Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Week #11: Required Reading

Transcript: Bill Moyers interviews Richard Rodriguez

I gleaned a number of delectable morsels from this book, allow me to share a few with you...

  • "A few weeks ago, in the newspaper (another day in the multicultural nation), a small iten: Riot in a Southern California high school.  Hispanic students protest, then smash windows, because African-American students get four weeks for black history month, whereas Hispanics get one.  The more interesting protest would be for Hispanics students to demand to be included in Black History Month.  The more interesting remedy would be for Hispanic History Week to include African History." - Richard Rodriquez
  • Black + White = Mutual Vanity
  • The call of nature is brown, even in five-star hotels. - Richard Rodriguez
  • The White Negro
  • The Sermon on The Mount

The mud we make...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week #11: Natural Toothpaste | Peppermint

Week #11: Wednesday

Inspired by the film focus of my host and the directive of a Facebook posting, I finally took advantage of an opportunity to catch a screening of Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett.  Highly recommended.  

Then, at the invitation of my host, I attended "Conversations with Leonard Lopate and DCTV's PRO-TV Filmmakers".  Johnny is an educator at DCTV and all of the young filmmakers featured during this radio program have been his students.

The Skin I'm In from DCTV on Vimeo.

Reflections of Thailand from DCTV on Vimeo.

Dependent from DCTV on Vimeo.

El Mariachi Infante from DCTV on Vimeo.


This bitter earth | 
What fruit it bears | What good is love | That no one shares | And if my life is like the dust | That hides the glow of a rose | What good am I | Heaven only knows

This bitter Earth | Can it be so cold | Today you're young | Too soon your old | But while a voice | Within me cries | I'm sure someone | May answer my call | And this bitter earth | May not be so bitter after all


Both Johnny and his roommate Zak are filmmakers and, as a consequence, EXTREME cinema aficionados.  As we enjoyed our first meal together, I quizzed them about their favorites.  So, in no particular order...


The Magnificent Ambersons | Red Dessert | The Double of Veronique | Strangers In Paradise | Marni | Nashville | Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore | Being There | Interiors | 400 Blows | Father | Five Easy Pieces | God's Stepchildren | Vagabond Nomad | Mondo

Being There | Harold & Maude | Magnolia | This Sporting Life | The Royal Tenenbaums | Rosemary's Baby | Silence of The Lambs | The Missing | Limbo | Boogie Nights | Network | Whale Rider | Shadow of a Doubt | Strangers on a Train | The Birds | City of Hope

Melodrama: A dramatic work which exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week #11: Johnny Ramos

My host for Week #11, Johnny Ramos, is the friend and colleague of Michael Paul Britto (Week #6) and it's already been a pleasure!  A photographer and filmmaker, Johnny's home is a spacious two bedroom in Crown Heights that he shares with a roommate he's known since college (Zak).  We all shared our first meal together (handmade ravioli from Little Italy, tossed salad, french bread toast and whiskey gingers) as I probed these two filmmakers for their  top movie picks...

I've been noticing that many of my hosts are tenders of altars (thanks for alerting me to this phenomenon, Legacy).  For some, this practice is entirely intentional, for others it's an outgrowth of personal documentation and casual collection.  Peeping Johnny's space, I was struck by the repeating motif of... chickens, roosters in particular.  Curious, I asked the deal and he schooled me on a cultural marker: Puerto Ricans like Chickens.  It's too wonderful to be real, but the perception actually exists! So much so, that Johnny routinely receives poultry figurines as gifts.  It even sounds good together- PUERTO RICANS LIKE CHICKENS (now say that 3 times, fast :->)

"You keep saying age is just a number, but that's like saying jail is just a room!" - Emily Q. Lu, Age 18

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


For our final 'Inflatable' evening together, Tom and I watched Nashville as we polished off a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Long familiar with the film's poster, this was my first viewing- I may have to add Robert Altman films to my NetFlix cue...  On a related note- I was reminded of one of my celebrity crushes: Lily Tomlin.  

Lemon yellow satin panties.

Tales from the Wig Crypt


Tom and share another affinity... WIGS!  From the brunette necessity of the orthodox Jewess to the blonde dazzlement of Beyonce-ites we are convinced of the hoodoo power of hair (bought, sewn and grown).  When I lived in Los Angeles I worked for a furrier who had  cold storage facilities in his shop.  Going inside to retrieve a client's mink was a surreal trip into a furry Narnia, and I have often replaced the suspended pelts with wigs in my daydreams.  I feel an installation coming on...


"You're as beautiful as a big black butterfly!"

An Exercise in Self Esteem

YouTube continues to reveal itself a kind of self help tool for the digital age.  I've learned how to walk in heels, master a smoky eye,  among other feminine arts.  Tom, a certified ladyologist, recently introduced me to the ATL phenomenon that is "Lady".  With her eye opening single, Yankin', I've now been schooled on the finer points of my own genitalia.  Allow me to share the ka-nowledge.

"Go get a goo-goo, it's good!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week #10: Toothpaste

Sex sounds at 4am...

Week #10: Required Reading

Written by Tom's Aunt Judy.

So, THAT'S where you got the name Ajax :-)

Week #10: Saturday Afternoon Stroll

Tom introduced me to his friend, Colin Sheppard as we went for a stroll from Greenpoint to Williamsburg. First stopping at JUNK, we rambled through a bin of discarded photographs to be ultimately purchased at .69 - 1.00 each.  See below for one of my selections.  Then, as a our stomachs and wallets dictated, we grubbed at a cheap and good tea/noodle shop...

Summon the meteor!

Meet the Lady...

Unexpected connections abound.  Both Tom and I apparently have a penchant for the exploration of the feminine.  Me?  I'm creating  commentary on the mainstream-womanly via WHITEBITCHES.  Tom is exploring the ladylike without such racialized constraints through his series Meet The Lady.

"Blending the intimacy of a film screening with the giddy momentum of a variety show, host Tom Blunt and his army of trained ladyologists employ every tool at their disposal.  With rarely screened clips, a blog, a found photo archive, live performances and interviews, Meet The Lady delivers insights into the secret lives of famous personalities and plants a flag on the line where camp and pure idolatry collide."

Week #10: Tom Blunt (or Making The Net Work)

Serendipity plays a significant role with regard to the connection with this week's host.  I was scheduled to hang with artists A.K. Burns and Katherine Hubbard, but a conflux of previous and unexpected commitments rained on our parade.  Fortunately, the team over at RECESS (Allison Weisberg and Maia Murphy) graciously introduced me to the incomparable Mr. Blunt.  Tall and trim, Tom cuts an affable figure and has proven himself to be a most generous host - especially since he didn't know me from a can of paint...

Three cat afternoon.  (Special shout out to Ajax, Dura, and Toby.)

Week #8: Toothpaste

Week #7: Toothpaste

Monday, April 4, 2011

Viral Video(s)

Okay, so in the midst of traveling with The Inflatable Mattress I am continuing my studio practice albeit in a more digital fashion.  One of the themes that I've been noticing is a move toward a more diverse discourse about contemporary art.  And I'm not just talking about the ethnic or cultural backgrounds of the  folks commenting.  The old school notion of ArtSpeak is becoming more obsolete as individuals are using language that speaks to a variety of communities, while maintaining conceptual accuracy.  In keeping with this, I've been introduced to the phenomenon that is Chuleta, the performative creation of Wanda Raimundi Ortiz, by my host Elia...

On another, more ridiculous note, Elia told me about a viral video that Wanda introduced her to.  Hilarity ensued.  Enjoy!

"DASSS IT!" - Maurica

Friday Night's Activity

Be Black Baby Resents: 

If There's No Dancing At The Revolution I'm Not Coming

Curated by Simone Leigh & Naomi Beckwith | RECESS ACTIVITIES, Inc.

Featuring work by Michael Paul Britto, Tova Carlin, Ava Hassinger, Maren Hassinger, Jennie Livingston,  Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz (aka Chuleta) & Jacolby Satterwhite with MC Elia Alba

Andy Brown (c) 2011

"In response to Emma Goldman’s statement, “If there’s no dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming” the third iteration of Be Black Baby a House Party Presents will stage an evening of site-specific performance, video and dancing in the street." READ MORE


Week #9: Required Reading

There is a continued conversation between artists of color who explore the permeable boundaries of identity- especially between Black artists and Latino artists.  I find it to be a verbal Venn diagram in which politicized notions of blackness overlap and/or repel cultural distinctions, language, skin color, and hair texture.  Being the friends and colleagues that we are, Elia and I participate fully in this dialogue.  I think this might have influenced her selection of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as my assigned text.  Beautifully written, with the dopest footnotes ever, the story is already populating my dreams...

That's Jesus Christ mistake, I need science to fix it. 

Week #9: Toothpaste


Since Week 8 (Ethany Uttech) my postings have sporadic at best.  That is not to say that my guestings have been uneventful, on the contrary, it's been such a a whirlwind of activity that it's taken me until week 9 (almost 10) to offer a recap.  So, I'll start from the current day and work my way back...
Feet | Elia Alba (c) 2008

My host for week #9 is Elia Alba.  I fortunately know a few SUPERWOMEN and Elia is not only a client but a president.  She is an artist that integrates a photo-based practice with sculptural and performance forms, creating a body of work that reflects identity, locality and a Diasporan point of view.  Mom to brilliant 13 year old son, I am witness to the daily maneuverings of school-work-creativity that blossom in that household.

White niggas pick you up early.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Because of her role within the Brooklyn Arts Council, my host is privy to a wide range of art making projects within the borough.  One of this year's(?) ReGrant recipients is a local theatre company called The Rabbit Hole Ensemble, and they've been working on a two part adaptation of Mark Shelley's Frankenstein novel. Magical Creature is part 2 and remains in keeping with the ensemble's minimal set design and innovative lighting and sound choices.  Get your tickets for an engaging retelling of a gothic classic.

We can rebuild him.  We have the technology.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week 7: Tutt + Network

Ethany Uttech is my gracious host for this week.  The Re-Grant Director for the Brooklyn Arts Council, she lives in a loft collective called "The Zoo" in an area we lovingly refer to as Bush-Stuy.  It's an experience in conservationist urban living (compost receptacle, vegan fare, and 7 minute showers are all included) as I enjoy a rare chunk of time with Ethany and company.  Our first order of business was dinner on Wednesday at Tutt, a Middle Eastern cafe with a generously photo-based menu.  Located in Brooklyn Heights, the surrounding neighborhood is a throwback from colonial times, and the food is delicious.
We planned to connect body + mind + spirit with a yoga session, but opted to feed the media junkie inside and watch the classic film NETWORK.    Strikingly contemporary.

Hijinks and shenanigans.


With the Spring Ahead business, my body has definitely been feeling the effects of the endurance portion of the project.  Part of me wants to take an extended breather, but this is the exact moment that I've been hoping to work through.  I did take a sleep day on Tuesday (March 15th) to rejuvenate a bit, but on Wednesday is was back on task. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 6: Media

My host for Week 6 was Michael Paul Britto and his schedule is a whirlwind. So much so, that I've waited until week 7 to offer any type of commentary.  Admittedly, our inclusion in the current gallery exhibition at The Kitchen had something to do with the harried nature of our week together.  Still we able to spend some quality time.  My assigned reading (which I did not get a chance to finish) was Negrophobia.  The work is out of print so I have pledged to read Britto's copy whenever I visit as a normal guest.
Not surprisingly, Britto is a film afficianado, and has a particular interest in Black Cinema during the 1970's.  We watched the familial saga of Black Girl, directed by Ossie Davis.  I wasn't expecting such a moving portrait, but even the theatrical affectations seemed strangely appropriate. 

"I can't and I won't, but I did and I will." - MPB

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lawd Have & Mercy.

Michael and I met in Soho on Tuesday to begin Week #6.  To be sure, we are both mass culture junkies and have often been amused and inspired by what we see on the streets of NYC. A brief sampling is below. 


Regarding NY? Our sentiments exactly...

Michael's building is "DEF"

(Kool-Aid Tablets / aka Kool Aid Condoms)

Grey hair is not an indication of wisdom.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday Transition

To maintain a sense of sanity, as I bounce around from host to host, Tuesday transitions have proven to be a invaluable resource.  They give me the space to float and gather my thoughts before I am 'performing' as a guest. Yesterday I got an early start and enjoyed some quiet time on the above ground J train, making my way to Bed-Stuy to replenish supplies.  I then made a date with myself for lunch at Little Lads after finding a paranormal thriller to read. With perfect timing,Waichi (Host #2) called with and impromptu suggestion for a gallery stroll.  We met at the Leica Gallery to view their latest exhibitions: NIGHTCLUBBING and NAKED AT THE BALL.  It's a small space and in addition to the photographs displayed,  there's a killer book table where all the items are on sale for 10 dollars! 

One glass of basil lemonade and an almond croissant ended our afternoon as we parted ways and walked to meet Host #6: Michael Paul Britto.

Week 5: The Remains of The Stay

And so, I am approaching the halfway point of this project and it was lovely spend it with Legacy and her mates.  As it turns out I did a nice chunk of reading while spending time there and would like to share additional titles here:


I think PostSecret is one of those kinds of ingenious projects that I hope to think of one day.  Until then, I will have to be satisfied with possibly submitting a PostSecret of my own or continuing to be inspired by the similarity of human insecurities.

After browsing the 2008 Whitney Biennial Catalog I was introduced to a hand ful of artists that I'm going to investigate further.  A short list follows: Jedediah Caesar , Matt Mullican, DJ Olive, Mitzi Pederson , Seth Price and Phoebe Washburn.


Most of the selections on Week #5's bookshelf were what I would describe as important texts, but I managed to uncover an example of my usual mass market faire with Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him. A heady title, but actually, it's a deliciously entertaining piece of chick-lit, set in the art world.  A quick (and highly recommended) read.
Pieces For The Left Hand was a gift from the free shelf at Fiona's (Host #4) job.  With the exception of the paycheck, the 'free shelf' is my favorite accoutrement of corporate working life.  This book was a true find.

One my last night we had Thai takeout, red wine and my favorite delicacy, conversation.  The next morning was a quiet gathering of stuff while my hosts slept.  As I made my final accounting of the items for my next visit, I  silently thanked my hosts for their amazing hospitality, inclusion and space.  
Onward to Week #6...

Monday, March 7, 2011


Fortunately, my experience with this project has been overwhelmingly positive- with just enough friction to make it interesting.  However I'm kind of feeling "nauseating" as a description- the journey can make one sea sick.  The being said, I'm just happy to be included in the conversation.

A word of advice:  Not all black guys should be rappers.


I am learning the most wonderful lessons through this project.  One such discovery is the importance of self identification.  Being a guest in people's home offers a glimpse into their personal world, how they view and define themselves, and, while everyone is entitled to their outside opinions, it's the force of individuality that is often the most engaging and the most accurate.  In a digital world of published descriptions and the expanding and/or widening gap between reality and perception I am compelled reiterate my own identity.

My name is Kenya (Robinson) and I am a self-taught artist from Gainesville Florida.

"Real talk."


"Like any church, pictures of the object of devotion adorn the office walls: the white, straight teeth of salvation and the horribly decayed teeth of the damned – a warning of the dangers of failing to abide by the ritual ablutions of regular brushing, flossing, mouth washing etc., prescribed by the dentist.
I have a theory that dentists are almost universally feared not because of the torture they inflict upon our mouths, but because of the guilt and shame they inflict upon our consciences. This is because good dentists, like priests, trade in guilt. However, there is no quick fix for the sins of poor dentition, no dental equivalent of a Hail Mary that might return one to a state of grace.
There is only the long, hard road to salvation: sonic toothbrushes, regular flossing, braces, teeth whitening, veneers, dental bonding, mouth guards, fluoride treatments and the like. For my dentist and her hygienist, not wanting to have the best teeth you can is akin to not wanting to be a better person. They are therefore evangelical in their desire to show me the error of my ways and embrace the dazzling toothed, unlined-skinned me I could be."  - Kirsten Bell

Saturday, March 5, 2011

TGIF: Thank Goodness It's Friday!

Today was a good day.  I found myself the proud owner of a pair of obnoxiously large glasses (which I adore) and after 2 years I can comfortably see a movie and read street signs without squinting.  Objects still look a bit strange, but after my hiatus I can tolerate the adjustment curve.  The evening before I spent with my friend Dalicia, near Columbus Circle, enjoying a night reminiscent of college days (a bottle of Malbec and a deliciously authentic NYC pizza were involved). 

Newly equipped, I lunched with Elia Alba at Cafe Pick Me Up, enjoying the details of the scene outside, as well as her expert conversation.  Afterwards I made my way to the FourPoints Sheraton for the DEPENDENT ART FAIR armed with JENGA, UNO, and MONOPOLY as a kind of satellite project of The Inflatable Mattress.  Monopoly had no takers, but Jenga was an inebriated hit and I was the undisputed UNO champion!  A rare treat, I enjoyed the room solo and stepped into the Saturday morning sunshine with a relaxed smile on my face...

"Beware of busy boyfriends."  - Kenya (Robinson)

Week #5: Reading List

This week's selections were a pleasant departure from the more spiritual thread of the past few weeks.  The Day of The Triffids was naughty romp into the science fiction genre replete with cold war paranoia, meteor showers plunging humankind into blindness and venomous-murdering-walking-communicating plants.   Clearly, The Day of The Triffids is a blueprint for all manner of wake-up-in-the-hospital-and-civilization-as-we-know-it-is-dead tales.

As Legacy got me settled, I spied a copy of Beautiful Necessity on her bookshelf, and inquired about the familiar name of the author.  She had no connection to offer, other than the fact that the book continues to be widely inspirational to her own art making (which she deftly balances with her work with The Bruce High Quality Foundation).  I was off to meet with Dr. Kay Turner, to participate in a archival interview for The Black Brooklyn Renaissance Project spearheaded by the the Folk Arts Department of the Brooklyn Arts Council.  The world continues to shrink in size, as I soon discovered that my Dr. Turner and the author of this book, are the same.  I am hoping to facilitate a bit of synergy between Legacy and Dr. Turner as both of their interests on the area of altar making are significant.

The image above is a photograph of Legacy's heirloom copy of Invisible Man.  Given to Ms. Russell by her father, the book is normally housed in a ziploc bag (vintage style, no "yellow and blue make green" to be found here).  I am bummed that I probably won't be able to finish it  before Monday, but feel confident that it's a sign that I should move it to the top of my must - list, irrespective of my 'Mattress' aspirations.  I never seem to make it past the Battle Royale, but it's 2011 and I have high hopes.  The book design alone warrants an image and so I've included it here.

Another American Classic:  SELF-RELIANCE and OTHER ESSAYS.  I am mainly reading these as the page dictates, opening the the book(let) and enjoying whatever whatever chance reveals...

"Don't underestimate the the value of a freakshow."  - Anonymous

Wednesday Dinner Par-Tay

My host for week #5 (Legacy Russell) hosted an intimate dinner party for her very cool, very  stylish friends.   Lydia, was the first to arrive as she was scheduled to attend a concert and comment on its cool factor via SwedeBeat magazine.  The next on the scene was one of my host's childhood buddies Jacob, a dashing young architecture student at Columbia, who is working on a tremendous project that re-imagines the look and feel of a potter's field.  We spoke at length about the monuments of death (the first landscaped parks were cemeteries) and how cultural norms continue to place emphasis on the corporeal, even when confronted with death.  Morbid and brilliant conversation to say the least, it was interrupted by two final guests, Natalie and Michelle, visiting sisters, also from Sweden.  Enjoying the playful lilt of their accents and lighter conversation, we all ended the evening at a bar called ELSA

I just found out about the exhibition, LET IT END LIKE THIS, via the Village Voice. 
Jacob:  I hope this gives you a bit of additional inspiration for your project...


Objects of the indigent.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week #4: A Recap

(Screen print by Alissa Jenkins)

Staying with Fiona and crew was an absolute pleasure.  I had these very sweet individual moments with her roommates: Charis is a Master's student in Oral History at Columbia University and Anna is an emerging fashion designer.  Our salon, Saturday Morning™, was full of fun, nostalgia and spirited conversation surrounding the philosophical/cultural impact of G.I. Joe, Sally Sargent, Fat Albert and other cartoon classics.
Typically, I try to read at least  one book that is restricted to the domain of the living space, but I managed to work within another kind of restriction.  In preparation for our cartoon fest, I visited the reading rooms at both The Schomburg and The Performance Library at Lincoln Center and relished The Colored Cartoon and Saturday Morning Fever.  Bellinis, Bloody Marys, perfect scrambled eggs along with roasted mushrooms and vine tomatoes were a hit...
Fiona doesn't work on Mondays, so we took the opportunity to spend some quality time together.  Meeting at 89th and Lexington, we used the day to stroll all the way down to 39th-ish for an Indian lunch buffet while searching for a good deal on an eye exam/lenses/frame combo.  We dished, we bonded, we found a great deal ($99.00 for Exam, Frames and lenses @ 20/20 Eyewear)...

We parted company (all good guests give hosts some space) and I reconnected with two of my favorite folks (Simone Leigh and Michael Paul Britto) at The Kitchen for Cauleen Smith's MicroCinema.  MicroCinema is a curated collection of avant garde film and video and a wild ride of visual artifacts.  I booked my way back to Brooklyn for my last night at house #4...

Lesson from The Herculoids:  Don't kidnap white women in space. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011


One of the things I most is enjoy about this project is discovering commonalities between myself and my hosts.  Fiona revealed her connoisseurship of spicy flavors on day one.  While I must admit my sampling of spiciness is mostly relegated to trips to the resturaunt, I am impressed by her selection.
Oh, and there are these two identical bottles in her 'fridge, one of which read, simply, "Burning Hot" along the un-cracked safely seal label.  The other had been clearly tested... I can only guess at its name.  "Blazing Hot", perhaps? 

Code name: G-16 | True Identity: Sally Sargent