“Unbreakable” Contemporized Yoruba Oshun Divination Vessel

.      “Unbreakable” Contemporized Yoruba Oshun Divination Vessel 

In Yoruba culture Oshun is an orisha or, deity, that reflects one of God’s manifestations. She symbolizes fertility, love, beauty, luxury and pleasure. She is the mother of the river. Most notably the river located in Nigeria that bears her name.  Gold, deep yellow, white and green are her signature colors signifying the deep connection to the Earth in Nigeria. 

Oshun is the Yoruba orisha connected to destiny. The vessel is often used as a divination tool that allows a querent to illicit guidance and inspiration from its markings. With the markings on the pot the diviners are able to gain insight into one’s life by studying the markings on the vessel.

What approach did you take in making this vessel?

Creating art in this medium is similar to channeling. As a black American with roots in Puerto Rico, Barbados and through marriage Nigeria—I wanted to create something that was both spiritual and useful. It is a vessel that I set out to be a snapshot of my family. During my middle daughter’s battle with cancer there were many unanswered questions and I often turned to meditation and prayer. This path led me to the discovery of diviners in both my family, and my husband’s family, which I feel is uniquely African in how our culture conjures or calls upon the spirit world. 

The vessel was supposed to be a bit more beautiful, however, upon appearance it looks almost like an artifact. It is weathered and there are what appears to be cracks with embedded dates and words. At any given moment a different person could look at this vessel and ask it a question. Someone may see the numbers. Someone else may see the words. The markings look like life lines on a hand. It can be placed with the “mouth” facing up or down, which would give it a decidedly different read as well.

It all is dependent upon who is looking at it when and how it speaks to you.

I see a family and in its center are the words “Unbreakable.” Families in all forms are under attack. Unity is under attack but love always wins. I find it interesting that this is the message that I channeled while constructing this piece and look forward to its further revelations. 

Words Formed The World: Kenturah Davis

Meditation IV, 2014
Graphite on paper Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery

I first learned of Kenturah Davis’ work while perusing the SCAD Museum of Art’s most recent offerings. Davis is currently on exhibition the museum now until December. I was drawn her graphite drawing “Meditation” immediately. The drawing had a certain familiarity of a family member or a someone I once knew. In order to understand this drawing, like you would a person, you have to view it from many different angles. There are several different things happening.

If you look beyond the floral shirt, dangling earrings and sober stare; you will be met with a litany of words that frame the subject’s background. There is an intimacy that is happening between the juxtaposition of the words and the look. If you can imagine speaking to someone and not knowing whether to focus on their face or their words. Or the work is simply representative of narrative. The unseen that we do not know about someone but that they carry with them.

Davis has said that she strives to change the narrative of African Americans in her work. I love when an artists is dedicated to telling a three-dimensional story when it comes to the black experience. The reimagining of roles and representation within the black community creates space for a menudo of possibilities for inclusivity within a multifaceted group of people.

What makes her work so accessible, outside the obvious emotive quality it projects, is the use of language, The displayed words are the shared experience. The words are the demystification of the experience. What you see and what you hear when interfacing with a work like this goes back to the artist and the subject. What do you see? More importantly as we move about in the world we can be reminded of the honesty and vulnerability of Davis’ writings and challenge ourselves to listen carefully.

Only through the listening will the narrative change and we can see what is really there. What do you see know?


For more of Kenturah Davis’ work: http://www.kenturah.com/work-on-paper

Study for Entanglements, 2019

We Are Free to Chose But We are Not Free From The Consequences of Our Choices: Lin Jing Jing

As technology evolves, so does the landscape and context in which we create and view art. The global reach of the internet makes distant communities feel close. We can feel a level of intimacy being created within the constructs of social media and digital culture. The use of zoom and interviews and talks happening in people’s homes has broadened the perspective of some skeptics that have remained averse to converting to new mediums of communication. In short, it isn’t all bad. However, society has changed. We are a microwave insta-culture that wants all of our options on display like the dollar menu before we decide to purchase—well, anything.

You Need To Be Careful With Me: I Fall In Love and I Fall in Love Fast, 2019

In her solo exhibition Lov-Lov Shop, at the DeSarthe Gallery in Hong Kong, Beijing based artist Lin Jing Jing, explores the effects of technology on our personalities, how we interact in society and the infiltration of artificial intelligence (AI). According to her bio on the gallery website Jing Jing’s work, “explores the depths of social and personal identity in the context of modern society, often examining themes such as confusion and quest, existence and absence, constraint and resistance through a lens of paradox.”[1]

[1] Desarthe. “Lin Jing Jing.” Accessed 20 May 2020. https://www.desarthe.com/artist/lin-jingjing.html



In her six screen video installation,” You Need to be Careful With me: I Fall in Love and I Fall in Love Forever, 2019 challenges the viewer to look deeply into their choices. On the various screens we are given choices to experience perfect unbothered love through images of what is pleasing to our senses. For example, there is the image of the singing paramour who is pledging unconditional love through song. 

On another screen the woman dancing appears to be available to perform at any given moment. Just for you. There is a plate of food and man exuding power and intellect inside of a television screen. JinJing calls these images the menu. You can have your choice. 

On another screen the woman dancing appears to be available to perform at any given moment. Just for you. There is a plate of food and man exuding power and intellect inside of a television screen. JinJing calls these images the menu. You can have your choice. 

On another screen the woman dancing appears to be available to perform at any given moment. Just for you. There is a plate of food and man exuding power and intellect inside of a television screen. JinJing calls these images the menu. You can have your choice.
I was drawn to this work because of my friends of mine that are dating in the age of the app. There interaction is based on what is being displayed visually. What is being displayed visually is usually only part of the truth or not true at all.
In Jing Jing’s Lov-Lov shop she creates an ephemeral world that gives the feeling of being transported to an alternate universe. A world that is close yet faraway. These are the personal yet impersonal interactions of the times.
While exploring her work, I began to understand how culture could forgo the headache of dating a human being or interacting with them at all. If we are on the search for perfection, we will only find it within artificial intelligence.  

In her upcoming show for the gallery titled “Take Off” the artist creates a dreamworld that investigates privacy, technology and the role we play. The images evoke a frightening feeling that we all need to wake up and notice what is happening around us.

More of artist Lin JingJing’s work can be seen here: https://www.linjingjing.org/interdisciplinary-project/take-off-project/

In her upcoming show for the gallery titled “Take Off” the artist creates a dreamworld that investigates privacy, technology and the role we play. The images evoke a frightening feeling that we all need to wake up and notice what is happening around us. 

As the artist says 


Contemporary Digital Art Fair

CDAF is happening June 25-28. This is a moment to participate and both educate. If you would like to be a part of this ongoing initiative in digital arts and galleries take a look. Visitors are free.


CADAF is collaborating with Liberty Specialty Markets to support young artists working with digital and new media art. As a first step, a 3000 Euro Liberty Art Award will be given to a young digital artist participating in CADAF Online.

Please note that the award is limited to the digital artists who apply to CADAF main section. This excludes artists exhibiting within other partner sections. LEARN MORE


The virtual art fair will provide the opportunity for galleries and independent artists to showcase and sell works in virtual booths and communicate through chat rooms with collectors and visitors. A livestream of talks and panels will complement the experience.APPLY NOW

Lost and Found: Decoding the Visual Capital of Artist Judith Scott

Fig. 1 Judith Scott (American, 1943‒2005). Untitled, 1993. Fiber and found objects, 44 x 10 x 10 in. (111.8 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm). Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland. © Creative Growth Art Center. (Photo: © Benjamin Blackwell)

Judith Scott was an internationally recognized artist that came to her craft late in life. Scott began art making in her 40’s and did so without fail until the age of 61 when she died. What makes her work so unique is the undeniable emotive quality that is created with both positive space and various colors of yarn loosely lain in some areas and pulled tightly in others. In the survey of the artists’ work entitled Bound and Unbound, exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, we are provided an entry point into the methodology that she employed while making her work. The reasoning behind her artwork remains an enigma because of her disability and her inability to verbally express herself. However, when analyzing the biographical information given about the artist, we are better able to observe the historical context in which these works were referenced. As a result, one could argue that it was Scott’s formative years in an institution, the relationship with her twin sister, and the creative license she was given to explore her craft deeply informed the visual language she developed within the works we see today.

Fig. 2 Untitled (1989), right. Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Scott was known around the Creative Growth Center to appropriate various items and use them in her artwork. [1]When an artist is seeking materials to use in assemblage each artifact has meaning specific to their inner dialogue long before it is brought into a larger discussion. In this piece she has chosen long bright red and blue sticks, with a green beading at the top and a yellow bead at the bottom. Small intricate beads are woven together around the object in a pattern shaped like a child’s hairbrush. The pieces are small and delicate and require focus and a steady hand. The artists’ keen relationship with color is evident with her color theory application. It could be suggested that she spent lots of time throughout her years in silence observing the minutiae of her environment. This hairbrush like structure gives off a playful presentation that evokes childhood. Perhaps an early memory of her sister, or mother, and the intimacy shared within the simplicity of grooming. 

[1] Hassaneldibi “Judith Scott at The Museum of Everything BBC Culture Show 2011.” 2012, 7:37. (Hassaneldibi 2012)

Fig. 3 Judith Scott (American, 1943‒2005). Untitled, 2004. Fiber and found objects, 21 x 16 x 16 in. (53.3 x 40.6 40.6 cm). Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland. © Creative Growth Art Center. (Photo: © Benjamin Blackwell)

Photo courtesy of @Granta

As Judith Scott became more comfortable in her art making, she expressed joy and liked to joke around and have fun. In the final artwork shown, she makes bold color choices. She effortlessly juxtaposes yellows, pinks, red, browns with a hint of blue peeking out from underneath a hood like structure. The colors give it a lighthearted feel and is representative of the hallmark of her work. Scott had a masterful eye for color that could possibly be attributed to her highly observant nature. It appears if there is an upside-down shape resembling a hat on top of the circular cylinder shape. The colors feel festive as if in a celebration. Following a trajectory of her work, she had seemed to reach a point of autonomy and joy within her visual language. The light colors draped around the cylinder with the more somber colors peeking through shows a play on light and is uplifting. 

This survey of Judith Scott’s work in Bound and Unbound at the Brooklyn Museum is a testament to the remarks of feminist disability Scholar Rosmarie Garland-Thomas when she writes that,” human identity is multiple and unstable. That all analysis and evaluation have political implications.”[1] In the context of Scott’s work there has been a lot of debate surrounding her disability. The ongoing debate is whether her disability should be mentioned when creating a visual analysis of her work. One could argue that Scott’s disability allowed her to develop a high level of sensitivity that informed her choices as an artist.  Catherine Morris, curator of the exhibit states that the artists’ work is “not autobiographical.” She also writes that,” the sculptures she made were not metaphorical.” [2] I would concur similarly with Faye Hirsch’s  review of the exhibit calling for viewers to make include her biography as a respect to her achievements.[3] I would go further and state that with her limited connections to the outside world Judith Scott had early memories of her life before she was separated from her family She witnessed and possibly experienced suffering while institutionalized, which could symbolize the wrapping of objects and keeping them together or safe. The artwork that she created as she gained comfort and confidence appeared anthropomorphic and possibly symbolized feeling, albeit not intellectually reasoned, comfort she experienced reuniting with her sister and in creating art at the center. Based on those facts we can look at her work in a different way and provide new meaning. 

[1] Garland-Thomas, Rosemarie 2002. “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory.” NWSA Journal, Vol. 14, No. 3, Feminist Disability Studies (Autumn, 2002), pp. 1-32. Accessed May 24, 2020 (Garland-Thomas 2002)

[2] Morris, Catherine. “Bound and Unbound.” 2014. New York City. Prestel Publishing. (Morris 2014)

[3] Hirsch, Faye. “Judith Scott.” Art in America. February 3, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/aia-reviews/judith-scott-2-61864/

Black Radical Women Artists 1965-1985

I had the fortune of partaking in an intimate virtual lecture with Catherine Morris, curator, of the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art locates the @brooklynmuseum. Lots of these wonderful artists featured in these exhibits you may learn about on my new site chiaratoyebi.com along with many nameless, faceless creators that add meaning and hold up a mirror to our societies. Their art pushes boundaries and moves forward the agendas for change we all are part of. These artists, especially women artists of color, domestically and globally need to be recognized and supported for the amazing work they do. Art is healing. In the words of artist and friend @imanasfari “art makes a home happy.” Nothing is more true than the latter statement. In times of crisis we must create. These books are about black women that demanded to be hurt. That struggled to bring their visions and voices to life and be heard when no one seemed to be listening. Curated by Rujeko Hockley and Catherine Morris together they created the amazing treasure trove of a sourcebook “ We wanted A Revolution. Black Radical Women 1965 to 1985.”

Avant Garde vs. New Art Hustle: Painter Monica Kim Garza

‘i smoke when i drank’, 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

Avant Garde vs Post Modern Artists

There will always be truth or the search for it in art. This desire will cause artists to be heard and seen in their art making and museums to make the decisions to be inclusive or experience the antagonistic nature of artists deciding to forge their own paths and bring art to the masses. 

According to Tate Modern the term Avant Garde applies, “to all art that pushes the boundaries of ideas and creativity” and is more or less synonymous with modern.[i] In that sense, there will always be a truth reflected in modern art whether it is soulful, spiritual or tangible. Outside of the shocking the displays that took place during the Brooklyn Museum’s opening of “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, contemporary art has seemed to come in alignment with the current social issues, but in a more subdued form. 

As a culture, the Biennales in the past have always been filled with political references and feminist statements, yet in 2005, MOMA’s art director Glenn D. Lowry noted that the quieter Biennale made you “look you look at art in a new way.”[ii] Many collectors felt that all of it was something they had seen before.  What new is being done? What more can we see?

This is dissent between collectors, institutions and artists alike can be attributed expected with the onslaught of voices that currently fill the world. As contemporary art shifts more and more from an elite culture to a more democratized and accessible platform, artists the pendulum in art bound to swing both ways. In his book Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture, Scholar Michael Kammen states the willingness of museum directors to incorporate provocative art because of the crowds that they draw.[iii] In essence, art still shocks, but maybe not so much in the way that it needed to.

Most art patrons have seen the nude form. The current social issues of the day allow call for gender equity, racial justice, sexual freedoms and these are reflected in today’s art scene. Yet with all of these things coming forth in society it still is not fully represented in elite art circles. 

As a result, artists are drawing crowds to their Instagram and social media platforms to be heard. 

For example, Korean and Mexican painter Monica Kim Garz uses her medium to showcase  nude body positive women of color experiencing everyday life. 

If Lisa Yuskavage’s work is rife with nude prepubescent girls in positions that call forth an American Apparel ad, Garza’s images are decidedly opposite. They are curvy, cute, smoking and eating Chipotle. 

There is a whimsical and chill vibe to her work. For many people, seeing nude women cooking and talking in the kitchen may seem crass. However, in Garza’s paintings, it looks like an everyday occurrence. As more images like the paintings Garza creates travels the globe art will continue to become more inclusive and less shocking.  Perhaps what has been seen as extraordinary will become more ordinary as more of society and the personal reflections and representations of different communities become more evident.

Garza’s work can be seen at the New Image Art Gallery Online. 


[1] Vogel, Carol, “Subdued Biennale Forgoes Shock Factor.” The New York Times. 13 June 2005. Accessed 16 May 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/13/arts/design/subdued-biennale-forgoes-shock-factor.html

Kay Hassan South African Mixed Media Artist

Kay Hassan, Passage of Time, 2014, vintage record and radio installation. 

Contemporary Artists used art to stimulate audiences in unconventional ways. Rather than creating art intended for business, they focused on pleasure art and were interested in entertaining and provoking their audiences. Many of them used their art to prompt the public into rethinking culture. Some artists created art that provoked to stimulate or motivate, some provoked to delight their audiences, while others created to provoke interest or investigation.

For South African Contemporary Artist Kay Hassan music serves as both a time capsule and a soulful companion. In his work “Passage of Time,” Hassan uses over 160 album covers from various artists accompanied by stacks of radios placed carefully on top of each other, playing a range of music designed to stimulate emotion in the viewer as well as entertain them. Of his musical choice Hassan says:

“Music plays an integral part in our lives. Music brings happiness when there is a kind of sadness. It will fill a space when a space is empty,” Hassan says in a gallery video. “These are past dreams. If you look at those covers, they tell so much stories. There are beautiful sweet memories in these records. I guide these memories. Even if I am not related to these people, I can relate to the music and the beauty of music and the beauty of sound.”[1]

As a result of Hassan’s juxtaposition of the album covers to the sounds of the music, he nor to only entertains he evokes pleasure by providing both a visual and auditory reference to inspire memories.  

[1] Victoria L. Valentine, “Kay Hassan Uses Everyday Materials to Tell Compelling Stories,” Culture Type 13 November 2014. Accessed 12 May 2020 https://www.culturetype.com/2014/11/13/kay-hassan-uses-everyday-materials-to-tell-compelling-stories/

Lorna Simpson: The Absence of Color

Portrait, 1988

The 1980s will go down in history as a time that American’s were finding their true voice. Women, LGBTQ, communities of color, and women across the nation were demanding to be heard amidst the bullhorns of Reaganomics and conservative politics. The now-famous -pop art style of the ’80s that was signature to artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat depicted the various social issues of the time visually captivating images that utilized repetition as a technique or drew viewers in with their bold color palettes. These artworks and the artists themselves were making bold statements about the world we live in and made us ask questions. Somewhat on the outskirts of the (pop)-ular Pop Art movement were many African-American photographers making art that dealt with the obstacles of navigating race, gender, and sexuality in America.

At the forefront of that effort was Brooklyn based artist Lorna Simpson. Her work, similar to Baltimore based artist, Zoe Charlton ‘s work deals with debunking stereotypes concerning black men and women. Where Charlton is masterful with her pencil art, Simpson uses black and white photography to deconstruct the images of black women in order to show their many layers. In the absence of flash or color, the viewer focuses on the moment in which the subject exists with pretense.

In doing so, Simpson concludes there is nothing more “magical” about a black woman than in any other woman. Yet by honing in her in this way with out overly pronounced bosoms and backsides, she was able to draw attention to the sensuality in the mundane that is her body. She too, like every other woman is that—a woman in her many facets.

The intimate image the artist captures is a sharp contrast to other artist that seek to explore the black woman in another way. For example, Kerry James Marshall’s untitled work Beach Towel displays a very vulnerable and seductive black woman on a beach towel in a backyard. Of course, we are also this representation as well. Or a revelation if you will. 

All of these images challenge the ongoing conversation of how black women and their image show up in the world. 
For more information on work by Lorna Simpson visit: lsimpsonstudio.com