Thursday, January 25, 2007

M. Saffell & Ibn (Collaborative Partners)

M. Saffell’s Artist Statement:

My departure from representational painting toward abstract works began with my creations of icons loaded with history - from pharaohs to ancient rulers to vessels of enslavement. I have submerged myself in the primal. My work often transports me to my spiritual homeland, the African continent, the cradle of man.

Painting makes me part of the free world in a primal manner. I work from small to large scale, modify my focus, and constantly investigate my surroundings. My smaller pieces become relics that inform my larger works. My larger pieces offer more of a challenge – their ancestral aspects speak to my soul.

I create my works by painting, printmaking, drawing, digital, carving and sculpting. Having worked as a cartographer, my vision is that normal forms are artistic shapes. I use any and everything; from smashed cans to found grids and architectural objects.

The focus of my work is to push the envelope of my subconscious. My current visual vocabulary merges cartography and drafting and is paired with both brilliant and muted hues mixed from dry pigment and balanced with soft and hard edge imagery.
Bio: M. Saffell

M. Saffell Gardner holds BFA and MFA degrees in painting from Wayne State University & currently teaches Black Art history & Computer Graphics at Marygrove College. A master painter and mixed media artist, Mr. Gardner is the recipient of a Regional Artists Project Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and has participated in arts mentoring programs in local public schools. In 2000, Mr. Gardner was selected as the Chivas Regal Artist in Residence at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, during which time he developed a solo art exhibit entitled “Recent Memory”. A commissioned painting “Door of No Return” is in the museum’s permanent collection. Recent commissions include the painting of a trash receptacle for Detroit’s “Pretty City” project as well as major commissions for the City of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools.

Mr. Gardner’s work is in the permanent collection of Cobo Center in Detroit; Cass, Renaissance and Southeastern High Schools as well as the School for Fine and Performing Arts of Detroit, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Detroit Medical Center. He has exhibited throughout Mid-West, New York, Jamaica, Brazil and parts of Africa.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chen Wang's Statement of participation:

One of my research aspect is culture and social related design. I often use poster as the outcome form for my visual idea. After reviewing all the topic related documents provided by Mursalata Muhammad, I wrote down few keywords that I wanted to interpret my idea: Historical, memorial, horrible, inhumane…that basically determined the tone and color for the poster and gave me an idea what kind of font to chose. The visual idea for this poster is based on Haiku #8:

everything hangs out of her
little black body
torn by big white men

What inspired me first was the internal tension and high contrast of this poem. Words like Little–big, black–white inspired me to use a transition between figure and background. I used two color silkscreen to print it out on a brown paper.

Bio: Chen Wang

Chen Wang obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Iowa in 2003. He has taught at Texas Tech University as an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design Area. Currently he is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton.

Since coming to the United States, Chen has been included in numerous national and international contests and exhibitions. In 2006, his work has been selected into The ninth International Biennial of the Poster in Mexico (Mexico) and 4 Block: VI International Triennial of Eco Poster (Ukraine). In 2004, his work was selected into 19th New American Talent Competition (TX, USA). In 2003 his work was part of The 46th Annual International Award Exhibition (San Diego, USA). In 2002, he was included in The 2nd International Chinese Graphic Design Competition (China) and Click- Midwest Print Invitation: Digital Focus (WI, USA). He also received a cougar student design award (USA) and a Honorable Mention from Twenty-seventh Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition (IL, USA).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

From: Mursalata Muhammad
To: HaikuArtist
Date: 1/3/2007 10:26:46 PM
Subject: Artwork Deadline

Greetings and Good New Year!

Just a reminder that the original deadline for getting your pieces to Grand Rapids is January 19, 2007! ...

I've been asked a few (un)interesting questions about our little group. Usually the question comes out something like "After looking at the artists involved in the project, I don't see a connection between their work and the subject of your theme. Is there supposed to be a connection, will there be a connection, and how will a connection be accomplished?"

Here is my response to questions like this (yeah, it's a little long sorry):

Your question of connection is one I’ve gotten before and I’m always surprised when it’s asked. Many of the artists who showed an interest in this project expressed that, though the collaboration was intriguing, they didn’t see how their work connected to interpreting a set of Haiku about the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. My surprise by that sort of response is because I’ve always thought of artist as people whose life work was about connection, experience, empathy and stretching beyond narrow interpretations of individual and collective human experience.

This collaboration doesn’t ask artists to connect their work to the Haiku it asks them to interpret the Haiku. The unrestricted demand of interpretation makes up the core of what an artist is, in my humble opinion anyway. Our fearlessness to reach for interpretation and not rely on what we’ve already done makes the work of an artist a vocation that transcends a resume, curriculum vita, set of images on a website, in a magazine, or hanging in a gallery.

Each artist participating in this project is not expected to dust off a piece of previous work. Each artist has read and been moved by one of the 15 Haiku. Each artist is using their selected poem as a prompt to move toward an interpretation they have not considered before reading the Haiku. Each artist will create a work of art exclusively for what they’ve understood from their chosen Haiku. In creating their artwork each artist’s goal is moving beyond merely making a connection to the human experience embedded in the TransAtlantic Slave trade (and the theme of the 15 Haiku).

When this collaboration is done the various artistic genres that make the exhibit will look much like the present day fruits of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade a sight to behold in wonder with no clear way of distinguishing its once individual parts. So yes, there is supposed to be a connection once artists are moved by one of the Haiku, there will be a connection as each artist interprets the haiku in his/her work, and that connection will be accomplished through each artists’ personal vision of their vocation as artists. So keep this in mind all I say, I say for me and the artists working on this project have some strong feeling(s) calling them to participate. I think it will all be all right.

"summum bonum"

Friday, January 12, 2007


I wanted to make an additinal comment on the Haiku project.
My first thoughts on Haiku#11 is that in a way it relates to my spiritual visual vocabulary as a visionary artist. I have collaborated with Ibn Pori Pitt for many years in printmaking, murals and installations.

Haiku #11
a celebrated
jailbreak from the whale's insides
Cinques come pouring

Historically I've studied artist such as Hale Woodruff and Romare Bearden who have used Cinque as an icon for their murals and prints. Over the years i have created middle passage iconography for my work. I have also visited Goree Island and made my connection with the middle passage.
The piece Ibn and I are working on will speak to that wondering spirit of Cinque and the middle passage.

Saffell peace

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lynn's Statement of participation:

When I read Haiku #13, the words “hope lives in their DNA” kept looping in my head. The words wouldn’t go away so I knew I had to choose #13.

Haiku 13
vomiting out life they are
cargo whose hope lives
in their DNA

Initially I played around with sketches of ship cargo holds lined with bodies layered with current photographs of descendants of slaves, but I wasn’t satisfied. What really interested me about this haiku was the idea of hope and resilience. As a mother, I was taken with the idea that what we begin, what we believe in, what we fight for, is carried on by our children and their children. So in the end I threw out the sketches and started adding DNA symbols as background, hair ornaments and toys to a collage of photographs of my daughter’s Washington, DC public school students.

Bio: Mollye Chudacoff

Mollye is an Art major at the University of California Santa Cruz. Her medium of artistic expression is photography, particularly black and white. Mollye’s major interest in photography is working with issues that deal with social change/documentation. Traveling plays a vital role in her recent work. Studying one semester in Ghana, West Africa this year has been the inspiration for her Haiku piece as well other projects that deal with globalization and neocolonialism.
Bio: Lynn Estomin

Lynn Estomin A videographer, photographer and computer artist who has been producing art that speaks to social issues for over twenty years. Her award-winning video documentaries have been exhibited at film festivals internationally and broadcast nationally on PBS. Her still photography and digital images have been exhibited nationally in a dozen solo exhibitions and over 50 group exhibitions. Her work is part of numerous public and private collections. Estomin has received grants and fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Art Matters Inc., Cincinnati Commission on the Arts, Kodak Corporation, Ilford Corporation, Sony Corporation, SIGGRAPH, the Luce Foundation and Women's Film Project. Lynn Estomin is an Associate Professor and chair of the Art Department at Lycoming College in PA, where she teaches photography, and digital art.
Chris Garcia's Statement of Participation:

In 2005, I began a series of sculptures, collages, and pottery based on the written works of other people. The ongoing project has led to pieces based on such diverse texts as The Kalevala, The Book of Mormon, R. Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, and James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen. All of these pieces took on a playful, strange and whimsical character and were a lot of fun to create.

When I was approached for this project, I thought it was “right up my alley”. After all, I had spent the last two years working as a 3-D illustrator to other people’s text. What I had not counted on, however, was the difficulty I would have matching my style and ideas to Mursalata Muhammad’s Haiku poetry. My “whimsical” approach obviously would not fly, so I could get rid of that, but how about my artistic style? I tend to render figures that are primitive and grotesque. Could this work do visual justice to such a deadly serious and sad subject?

After several failed attempts, I came up with the conclusion that honesty, in art as in life, is always the best policy. From there, I re-read the Haikus and picked out the one that grabbed me personally, not visually. From there, I thought through my choice and decided that my reaction was not only led by my anger at injustice and cruelty, but also my own fears and phobias. What was it like to lie cramped in the dark, sailing to an unknown and dreaded end, shoulder to shoulder with the sick, dying and frightened? You could call out for solace, but you don’t speak the language of your fellow captives. The experience was, and is, the thing of nightmares and something I personally could never have endured. With this in mind, I molded a sculpture in reaction to Muhammad’s Haiku.

I am a mixed media artist. My studio and residence are in New Jersey.
I received my MFA from New Jersey City University. My work revolves around social issues. I am a pacifist. I believe in world harmony. I believe in justice.
This project is important, the stain on our nation’s history needs to be seen, acknowledged, and wept over.
Wrong was wrong, wrong is wrong. Enslaving another human being was wrong. Enslaving another human being is wrong. It is wrong today and it was wrong yesterday. The notion of relativism as an excuse for our forefathers and foremothers is not appropriate.
This is a moment for reflection.
My work for this project asks one to consider the pain, to consider the loss.
Pamela Flynn