IRAAA Wish For You In 2016
The Transformative Power of Visual Imagination
Many early 20th century “crazes” swirled around black folks. The “cake walk” dance craze extended all the way to British upper crust and the ragtime music craze was even more pervasive.
The "postcard craze" of circa 1902-1915 rose from developments in the U.S. Postal Service, lithography and printing. For the first time people were able to send visual + text messages that included their own brief remarks.
Southern African Americans were one of the most popular subjects in this early form of personal mass media. Some of these postcard scenes evoked nostalgia for an Old South sanitized of abuse and horror. Or they caricatured black people in supposedly humorous ways like depicting them relishing watermelon and being alligator bait. Often these black subjects were sentimentalized and demeaned in the same scene.
Browsing in flea markets and vintage collectible shops, Chicago artist Folayemi (Fo Wilson) saw lots of old postcards and inquired about African American-themed postcards, if they weren’t readily on view.
She noticed cheery, handwritten messages from the senders on the back of postcard scenes of black people reduced to servitude or debased in other ways. Wanting to “rescue these people and return them to dignity,” she developed the P.S. I Love You postcard series which includes the “Ho De Ho” postcard shown here.
Folayemi crowns the “Ho De Ho” female figure and gives her a wand that also looks like a ladle. Perhaps a wand for magical transformations and ladle for generous helpings of love for all good people, not Brunswick stew for ol' massa? The series also includes fanciful treatments of “Sunny Jim,” “Negro Home” and “A Typical Southern Negro” (titles taken from the original cards). P.S. I Love You was exhibited at Averill and Bernhard Leviton A+D Gallery, Columbia College Chicago, and can be viewed here on the artist's website.
Our Wish For You in 2016
Our wish for you in this new year is inspired by Folayemi's postcard series. May your dreary days, your days of seeming futility, anger, worry or angst, be touched by the transformative power of imagination.
Imagination is free. Everyone has some; most people have a lot, often under wraps. Crank it up with visual imagination. Visualize Folayemi’s crown and magic wand/love ladle on your nemesis at work, for example. That would make him or her feel a lot better in your imagination. Then imagine yourself with a crown of even more carats, and a more magical wand and generous love ladle for yourself as a reward for initiating steps to make you both feel better in the work situation of your imagination. You can wave your powerful wand of visual imagination over any situation.
May your blahs as well as your blues be kissed by whimsy in 2016.
Ideas and visions precede reality.
Related IRAAA article: Onward Fo: From Graphic Designer To Conceptual Artist And More. Update to article: Folayemi's solo exhibition, "Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities," will be on view at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 26 - Oct. 22, 2016
Visual Artists' New Year's Greetings
On January 1, 2016, the Ghanaian-born, New York City-based artist, TAFA, emailed a New Year’s greeting to his friends and associates. The message included a photo of art done in his strikingly unruly figurative abstract style of painting. When asked if we could share this imagery to wish IRAAA readers an equally energized entry into the New Year, TAFA said, “Sure."
In a 2015 News and Reviews column we noted TAFA’s meeting with former president Bill Clinton during which he discussed his painting and the mythic power of the sports arena, the subject of some of his paintings.
In the “Asian Persuasion, African American Artists Look East” issue of the print journal (IRAAA, v. 21, # 3, 2007), Clarissa Sligh recounted her study and practice of Eastern martial arts and philosophies and her extensive travel in Asia. The article was illustrated by photographs that showed the steps in creating an origami crane mobile which transforms racist hate literature into symbols of peace.
Clarissa Sligh created the 2016 New Year’s greeting shown here expressly for IRAAA readers. Her wish emerges from long reflection on its "love and light" theme. She is mixed media, book artist living in Asheville, NC, whose work “focuses on social justice through a personal lens.”
IRAAA+’s 2015 New Year’s greeting included Vandorn and AnaMaria Hinnant's Seed of Life drawing in the sand of a North Carolina beach. In a poem accompanying the greeting, Vandorn Hinnant says that the “Earth is dreaming awake” and we are both “witnesses and the dreamed." Again, this year, we are reminded the poem’s wish that we “watch and listen in awe."