16 THE MAYBE'S IN BLOOD 20 THINGS JUST AIN'T THE SAME FOR WRITERS 30 AN ODE TO MAD WOMEN 36 GRAFF GIRLS 38 HELL NOR HIGH WATER CAN TOPPLE THIS STRUCTURE 44 SCENE IN NEW ORLEANS 52 THE HIP-HOP CHURCH 56 MY SISTER WEARING SNEAKERS 62 A WHOLE 'NOTHERGROUND 70 SUSTAINABILITY UNEXPECTED 76 COVER ART
PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER / ATIBA T. EDWARDS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF / MAYA POPE-CHAPPELL LAYOUT & DESIGN / JEFF ALBERT
Atiba is a perpetual visionary that likes to do art in the dark since it is easier to see the true light. Maya is an Oakland, California native that moved to New York last year to pursue her Master of Arts degree in journalism. She's a story teller of things unseen and voices unheard. Jeff is a creative type whose favorite questions are Why? and What if...? In that order.
CONTRIBUTORS / MUTIYAT ADE-SALU / JEFF ALBERT / RODRIGO CASTIGLIONE / JIVKO DARAKCHIEV / DESTROY & REBUILD / ATIBA T. EDWARDS / ADAM FALKNER / BILL FUNK / ELY KEY / JEE KIM / EMMA RAYNOR / MOLLY PERSHIN RAYNOR / ARRIEL MELISSA ROGERS / MICHAEL ROSEN / KWAKU OPOKU SARPONG-AGYEMAN / SONNY BOMBS / STRUCTURE NOLA WWW.ONEFOKUS.ORG/INSIGHT Questions and comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org Submission inquiries can be sent to email@example.com All advertising inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org INSIGHT is printed on 100% recycled, FSC certified paper using wind power INSIGHT is published by F.O.K.U.S. Inc.
All rights reserved on entire contents. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of F.O.K.U.S. or its subsidaries.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Volume II | Issue 1
A week after I moved from California to New York, I met Atiba T. Edwards. He told me about his plan to relaunch INSIGHT and how I should get involved. I immediately jumped on the chance because not only did I see it as an outlet for my own passion for writing and magazines but also as an opportunity to showcase the talents of some amazing artists. As an extension of F.O.K.U.S. Inc., (which captured my attention from the start as well) Atiba explained the premise for the magazine and his ideas for what he wanted it to look like. After going back and forth on some ideas, we forged a comeback for February 2009. Soon after we began work on the magazine, Jeff Albert decided to join the team, which proved to be a great asset given his graphic design background. The three of us have worked extremely hard to bring together some exceptional artists from coast to coast and abroad, across various mediums. INSIGHT Magazine is committed to uncensored artistic expression. We provide a platform for both emerging and established artists to share their perspective on art, whatever that “art” may be. We don’t define what art is, we let the artist — and you the reader — decide. In this issue, we’re featuring a Kwakological perspective on art (page 04); The Pink Series by Jim Kee, an artist from South Korea (page 10); Destroy & Rebuild (page 20), who also provided the cover art for this issue; and much more. We welcome feedback and hope you enjoy what our team of three and all those that contributed to this issue, have to offer. Art is…
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BUNNY JOINS THE BAND
Photo taken at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple by Atiba T. Edwards
KWAK'S CORNER: THE KWAKOLOGY OF ART
Kwaku Opoku Sarpong-Agyeman
What is art? Is it an expression? A passion or a functionality of society? A skill set? Or an innate ability that a gifted few possess? Art’s role in society is evident to me. Much like the history books and autobiographies of the world, it serves as a method by which humans are able to record life. Art can be ancient, modern or futuristic. It can be abstract or developed with the intention of realism. It serves as a means of expression; a signal and a depiction of a story. But with all that said, is it really clear what art is? To me, art is a necessary aspect of culture, a way of life and a discovery. Hence, I have decided to share my own insight on what art is. kwAkOLOGICAL INTRO Art is an expression, a feeling, a conceptualization, a canvas, a path. One’s art is one’s way of life. It can be described as one’s walk and talk. It embodies environment and is a product of culture. But, if this is so, why do we as humans define art through such a small lens? As an intertwining aspect of life, it can express to the world feelings of anger, pride, joy
04 | INSIGHT
and apathy. It can be used as an outlet for self growth. It has the ability to explain the abstract and to discover the unknown. In essence, I view art as a tool that can be used to help explore the depths of another’s mind. A means by which insight into another perspective can be evaluated — much like an argument or debate. Art can inspire discussion, create new perspectives and revise old ones. It serves
as a means to inspire the unmotivated and convince the skeptical. Through art, one can promote ideals in forms that can appeal to the masses. I would argue that art can be found in all. It is a vital part of human existence. It is the creative soul that each human being has the ability to express. An inner art that exists within.
ART IS A RELATIONSHIP First and foremost, art should be perceived as a relationship between the mental and physical natures of an individual. Together, the two embody the creative soul and create an emotional state by which the art is conceived. The art’s purpose is to bring forth a reaction or introspec-
ART CAN INSPIRE DISCUSSION, CREATE NEW PERSPECTIVES AND REVISE OLD ONES. IT SERVES AS A MEANS TO INSPIRE THE UNMOTIVATED AND CONVINCE THE SKEPTICAL
In viewing art we should look at the factors of life that affect us all. The sounds, the thoughts, and the feelings. The pains, the hunger, and the dealings with others. These emotional characteristics can serve as a basis for its creation. tion. Its purpose also creates a connection between the artist and the viewer. There becomes a compromise of minds. The artist has allowed others to witness their expression. In an open space, they have left themselves open to criticism and praise. At the same time, the viewer has engaged in interacting with the art.
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This allows the art to be shared and embraced as a relationship. SkILL SET vS. ART Intention: Is it functional or an expressive explosion? We should define art by the intention of the individual and by the response of the viewer. One can never assume whether or not the intent of the art is a functional action or an expression created for display. We should stay away from trying to define or distinguish the two. The mastery of a skill should be considered an art, as long as it is authentic and genuine to the viewer. I believe there has been a misconception that all art must be displayed in a painting or written as a poem. I feel that any form of sensory expression can be established as an art. Human beings are equipped with senses that allow them to interact with and explore our environment.
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These senses are also used in the creation and evaluation of art. The combination of life experiences with these senses enables individuals to exercise their own unique expression. kwAkOLOGICAL CONCLUSION I have come to see art as a striving life force available to all. A spiritual energy that can be used to better the lives of individuals. As a life force, art has the ability to bring people together. Because it is adaptable and dynamic, much like a human being, it is forced to grow and evolve. I challenge everyone to get to know this life force, become curious about its nature and try to develop a relationship with it. You may be surprised with what you discover.
Kwaku is a graduate of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. Kwaku currently works in Market Research. Reach out and tell him your thoughts at Kwakatonicsole@gmail.com.
Photo by Ely Key
Arriel Melissa Rogers
A photo I took in Costa Rica was the inspiration for this charcoal drawing. It is the outer wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly. They are bashful little guys, as they like to keep their wings closed, only exposing their “eyes” (circle patterns) to keep away danger. But if you wait long enough, or catch them in flight, you will see the brilliant blue tones shining in the sunlight. Well worth the wait... me the ability to blend more seamlessly. I have always loved and felt connected with butterflies. Just the sight of them fluttering by or the once in a blue moon occurrence of them landing on my fingertips just to say hello.
On a quest to find happiness within, Arrie will be moving to Honolulu, HI to indulge in her true passion-life. Contact her at email@example.com.
As amazing as the inner side of the Blue Morpho’s wings are, I found the outer covering equally unique and captivating. I tried to capture and translate the mosaic of colors to grayscale while still capturing the brownstone blends, and the vibrant reds, oranges and blues sprinkled among the patterns. Charcoal, which I feel is the perfect medium, gave
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THEY ARE BASHFUL LITTLE GUYS
(right) Blue Morpho Charcoal 2008
THE PINK SERIES
Jee Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea and attended the Seoul Fine Arts School, the top secondary school for young artists in South Korea. Her work has been featured at places like the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Joseloff Gallery in Hartford, Connecticut, and a solo exhibition at Pisticci in New York City. Jee will be featured in a solo exhibition in May at the Samsung Art and Design Institute in Seoul. She is at work on a new series of paintings and will begin exhibiting them in the summer of 2009. She lives and works in New York City. The Pink Series reflects the raw connection from my inner self to the canvas. Expressed in the series are my feelings of confusion, insecurity, gloom and instability, all combined with boldness, sharpness and the ultimate goal of playing with colors and unadulterated paint. that together, show a combination of harsh, calm, forlorn and raw senses. The series uses tangible objects that are discarded such as popsicle sticks, old Christmas tree decorations, bottle caps, buttons and pieces of broken toys. I also use cubics,
EXPRESSED IN THE SERIES ARE MY FEELINGS OF CONFUSION, INSECURITY, GLOOM AND INSTABILITY
These paintings are free of recognizable content; they are abstract ideas of myself. The pieces are representations of color, texture, light, and space
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which are small gems affixed to waxed tissue on canvas to capture the movement of light, making light one of the mediums of my pieces.
When combined with color and light on canvas, these items become connected in their rawness: They become art.
For more information on Jee Kim, visit www.jeekimart.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(above) Pink Series, Unknown Passion 3 Oil paint, popsicle sticks, tube caps, masking tapes on canvas 60" x 36" 2006 - 2008
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(page 11) Pink Series, Unknown Passion 1 (I couldn’t let you leave without you knowing that I love you) Oil paint, Christmas balls, cubics, buttons, waxed tissue on canvas 35.5" x 47.5" 2006 - 2008 (pages 12-13) Pink Series, Untitled Acrylic, bottle caps, masking tape on canvas 60" x 37" 2007
(above) Pink Series, Unknown Passion 2 (San Francisco) Oil paint, masking tapes, small magnets on canvas 60" x 37" 2005 - 2007
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THE MAYBE’S IN BLOOD
all that i know from the hand-me-down round a bottle blue-collared recipes of writers and woodcarvers that are my family is that my fathers side never missed one Sunday in church and despite the down-theladder passings of whiskey-withered livers and empty high school diploma frames i am told the name “Falkner” had a spine to it in Mississippi. but what stands out now before a classroom of my students is the memory of 10th grade me thumbing through the pages of a civil war picture book, and biting down hard like the rusty mouth of a bear trap through ankle bone:
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the mummy of a young man’s rotting body wrapped in a confederate flag deep in the Ozarks, a father-son portrait in the shade of a poplar tree gloating beneath a piñataedbody in the breeze like kindergaten artwork stuck to the fridge Arkansas A throat choked open at the bottom of a noose To jitter-bug, tip-toe god from out the mouth Mississippi i closed that book i stashed the evidence i sat there silent. weary of the bystanders because webbing together the maybe’s in my blood is spinning the cylinder chambers in a gun until the hollow tip with my history etched into it locks
The Maybe's in Blood
it is hot vomit swallowed back down into the stomach. it is a waiting game i’ve never had the silent strength to sit through and ignorance is still the easiest pill i have ever swallowed like telling every student that walks into my classroom to write the story that’s under their nose when the one that bakes like asphalt road kill beneath my own while mine just sits there collecting dust like a whisper but this is not about guilt anymore not about a white boy pulling it together, anymore feeling bad and getting over it anymore it is about anger. for never being taught the right way:
hand to the back of the head held stable with nose in a book like “look son, swallow that it is you.’ for the way that 23 years can fly without ever being asked how i felt about the spoon fed, edited and best-of mixes that us white boys digest in the learning of our skin we pocket the stories that leave us naked in the darkest folds of the mouth. and silence is volume enough when our words clean around them like a roommates mess to let fester and ooze into vinegar but the nauseating recipes of secret trees dangling hand gropes and charred bones bottomed in the mud of the little pigeon that get exINSIGHT | 17
The Maybe's in Blood
changed at holiday gatherings about as seldom as sober apologies makes believing in my students even easier. because a blindfolded fight is always harder, and I’m too tired to pull the band-aid off slow. to suggest that these walls and history 101 will tell them everything they’ll ever need to know and so we write… every day about what we are and why it matters whatever comes up comes out, we are loud and no rock is ever left unturned delores will tell you she knows what it means to take the “i am sorry” out of “i am gay” and christopher will outline, in bullet-point fashion, what symptoms to look for
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when trying to decide if a person you love is a crack addict we take our skin off pull our ribs back For the evidence of all that we are to be pecked at and i am beginning to own story like the scars that make history terrified of being photographed
Adam teaches English/Creative Writing at a public high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and is pursuing a Masters degree in Secondary English Education. He is a member and coach of national poetry slam teams including the youth community of Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan, and the infamous Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, where he is currently a writer in residence. Contact him at email@example.com or friend him at www.myspace.com/ afalkner.
Photo by Bill Funk
THINGS JUST AIN'T THE SAME FOR WRITERS
An Interview with Destroy & Rebuild
“They say we destroyed the city with graffiti, so now we are rebuilding it through art.” The two-year-old collective of AVone, SKI, 2esae and Keptone are out to reconstruct your views on the art of graffiti. Destroy & Rebuild was created when four graffiti artists came together to achieve a common goal — spreading their art form around the world. Their philosophy and mission is to teach and then pass on what they do to the youth. Destroy & Rebuild is like equilibrium as they seek to preserve their environment to leave it as a reference for the future. Atiba T. Edwards: Introduce Destroy & Rebuild and each member. SKI: Native New Yorker, 28 years old. Graffiti artist. I’ve been a practitioner of graffiti art since 1992 and will never stop till my veins run dry. 2esae: Age 24. Graffiti artist and graphic designer. Made in Brooklyn and won’t stop painting until I’m famous. Keptone: I was born in Brooklyn. Did graffiti since 1998 with 2esae and developing the art
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form to what it is today. I’ve studied various art forms and was inspired by many artists such as Vincent Von Gogh, Edward Munch, etcetera. My style can be described as “technical realism” illustration capturing movement or motion of an object or timeframe. AVone: I was born and raised in Fort Greene and Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Spring 2007, I began street vending photographs I converted to silkscreens — it was an industrial graffiti element, rooftops and graffiti strictly. From there
Destroy & Rebuild
it spread like wildfire. The foundation also stems from being around the talents of By Hand Clothing Co. (byhandclothingco.com). I like to use the term build when describing networking/collaborating/think sessions — so I’m always building. It also stems from the Hip-Hop element teachings of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Rakim.
on different backdrops that reflect our own individual style. We then see what we want to achieve as far as composition and execute. Each art piece is original and will never be replicated. One of a kind art. AVone: It can range from brainstorming together and playing with different images
How do each of you collaborate on pieces? Keptone: Every artist collaborates with one another and delivers their variations and techniques of their own art form. Cramming together a stew of styles makes Destroy & Rebuild unique. 2esae & SKI: As a collective, we work on our own as well as collaborative pieces. The way that we determine a collaborative piece is as spontaneous as the weather. We all work
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CRAMMING TOGETHER A STEW OF STYLES MAKES DESTROY & REBUILD UNIQUE
and colors on the spot. Or at times I may begin the process with colors passing it on to someone of my choice to paint or add text and that process can go back and forth until we feel it is done. Other times, someone may create their own personal piece but see an element that can be added by someone else, thus requesting that member to collaborate. Most of the time I can just describe it as freestyle flow similar to poetry where we just follow the waves. Some pieces are more conceptual than
Destroy & Rebuild
SKI & 2esae: Yes that statement is true but there is also a drive behind graffiti that is not present in any other art form, a sense of urgency. You only have a few minutes to create and leave before anyone notices you. That in itself is a skill and what makes a good graffiti artist. AVone: Some people forget what surface means and try to keep graffiti labeled to just one thing. How do you feel about the term street art being applied to label graffiti?
others, which may just be a quick feeling or thought expressed quickly. Speak on the quote by Bernie Jacobs from the movie Style Wars: “Graffiti is the application of a medium to surface.”
WRITING GRAFFITI IS LIKE BEING A SUPERHERO WHO NO ONE KNOWS
Keptone: The term street art and graffiti to me can be labeled what it needs to be labeled but to me, art is art regardless of if it is on canvas or on a wall. SKI: The term is not totally wrong but to me that term
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Destroy & Rebuild
goes best with wheat pasters and other artists who take the time to draw images and glue them to the wall. Graffiti artists use the streets to create because they don’t have any other outlet that will listen to what we have to say. This is the best form of guerilla marketing one can do to gain attention overnight. Writing graffiti is like being a superhero who no one knows. You may see the art everywhere but you don’t know who did it.
more priceless. Love thy collector. 2esae & SKI: Before doing art on canvases, we did graffiti for the love of the art. Now that we have gained respect and recognition for what we do, it has been an easy transition because of the demand of what we do as a collective. Now we have collectors all over the world that request our work and that’s the best feeling in the world. If it was not
GRAFFITI ARTISTS USE THE STREETS TO CREATE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE ANY OTHER OUTLET THAT WILL LISTEN
for the people loving what we do, we would probably still be painting walls. AVone: Sometimes I feel like there was never even a transition. That’s how easy it all was. One minute I’m painting scenes of different boroughs and the next sending paintings to different continents. All too fast. Some luck, but all drive
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How is the transition to canvas going? What about galleries and collectors? Keptone: Putting our art on canvas and seeing the reactions from negative to positive is the greatest feeling. I love people who can adore our way of life. I see galleries as a way to network and collectors as a way to make your artwork
and talent. Galleries would be the next step but for now it is all fresh. The collectors are starting to show as we go on being as consistent as we are. What is always of interest are the collectors themselves as you would assume mostly young or urban people would be attracted to the works but it is the total opposite. How would you describe the
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current graffiti scene? The current art scene? 2esae & SKI: The graffiti scene as we know it today in New York is looking pretty dry. The ones running the show at the moment is the out of town artist who come here not knowing the law and get over. Before 2006, ACC (All City Crew) was the most prominent and prolific crew in New York City
Destroy & Rebuild
and before that it was nearly a decade since any crew made such an impact. The art scene is looking good because urban artists are finally getting the respect we deserve, but also, we have to look at trends in the market place which validates our style and techniques. AVone: The current graffiti scene is totally like everything else in the culture — right now is a rip off of the past 20 years all mixed on one.
attention to the movement and how they can use it to communicate to youth today. AVone: I think the art scene will go towards the street - as in the people. I can see people actually paying to have ups. Graffiti always had artists that expressed themselves with paint but the new era has too many young toys that do graffiti because they think it is cool. The Marc Eckos made a higher population of toys do graffiti
THE ART SCENE IS LOOKING GOOD BECAUSE URBAN ARTISTS ARE FINALLY GETTING THE RESPECT WE DESERVE
Where do you see both going over the short term and long term futures? SKI: We believe that the art scene will continue to grow stronger as more people educate themselves in our art. Graffiti art will definitely continue to grow for years now that society, fashion and businesses are paying close
but Destroy & Rebuild and only a few selected other writers make graffiti what it really is.
For more images of Destroy & Rebuild's work, check out their Flickr site at www.flickr.com/photos/destroyandrebuildnyc/.
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AN ODE TO MAD WOMEN
Molly Pershin Raynor
According to Kate Frick from the University of Texas, The idea of the Wandering Womb developed during the Victorian period: "The womb itself was deemed to wander throughout the body, acting as an enormous sponge which sucked the life-energy or intellect from vulnerable women. Women became synonymous with madness, as they were deemed to be emotional and unstable. Thus, women often suppressed their feelings, as to not appear mad and reassumed the passive, housewife role.” This poem is for Mariama Lockington, Lauren Whitehead, and all the other women unafraid of madness. Drifting mad women sleep With men on their eyelids, Wake in Oakland’s arms. They walk down the street With a twitch in their hips, Fist balled, Ready to hit em With a closed palm or an open poem, Some mase or a love song, Depending on the way they feel that day The way the wind moves em The way these men strip them With eyes of steel Or soothe them with mouths of water They wonder where the women
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are In this city of muscle. Drifting mad women Dance long into the black tongue of night They laugh the kinda laugh The kind that make you throw your head back Sprawl on grass or rooftops Under mahogany suns Eat the colors they’ve been seeking. Mad women spend Sundays praising their gods: Chicken n’ Waffles Tikka Masala Yellow Curry
An Ode to Mad Women
They peel mangos and let the juice run They mix chorizo in their eggs Eat avocado with everything And they’re never full. Drifting mad women dream of babies With blue eyes and afros Dream of lovers who they left And this dreaming chisels At their skulls when they let it, Strikes sparks of ember hunger In the dark caves of their bodies. Mad women look at themselves in the mirror See their mother there Even if she is another color They see her and they cringe and they smile Knowing they were born to burn like her To bear witness and pain and Weight round their hips To birth stories and children And change. Mad women read poetry by lamplight,
Poetry that settles within them Like warm food, like wine, Turns them tipsy Sinks into their deepest selves, Shipwrecked treasure In the bottom of their guts. Mad women write, Scribble wild scraps of Green and gold imaginings Into tiny bamboo journals, Bound by black string And sisterhood more solid than ink. In the morning, Mad women pluck flowers from bushes Steal bits of fuscia to press between pages To stain their skin like lipstick To remind them: That they moved 3,000 miles to live In a place where flowers bloom in December Calalillies and jade roses grow From dumpsters and taco trucks Lemon trees live in vacant lots Palms sway like block boys Long and brown, they shake
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Name of Author
their locks. They moved to a place where shards of sunlight Collect in the corners of their rooms White rooms with wood floors, White rooms full of brown women, Frida and Billie, Purple and turquoise, Cowry shells and sage. They pick flowers to place on their altars, Altars which remember the ashes of those women Who too, were mad, and gorgeous, who flew and flared neon, Who loved hard and crashed harder, Who carved out this space For black and white fingers to lace, This shape for breasts and hips to move, For wombs to wander and wonder and bloom, They pay homage to these women and their blues.
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Digital Illustration by Jeff Albert
An Ode to Mad Women
Mad women teach young bloods With big brains and big hearts And big ass mouths that sling slang And crack jokes and speak truth Too young, too tired for tact Mad women teach Assata and Simone, Boondocks and Neruda, Jeff Kass, Angel Nafis, Toniesha Jones And their students shine brighter Than the gold in their teeth Bling harder than the rocks in their ears When they hear their own language When they see their own strength Their students read with a hunger And write with a fury Makes mad women remember their own. But they don’t remember gun shots Bullets scattered across Charles body Like the punctuation in his
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poems They don’t remember rats disrupting English class Or crackheads at the window They don’t remember feeling like Rishon, striking out like Dimarea, With all the anger, without the grammar And these borders between Berkeley and Richmond Ann Arbor and Ypsi Brown and white, man and woman These borders chisel at their skulls Even harder than lost loves Strike deeper till they reach their dreams and crack what they’ve been building for years A belief that things will be alright That they can love across color That they can live outside the lines. Mad women think That the world has gone mad, But bad mad, man mad, not woman mad,
An Ode to Mad Women
They rant and they rave, And start believing what the Mayans say, The Hopi nation, the Jewish mystics, that the world will end In 2012 because the headlines read “A new trend of nooses spreads like wildfire in New York” Seems that Gena and Katrina are connected Our violence answered by floods and viscious winds Red to black to ash Earth is ready to end us and start new. But then a man arrives He is the darker brother He is the green sprig pushing through Rough crust of acidic snow And on the night he wins, Mad women take to the streets Blasting Young Jeezy’s track "My president is Black" on repeat There is a riot downtown But no blood is shed Strangers hug, men cry And even the cops are smiling.
Mad women cry too, Come undone the way the world expects them to And it feels so good Between tears and screams, One of them whispers She doesn’t know who she is anymore Because she wants to buy an American flag To hang above her door And another one thinks of Langston Whispers back It’s ok Boog, it’s ok, I too am America today Drifting mad women sleep With men on their eyelids, Wake in Oakland’s arms, and smile, Knowing the fight is far from over, Their lives are far from perfect, But knowing, They are not that far.
Molly is a reading and writing teacher at the Making Waves Education Program in Richmond, CA. She resides in Oakland. To contact Raynor, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Graffiti hasn’t always gotten its proper due. One reason is because it’s all over walls, vans, trucks, buildings, mailboxes and surfaces throughout New York City. I wanted to try to keep certain aspects of graffiti culture but put it in a different setting and surface medium that people aren’t use to. Enter “Graff Girls,” a blend of my love for graffiti art culture and the artful, natural curves of a woman’s body. Each piece has their own style based on the couture of the model’s back.
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/Sonny_Bombs
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HELL NOR HIGH WATER CAN TOPPLE THIS STRUCTURE
An interview with Jeffrey St. Romain
After being displaced to Shreveport, Louisiana by Hurricane Katrina, Jeffrey St. Romain, 26, designed his first skate deck. This would be the start of Structure NOLA, a line of graphic, limited edition skate decks that depict scenes from New Orleans. I caught up with Romain to find out more about these “wall only” boards. Atiba T. Edwards: Introduce yourself, Structure Skateboards and Structure NOLA. Jeffrey St. Romain: Jeffrey St. Romain from New Orleans, Louisiana. We were originally evacuated to Shreveport, Louisiana and were there for about a year and a half. I started skating again out there and decided to start up a company. I did a design, had boards made and called it Structure Skateboards. We would come back to New Orleans to visit and I’d show the boards to people who weren’t interested in skating but were buying up the boards to hang up on their walls. When we finally moved back to New Orleans, I started working at a
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company where I could print and not have to do bulk orders of stuff. I started doing more New Orleans collage design. I was drawing and using a lot of graphic design. I eventually had 13 to 14 designs, mostly on New Orleans themes strictly made for hanging up on the walls. Things are going pretty good as I have them in a few shops around town and my New Year’s resolution is to get them in more shops. Why choose the name Structure? I wrote the quote that I incorporated in the first design. The quote is all about how New Orleans took a pretty hard blow but it didn’t get knocked
off balance and how New Orleans is still standing and will not fall. Structure led its name to be a good iconic name for the stability of the city. Once we started doing more wall only boards, I changed the name to Structure NOLA. Talk about the design process for Structure NOLA and Structure Skateboards.
Structure Skateboards has been phased out. For NOLA, I go around town and take photos. I am self-taught in Photoshop and use it to blend photos and hand drawings together until satisfied then start making prints and sticking them to boards. How has the support grown over time as you are back in
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New Orleans? It is cool to do the art markets and have people come up and say “I’ve seen these before”
I am slowly going to design a few more but currently I am a little maxed out as far as my show displays. I usually have to pick and choose which
I REMEMBER ONE SHOW WHEN I HAD AN ELDERLY WOMAN IN A WHEELCHAIR…AND A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD GUY COVERED IN TATTOOS…IT IS COOL TO BE ABLE TO REACH A WIDE SPECTRUM LIKE THAT
boards I will show and as a result one of the designs will not be displayed. I will probably slow down the design process and focus on what I have right now and work on getting them in stores, art shops and galleries around town. I will always be designing a new board and you will see them up on the site. The latest board is an aerial view of the city’s skyline. What was your first design? The first NOLA board I designed is called “Sites and Sounds.” It has a water line on there going back to the Katrina.
and find out that the boards are hanging up all around town in places I’ve never seen before. The boards are somewhat of a show-stopper probably due to their vibrant colors. The boards appeal to all walks of life. I remember one show when I had an elderly woman in a wheelchair on one side of the tent and a twenty-yearold guy covered in tattoos on the other side of the tent. It is cool to be able to reach a wide spectrum like that. What are your plans for more skate decks?
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Around town you can still see waterlines on entire towns. It’s a little crazy. Which board gets the best reception? “Water Meter” gets a lot of attention. I don’t know how familiar Brooklyn is with water meters but people go crazy over the water meter down here. It is one of the older icons of the city that people put all over the place. Closing words? I am grateful to find this niche to be able to do this (NOLA). It is cool to have people out there that appreciate and look up to it. A lot of people are starting to add it to collections. I’d like to thank people that support Structure NOLA across the U.S.
For more information about Structure NOLA, visit www.structurenola.com.
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Photo by Ely Key
SCENE IN NEW ORLEANS
These photos were taken in an attempt to capture New Orleans as I saw it — in this rebuilding phase — nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. I used photography to capture the beauty of the city while also reminding people of the process from destruction to restoration. 666 (right) Location: Near 17th Street Canal I took this photo from a moving car, just hoping it would turn out. I noticed the American flag hanging from the window, but it wasn’t until later that I noticed the address. TOURISTS (pages 28-29) Location: Lower 9th Ward Many people who visit the city take tours through the French Quarter on big, fancy buses. Since the storm, however, this tour has included a trip to the Lower 9th Ward to view the devastation. These people sit on the bus snapping pictures not only of the wrecked houses and the levee but also of the families who have rebuilt and now inhabit the area. One of the volunteer organizations called Common Ground created this much-needed sign, and put it on the side of the road where all of the tour buses pass. BEADS (pages 30-31) Location: Mid City This photo means a lot to me because it represents one of the most joyous times in New Orleans, set in the midst of the wreckage caused by the flood. It holds two contrasting emotions within one image.
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PAINT (above) Location: Bywater Neighborhood, Upper 9th Ward New Orleans is a city full of art, and I wanted to capture that in a detailed way.
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TREE (above) Location: City Park These giant oak trees are seen throughout New Orleans, with Spanish moss giving them this unique look.
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THE HIP-HOP CHURCH
The crowds swarmed in at Fulton Ferry Park beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. A DJ stalled for time by scratching something to the likes of Kool Herc. Then, an unknown (to me) MC walked flagrantly across the stage and got the crowd’s attention with his loud, incessant voice. Just like a pastor would for his guest preacher, this MC warmed up the crowd by chastising them to show how much they loved Hip-Hop. music, this Hip-Hop activist recited the beginning of one of rap’s most memorable lyrics and let the audience finish the rest of the lines. But, whenever the audience wasn’t chanting loud enough, he stopped the music. Just like church. When he provoked the crowd to shout “I love Hip-Hop” over and over again, some of our Caucasian brethren doubted whether they could let such a phrase fall from their lips
THINK CLUBS INSTEAD OF CHURCHES, RECORDING STUDIO SESSIONS INSTEAD OF WEEKLY BIBLE STUDY MEETINGS
unless they were true believers like the rest of the predominately black audience. The way they (and I) stuck out like soon-to-be-converts in the midst of an overwhelming congregation confirmed my belief that this concert was operating just like church. To add more irony, the concert time was way over-extended.
Meanwhile, the DJ scratched a few licks to emphasize each and every point the MC made. My first thought was “What the fudgenog?!” Was I in church? Approximately two hours later, KRS-One (the concert’s headliner) appeared on stage and gave his own sermon on HipHop. When he finally got to the
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The Hip-Hop Church
Just like church. We’ve often heard the saying “Hip-Hop is not a fashion statement. It’s a lifestyle.” Well, for many others, Hip-Hop is a religion. Think clubs instead
fancy hats and bright dress suits. For both groups, fashion goes hand-in-hand with faith. In a time when Hip-Hop is being scrutinized for male chauvinism, homophobia,
ALL OVER THE WORLD THERE ARE PEOPLE STUDYING BIGGIE LIKE ABRAHAM AND TUPAC LIKE JESUS
of churches, recording studio sessions instead of weekly bible study meetings, and concert tours instead of annual conventions. All over the world there are people studying Biggie like Abraham and Tupac like Jesus. They may not realize it, but the passion they exert upon these individuals is quite comparable to the passion reserved for religions’ greatest leaders. At that summer concert I attended, the packs of black men (young and old) with “fitteds” and their best pressed jeans reminded me of the legions of older, black church ladies I saw each Sunday wearing their biggest, undeserved idolization and monetary greed, it can still be found that Hip-Hop has had a life-changing impact on many of its followers around the world. (You should research South African, French, British, Japanese, and Puerto Rican forms of Hip-Hop. Yeah…the situation is pretty global.) Here in the U.S., there have been a few signs and wonders hinting at this phenomenon. For one, there’s the testimony basketball player Ron Artest offered in an interview posted under the blog “Casually Obsessed” on AOL Black Voices: Hip-Hop is almost like a
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The Hip-Hop Church
religion…It’s an expression of mainly pain and suffering. I think rap is more of a job, and Hip-Hop is more about expression…Hip-Hop is also influenced by God, meaning artists like Run-DMC and positive Hip-Hop. Blog reader Elijah Jackson amen'd that statement with: “I liked Hip-Hop when I was young. It what taught me about Malcolm X, which led me to study Fredrick and Marcus and many others. Shortly after that it all changed.” At first it seemed that another viewer named Charles sided with Artest when he said, “I agree about the power of HipHop.” But then he continued with, “It has created a cult of self-hatred, materialism, sexism, immorality bordering on pornography.” Such a comment mirrors the prevalent accusation of hypocrisy made against those who claim to practice the
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Christian faith. Here’s a second wonder: who can forget the thousands of concert-goers who obediently display the Roc-A-Fella hand sign whenever Jay-Z (otherwise known as Hova!) commands them to do so? Lastly, there’s Lupe Fiasco. He and Nikki Jean wrote the chorus: One you never heard of I / push it hard to further the/ Grind I feel like murder but/ Hip-Hop you saved me. At times, this musical genre has given some people a reason to live when it seemed there was nothing else to live for. There’s your positive HipHop.
Mutiyat is a progressive singer and actor in New York City. You can send good vibes her way at mutiyat.a@onefokus. org or friend her at myspace.com/mutiyat. Should you choose the latter, you must attach a message!
reAson to live when it seemed there wAs nothing
else to live for.
At times, this musicAl genre hAs given some people A
Digital Illustration by Jeff Albert
MY SISTER WEARING SNEAKERS
My Sister Wearing Sneakers
Jivko was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He makes films and takes pictures. He is currently in post-production on his short film, Os. His video and photo work was most recently on view at Mediums Gallery in Chelsea, New York City. This series is called “My Sister Wearing Sneakers.” The photos were taken in the summer of 2008 in Cirque d’Archianne, France.
The photographs are not meant to evoke a sense of longing. They are a simple portrayal of my little sister, alone in the woods, wearing sneakers. She is an Amazon goddess. Or she is a naked woman exploring a forest. Or, rather, is the forest exploring her?
For more information, visit Jivko’s website at www.jivko.org.
SHE IS AN AMAZON GODDESS
(right) C-Print, 35mm 2008 (pages 18-19) C-Print, 35mm 2008 (page 20) C-Print, 35mm 2008 (page 21) C-Print, 35mm 2008
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A WHOLE 'NOTHERGROUND: WHY SIXTH
SENSE AND NOTHERGROUND ARE SET TO ADD A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION TO HIP-HOP
Sixth Sense speaks with a quiet confidence, seemingly aware that he’s a musical revolutionary fighting an uphill battle against a corporatelycontrolled music industry. But knowing that doesn’t faze him. Thankfully for the three of them and music fans, it looks like sooner is the more likely option. DJ and mixtape-master Mick Boogie has helped put together two recent mixtapes for Six, one of which was
Somewhere down the line, he knows that the years of thankless work will eventually pay off for himself, Jelani and Wildabeast – the three artists that make up Notherground Music. These artists believe that sooner or later, their goal of a melodic movement will literally and metaphorically change the face of Hip-Hop, and their dream of a time when people will recognize them not for their countenances but for their deeds, will start to come together.
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NOTHERGROUND ISN'T AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT
hosted by Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg. Six’s “Ignite the People (Like Obama)” got heavy publicity during election season. In addition to doing his own production, he’s been called on to produce tracks for artists like Talib Kweli and B-Real. Jelani, Wildabeast and Sixth Sense are all from New York, and together they are adding a whole new dimension to HipHop. Unlike most contemporary emcees who are rappers not artists, Notherground isn’t
A Whold 'Notherground
afraid to experiment. Jelani’s album has him spitting over a wide assortment of beats and sounding equally capable on all of them. Wildabeast raps to ‘60s classic rock. And Six has a flow that’s both versatile and original, employing a diction that hasn’t been heard before in Hip-Hop. He is capable of dispensing that flow fast (“Me & My Sneakers” Remix) or slow (“Hip Hop Renatus” freestyle).
Trying to classify the Notherground sound is no easy task. Though they are tearing up the underground Hip-Hop scene right now, they lack what we would commonly associate with the underground style. “This is not aesthetically underground — grungy, spitting 40 bars about a tree leaf,” Jelani said at his studio at Northeastern University where he’s a Music Industry major. Nother-
IT'S THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN OF HIP-HOP: GRASSROOTS MENTALITY WITH MAINSTREAM APPEAL
ground, he said “is on the same plane as popular music, but it’s more to the left. It’s not underground, like ‘alright, these guys need to get out of the basement,’ but it’s not Will.I.Am. where you lose the soul of the music.” Six agrees. “The majority of the stuff that I
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Together, these three are creating a brand of Hip-Hop that is catchy even as it is filled with intelligence and soul — it’s the Obama Campaign of Hip-Hop: grassroots mentality with mainstream appeal. And, frankly, they don’t really care how you categorize them, because this is what I call rap, says Six on his song “Time to Live.”
A Whole 'Notherground
do – really it doesn’t sound like anything [else]. When I create a track, I’m trying to make sure that it’s something that hasn’t been done before.”
still comes together to form a coherent album – one that Six calls “flawless” as far as first albums go.
Turn on any of his songs, and you notice it — you may not be entirely sure what you’re noticing, but you know it’s there. Maybe you can’t pinpoint whether it’s the subtle wordplay, the vocal delivery that combines the melodic elements of Brother Ali with the lyrical precision of Black Thought, the intelligence that permeates each lyric or the experimental-but-still-cohesive quality of his beats. But you know that, whatever it is, it’s pure fire. Jelani and Wildabeast’s individual styles are unique as well. Jelani is among the most dynamic emcees around, and his debut disc, Wait, You Can Rap?!?! features songs for every kind of Hip-Hop fan and
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WHATEVER IT IS, IT'S PURE FIRE
Jelani emphasizes his uniqueness as a lyricist, using his time on the mic to reflect his personal experiences, not what he thinks others want to hear. In a phone interview, Jelani spoke about growing up in a neighborhood vastly different from the one he went to school in and how that diversity is reflected in his development as a person and an artist. Listening to him, it becomes clear that Jelani possesses a level of personal awareness usually reserved for someone twice his age. His sense of self influences his lyrics. “You’ll never hear me rapping about selling drugs, ‘cause that’s not real to me,” Jelani said.
A Whole 'Notherground
Similarly, Wildabeast is staying true to himself as well. One look at his long, curly locks confirms his persona as a hood-hippie. Sonically, he’s influenced by the same musicians that were spreading love in the 60s, though his Wildahead Portisbeast dips into the more recent past. The album combines the sounds of Portishead with Wildabeast’s sharply introspective yet dryly witty delivery. But like the hippies of the 60s, he isn’t afraid to experiment.
somebody before he even started — music didn’t make him. “I already am somebody. My name is Michael,” Six said. “I’m not trying to be somebody. I’m trying to do something. That’s all I’m concerned with.” So, rather than seeking the hit song that will get their faces on billboards – though they wouldn’t necessarily turn that down — Nothergound focuses on making music that sets themselves apart as artists
One thing that’s abundantly clear about Notherground is that they are more about the music than the recognition. As Six explains to me between sips of coffee, “there’s a real Hollywood aspect to Hip-Hop now. But there’s too much going on in the world to be all wrapped up in the ‘be somebody’ aspect of the industry.” The way he sees it, he was
THEY ARE MORE ABOUT THE MUSIC THAN THE RECOGNITION
and individuals. It’s about staying true to themselves and each other while catching the listener’s ear at the same time. Six insists that as long as there’s good art being created, then people will appreciate it. “Whatever form of feedback or money comes after it doesn’t matter,” he said. It is this passion for music and art that makes them so appealing.
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A Whole 'Notherground
We’re in a small art gallery in downtown Manhattan. There’s graffiti-inspired art on the walls, the speakers are thumping, free alcohol is in heavy supply, the crowd is vibing in the warm summer night, and then suddenly they part and a circle forms around Sixth Sense, Wildabeast and Jelani.
you can’t help but wonder what the game will look like once people get a hold of their music. It’s a difficult question, but part of the answer is clear — whatever it is, it’ll be on a whole new level, a whole ’notherground.
IT PROVES ONCE AND FOR ALL THAT YOU CAN HAVE BOTH INTEGRITY AND FUN IN HIP-HOP
You can check out free downloads along with information regarding the lengthy list of upcoming projects including: Six's top secret remix project and the work he’ll do with Dr. Dre cohort Dawaun Parker; Jelani’s work behind the boards and immediate-release singles; and Wildabeast’s upcoming 60’s style project on Notherground.com
Michael is a student at Wesleyan University where he works as a concert and event coordinator. You can check him out at areyouheretoconfuseme. blogspot.com.
Six works the crowd like he’s known them his whole life, Jelani’s laughing with Wildabeast who is going nuts in the background, two stepping crazily to the beat. There’s nothing you can do but smile and join in. This is the moment when it all seems to come together. When the intellect behind their rhymes comes through without being oppressive, it proves once and for all that you can have both integrity and fun in Hip-Hop. As you watch them
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Photo by Ely Key
Photo by Bill Funk
THE BEAUTY OF REAL
As a means of exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina, I ran. I passed zipping cars disobeying traffic laws, father and son duos juggling hacki sacks for cash, and parillas (Argentinian barbecues) spilling their sweet smoke into the streets. Beyond the mounting pile of parts, there was a billboard tower with gigantic ants crawling up it. They were made from ingredients of the “junk” soufflé just to my left. Argentina’s recent history is characterized by political
THEY WERE MADE FROM INGREDIENTS OF THE ‘JUNK’ SOUFFLÉ JUST TO MY LEFT
Eventually I found myself on the outskirts of the city, drawn to a warehouse surrounded by a chain link fence with a grassy dirt road leading up to its entrance. There was a pile of junk out front of the warehouse made up of car parts, plumbing pipes, machine motors and random metal scraps. Tending to the pile were young men and women, sifting through it, organizing it into like parts. “Is this a recycling plant?” I questioned.
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turmoil, economic crisis, and sky-rocketing unemployment. While Argentina has been focusing on recovery, developed countries have been spending most of their effort attacking global climate change and incorporating sustainability into their political strategy. Sustainability is based on the concept of using the earth’s natural resources in a manner that sustains the world’s current lifestyle while not depleting our natural resources for
use by future generations. A sustainable practice is usually comprised of three main aspects: its economic profitability, social and economical equitability, and environmental
As I turned away from the ants, a squat scraggly man who looked like he had swallowed a yoga ball, cigarette in one hand, red wine in the other, said, “Hola.”
HERE IN THE U.S. THE ‘GREEN MOVEMENT’ IS WROUGHT WITH GREEN WASHING AND OVERPRICED PRODUCTS
I asked if I could come inside. He told me there was a five-peso entrance fee. “I’m running,” I said. “I don't have anything on me.” “Dame sus zapatos (give me your shoes),” he said, laughing ruggedly and opening the door, welcoming me in. This man was the artist, Carlos Regazzoni, and landlord. He squatted the abandoned warehouse and adjacent land 10 years prior, and convinced the city, through his art, to donate the space to him. Inside there were a few more young people cleaning up the old wooden floor of the wareINSIGHT | 71
soundness. Here in the U.S., the current “green movement” has become the face of this effort, and unfortunately it is wrought with much green washing (products that aren't actually green), and overly expensive products. Although Argentina voluntarily agreed to the Kyoto protocol, an international environmental treaty aimed at reducing Green House Gas emissions, not much has been achieved on the Argentinian environmental front, and very few look to South America for inspiration and leadership in the “green movement.” With this in mind, I began to examine this space.
house and working on their own art. I was the only visitor. There was a brick oven at the south end of the building, except instead of bricks and a ceramic dome, the structure was made from metal scraps and the top half of an air
the roll. Every last detail was an item that was re-used, and every last detail was perfectly functional in its role. “This is a pretty large space. It must take a lot to heat it,” I commented.
WE THROW ON DOUBLE SWEATSHIRTS AND DRINK HOT COCOA WITH WHISKEY
vessel's dome. There were chairs and tables of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. One of the chair legs was even made with the bottom of a golf club. The large sliding doors in the back were wide open, allowing natural light — not coal or oil based electric light — to fill the area. There were paintings from various artists hung on the wall with wire dangling from old copper pipes. I asked to use the bathroom and found that the toilet paper holder was an old plumbing pipe that held the wads of softness perfectly in spinning position and had a metal cap that could be screwed on and off to change
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“We throw on double sweatshirts and drink hot cocoa with whiskey. Pretty easy actually,” Regazzoni said. As groups of visitors filtered in, I decided to stick around for dinner, which I had agreed to pay for at a later time since I didn't want to give up my shoes and planned on returning. The young men and women who had been scattered around throughout the day working on their own art or cleaning up the space, were now preparing food in the half-dome-air-vessel oven and waiting on the visitors. They were earning their keep
Photo by Rodrigo Castiglione
Photo by Rodrigo Castiglione
in return for the opportunity to be part of the art community and have access to materials, space, and inspiration.
recycling at the least. But more so, the entire concept of taking someone's waste and turning it into beauty, inspiration, and
THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF TAKING SOMEONE'S WASTE AND TURNING IT INTO BEAUTY, INSPIRATION, AND FURNITURE …CUTS DEEP INTO THE TRUE IDEA OF SUSTAINABILITY
Dinner was some of the best milanesa (an Argentinian dish where meat is pounded into a thin slab and breaded with seasoning) I have ever had. Peering into the kitchen, I saw that they were taking food scraps and putting them into a composter. They use the compost to fertilize a garden that they in turn harvest for the meals they cook. To top it off, when the workers waited on us, they acted, playing different characters in preparation for a play they were to put on the following week. Regazzoni's recycled sculpture art is innately a form of
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furniture, all part of a selfreturning learning environment, cuts deep into the true idea of sustainability. An example that is not limited to only those who can afford it, but with resourcefulness and creativity accessible to everyone. Regazzoni's warehouse would certainly not get a United States Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Environment, Energy, and Design) certification. But for comparison, the carbon footprint of turning the existing space into a community center, self-supplied restaurant, theater, gallery, and garden using all un-processed
Photo by Rodrigo Castiglione
recycled materials was for sure a multitude less than the carbon footprint of building the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, a LEED silver rated building. Sustainability was unassumingly and genuinely captured by Regazzoni in a developing country. There, it was unforced, something the U.S should not
overlook in the face of a popular, positive, but sometimes misleading “green movement.”
Ely is a freelance sustainability consultant and Co-Founder of art project and company, Dialogue? Projects. He was born and raised in New York City but currently resides in Southern California. Contact him at email@example.com or visit www.dialogueprojects.com.
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COVER ART: LONG FORGOTTEN
AVone of Destroy & Rebuild
“Long Forgotten” is a 30in x 40in galleria that includes the basic themes that I love: collage (newspaper) and oxidation (rust). I consider newspapers to be propaganda so what I am doing is manipulating it into my own science. I have always been a fan of text (hence graffiti), so in this piece, I decided to use Arabic text (as well as English if you look closely). Although some people draw conclusions when they see the Twin Towers and Arabic text, I decided to combine the two to as a means to show New York City’s melting pot characteristic. The oxidation goes with the industrial look, which takes me back to good times in the city. Long Forgotten is a neighborhood view with the towers in perspective. Showing the New York City that the world came to know, but from a more quiet standpoint. This could be any borough or any neighborhood and that is what I'm portraying. The World Trade Center was in its 20's when it died and this is my dedication to it. This piece is not meant to represent my patriotism for the United States of America (which is non-existent), or my opinion on who is to blame. It’s just a visual R.I.P. monologue.
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