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How have the multitude of cultural influences you’ve experienced formed you as a person? How have they influenced your creative output?

We are all pluralistic people. Your religion and beliefs, your race and ethnicity, your gender, your role in your family, your sexual orientation, your class, your interests, your career, your political views, and your education have all formed you.

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13 thoughts on “Comment and Read Comments Here!

  1. Arshile Gorky is a major influence in my life and artwork. Sharing a common Armenian heritage allows me to connect with his work on a deeper level. He escaped the genocide and paved a way for artists like myself. Here is a poem I wrote after recently viewing his work at the MOMA AB EX show and being reminded of my roots.

    Slaps of water seep through naked time and slip past painful grime,

    I witness a stain that shines and flow of answers rhymed.

    I find myself in higher health when sinking in this place that hides,

    and flipping to a third degree which leads me to believe its time.

    I grab my brush and keep in mind what Gorky said and left behind,

    they took our land and marched us down the desert hand in hand to die.

    I stand alone holding this poem knowing what it is to leave my home,

    after all, our blood is bold, from kings who told stories that never get old.

    Inspire me once, inspire me twice, three hundred sixty degrees are my eyes,

    I see what you saw, it was up then the floor, from the floor to the next from the next to the war.

    Embracing the forms and hearing the sounds, which thousands of years ago were around,

    I know of your loss, I know of your pain, but now you live through your work with a frame.

  2. Hearing the visiting artist lectures has really had me thinking about how my own life has affected my artwork. I wrote a blog entry on it (specifically about my role in my family and where I grew up) a month or so ago, you can read it here:

  3. I really enjoyed the lectures that were given by all the different artists when they came to speak at F.I.T. for ARTSpeak. It was really interesting to see where they got their inspirations from and how they got to where they are today. As an art student myself I thought it would be interesting to see where my own inspirations came from and where it could possibly take me. You can read a little something about me and my work at:

  4. Seeing Wangechi Mutu speak on Tuesday was an extremely eye-opening experience. Collage is an art form I usually stay away from, it is hard to create a seamless collage that looks like a finished piece and conveys a message. Mutu has accomplished this in her work, using photographs of the stereotyped African and through collage and ink, manipulates the images to shed light on our skewed perception of Africans.
    A gifted speaker and intelligent woman, Mutu engaged the audience despite many technical difficulties. She referenced many artists who shared her ethnicity and artistic mission, Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker, Grace Jones, etc. She spoke of Africa’s history, and touched upon certain feminist issues.
    I think it is very important that we remain educated on the issues in Africa and I enjoyed hearing her personal story. Her work is amazing, it was inspiring to see slides of her earlier collages and how they have transformed to be much more complex and intricate as well as a more developed body of work with a singular style and methodology.
    The way she worked through her struggles by creating art was very inspiring and something that will affect the way I produce art as I develop as an artist. I know that when I am in the bachelors program and have to create a body of work with a concentration that I will refer back to Wangechi Mutu and her methods in expressing her personal struggles through art.

  5. My making sense of Wangechi Mutu’s speech…

    Wangechi Mutu spoke in a very quiet and shy voice when she presented herself to the crowd in F.IT.’s Katie Murphy theatre. Usually, when someone openly admits that they are nervous before they start making their speech, the audience suspects a dull speaker, who reads straight off their piece of paper, but although Wangechi was soft voiced, she was not soft spoken. In fact, I think that because she was so silent with her speech, she made her points that much stronger. The way she held her poise while discussing difficult topics made her reasoning and her explanations sincere and honest. She was driven by the worst things in her life like the wars in Africa and the cruel brutalities within her heritage. All of her motives and her thoughts revolve around one common theme, which she reiterated throughout her speech, no one knows anything at all and you cannot believe what your eyes are telling you.
    Wangechi and I are from two completely different places, at two different times in the world and yet I felt so in sync with her as she spoke to us. She had mentioned being inspired by sound. This is something that hit me very closely; my great grand father, Onofrio, emigrated from Sicily in the early 1900’s and in Spanish Harlem he opened, what today is not only my family’s livelihood but also my family’s pride, O. DiBella Music. The store was later moved to Bergenfield, New Jersey; closer to home and now is on its third generation of family. This made sound very apparent element in my life. Although I have tried every instrument under the sun, I have never stuck to one, I used sound and music in my own way, in my art. Just as Wangechi absorbed the sounds, good and bad, within her neighborhood in Kenya and her country Africa, I try everyday to remind myself of the sounds and the fortunate beauty that I was raised around. The passion I thrived as a young child waiting for my grandfather to play his mandolin is a sensation I hold inside of myself everyday. The way I can see my own father growing to be just like his father, drives me. My grandfather teaching my father how to fix instruments, holds so much value to me. The two loves of my life, my grandfather and my father, make me so proud about where I come from.
    Culture was an obvious staple within Wangechi’s art. She distorted the bad things and tried to make sense out of unspeakable truths with her two most powerful tools, her hands. I had taken three pages of notes during her lecture and I would say that three fourths of my notes are things I had quoted her saying. Just as she had quoted people she was inspired by in her power point, her own inspiration made me quote her. She said “ Art saves lives, art keeps me sane.” This I can honesty understand, not for the same reasons she does, but for my own. Her culture dropped these life-altering situations on her and she created personal awareness. I love how for her own wellbeing she, to this day, has been trying to make sense of it all, in such a healthy and organic way.
    Art does keep the sanity within me. Even though I cannot say that I lived within the battlegrounds of war, I can say I have turned to art, just say she has, for comfort and for explanation. I have played the same mind games she has, I have had to retreat to canvas, to my bedroom walls and to color for therapy. Wangechi subconsciously added the difficulties from Africa into her art and only later realizing what she had done. I too create things and then years later think back to what was happening when I had made that certain piece. I believe that Wangechi and I would agree that the act of doing and the processes of making is much for beneficial and substantial than a final product. Some artists make art for an audience for the purpose of pleasing and I think that we both decided and/or were driven towards art to make sense of this big, dense world we live in. I have always felt that art is the most dependable friend that anyone could ever confide in, it will never leave you and it can never disappoint you, nothing in art is permanent and if you truly create with a purpose, an audience, a person, even just one, will see it inside of you and relate to you. Wangechi Mutu and I have been physically worlds apart for our whole lives but when she spoke, I understood.

  6. Collages? Something I never thought to do but a great way to express an idea without the stress of having to work at making the figures and objects look realistic.
    We as artists are inspired by the world around us and try to replicate what we observe in figure painting classes or simplify the world around us in abstract painting, why not take photographs and previously produced illustrations, slap them together and create work from that. She saves time doing physical labor and get to use her mind to be creative, the best part. I think I’ll try this sometime.
    I’d classify her paintings to be surreal rather than abstract since she is using parts of images from life to tell her story.

  7. Wangechi Mutu
    Art is dead or rather painting is dead. Some believe that the art form has been minimalized, stretched, explored and manipulated in every conceivable way. Because of this, nothing more can really be done with painting that has not already been done before. My own artistic inclinations compel me to argue against this. I find it hard to believe that there is no one who can breathe new life into Art. After all, art is a freedom of conscience and someone can still choose to express something of consequence. Why can’t that unique voice manifest itself in a painting extraordinary enough that it can stir something within a viewer? If it does, can that piece tell us something about who its creator really is? As an aspiring artist, I find myself searching for answers to these questions whenever I can. Oddly enough, I began to find them when I attended a lecture by the artist Wangechi Mutu.
    Embodying ideas regarding beauty obsession, genocide, rape, mutilation, and colonization, the contoured figures of Mutu’s compositions appear bizarre and ominous. She uses cutouts from fashion and porn magazines to collage her figures. By applying ink or watercolor to Mylar, Mutu achieves a “bubbly marbly effect” that make her creatures look as though their skin has been either burned or diseased. Some have twisted, flowing hair while others are bald. Many even have limbs comprised of motorbike or mechanical parts. As strange as they may sound, Mutu’s femine creatures still manage to be alluringly beautiful despite their spiky hair and “infected” skin. According to Mutu, those who are made to endure the atrocities of the world are left feeling despaired, dislocated and disconnected. The artist refers to persons who were once removed from their homes and put into camps or those who are arrested, tried, and tortured because they dared to speak out as examples. They struggle to make sense of themselves and their surroundings in their attempts to survive. Consequently, their identity as individuals transforms. This notion along with her ardent love of her own African heritage is what gives Mutu’s creatures their staggering nature.
    Listening to Wangechi Mutu discuss her work as well as the things that motivate her was inspiring. She comes across as an old soul with an inquisitive mind. From her description of her African homeland to her admiration for the innovative Josephine Baker and Grace Jones, she seems to consider the depth and beauty in everything. For example, she attributes her forensic series to the peculiar idea that “we can study a person’s features in order to understand who a person is”. She then drops hints in regards to her figures as she curiously reflects upon various physical depictions of Aliens. Despite its chalky skin and large black eyes, an alien may possess human like qualities because it is “a thing we don’t know that’s actually us”. She is drawn to the dirty, dark and morbid as well. Mutu will use raunchiest of porn images in her art as a means to emancipate the women objectified within them. As harsh as it may be, even scientific research done on humans during the holocaust and genocide in Rwanda can still teach us something significant. It is easy to imagine how, as she has strived to attain knowledge and understanding, she began to twist and mutilate the figures she drew. Coming from an extremely conservative Kenya, she appears not to want to look away anymore. The blindfold is off. Some of her topics of discussion were brutal but it is possible she chose to talk about them as a sort of walk up call. Confines and rose colored glasses rarely make things better. More often than not, we are stifled by them.
    As suggested in her work, there are many facets and layers to everything and everyone. A person’s race, color, or circumstance do not account for all of it either. Good or bad, Wangechi Mutu declares there is healing in her process. Whether we can personally relate to her subjects or not, we can still feel for those who do. By facing up to our deepest fears, like those who inspire Mutu’s work, we can all choose to learn, accept, and decide to do better. If her viewers see Mutu’s message for what it truly is then maybe something can be done. Differences can be made. With this in mind, Wangechi Mutu is a profound artist who is doing some really remarkable things with her artistry. Her painting is most definitely not dead and it does say something about who she is. Aside from looking at her work itself, this was never more evident than when she passionately said: “Art is important. It has kept me sane alive. It saves lives!”

  8. Wangechi Mutu

    I found Wangechi Mutu’s lecture very interesting. I am personally not a big advocate for collage but her works are provocative and certainly full of contradiction.
    On the first look they seemed commercial to me, given the nature of the inspiration of pin ups and fashion, one has to forgive me for that. After hearing her speak, and looking at her work closer, I realize how prompting, forward, dark, detailed, beautifully executed and intricate her work is. It is charged politically, sexually, philosophically and personally. I still have to say that the esthetic of her art is not something that personally moves me, however, Wangechi Mutu as a person and how she comes to create her work is something that I found really fascinating. She inspired me with all the research of anthropology and her thirst for knowledge to understand the world and it’s history as a whole. I found it incredible that she looks for connections and truth in everything and everywhere. She functions scientifically as well as artistically and I was very impressed by that. The soft yet strong way she is passionate, the way she speaks so eloquently about world affairs, war, society, her upbringing and history, reminded me that we have a higher purpose as artists and there is something quite special about us. We can be powerful and make a difference. We have the voice and the tools to document and stand witness to the signs of our times and eventually become part of our history. We can tell a story and we can tell it right. I do realize that there are different types of artists and all art does not have to be political or sociologically charged but she definitely reminded me of something I have forgotten a little bit. It is not always just about us but our history, our documentation and our participation to help create a more powerful future.

    She has a reason for making her art. It is as simple as that. I also come from another continent and she definitely touched a nerve when she commented on moving somewhere and having to explain the person you are, and having to explain yourself as an artist. In many ways I think that can be challenging and painful but ultimately it can be an amazing journey and experience. I feel that when we do have to dig deep and look inside ourselves, in order to be understood by others, we also learn many new, real and probably hidden things we couldn’t even fathom.

    I have had quite a bit of a journey myself and feel privileged and blessed that everyday I can express myself through my art. I am nowhere near as political as I used to be but I am hoping that through my constant painting, sculpting and photographing, I will understand my way and purpose as an artist. I am still not quite sure why I do what I do but Wangechi Mutu reminded me that it is a journey and things do not always make sense straight away. I also absolutely loved what she said about mistakes that happen whilst making art. She understands that there is a plan but sometimes we have to let it go and decide whether the mistakes are actually part of the process and are part of the piece or if the piece is just simply ruined by it. I agree with this, even though sometimes it is hard to let something just simply be or go.

    I am grateful that we were able to hear her speak and see her work so up close and personal.
    She reminded me that things take time and sometimes we just have to keep digging, doing and going, eventually it will all fall into place.

  9. It was a wonderful lecture yesterday – actually another wonderful, inspiring lecture. This has been an amazing series. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend all four of the lectures in the ARTSpeak series and each one was powerful, informative, inspiring, and educational in all the best ways. I’ve learned so much about these artists, artistic process, creativity, responses to life, taking experience into art, etc. We hear first-hand about the artists’ diverse backgrounds and how they express this and more in their art – their various paths, working techniques, influences, and unique self-expression. Thank you to all those who worked on arranging these lectures, especially the entire Art Speak committee. I hope this important series will continue. Kudos!

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