Despite Being Planted in the Shade, She Grew
If you take a look at the TILA X ART BASEL 2018 page, you’ll notice the floral imagery and the title of the cohort we’re taking as the 2018 Garden Fellows. Our garden theme is rooted in who we are. It’s inspired by Alice Walker’s collection of speeches and essays in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. Our founder, Tiffany Latrice, said that TILA was conceived in her living room with her best friend after reading it in 2016. It became the inspiration for the first show, which is now the signature group exhibition at the top of the year, and laid the precedent for what TILA was to become.
Last week, film director, producer, screenwriter and distributor Ava DuVernay evoked the flower imagery in her speech to veteran actress Cicely Tyson at the 2018 Governors Awards. Tyson became the first Black Woman to receive a Honorary Oscar by the academy. She was crowned by and around a whole group of phenomenal black women actresses, among others. DuVernay said in describing the honoree:
“My word is flower and the way that the painter Georgia O’Keeffe said what a flower is. She said a flower is relatively small compared to the rest of the universe. Everyone has many associations with the flower, the idea of flowers. Still, in a way, nobody sees a flower really. They haven’t taken time to truly look and to notice. To see takes time. Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, ‘I said to myself, I’ll paint what I see, what the flower is to me. But I’ll paint it big. And they’ll be surprised. And they’ll have to take the time to look at it. I’ll make even the busiest people take time to see what I see in flowers. I make people take time to look.’ “
We can’t get over this captivating and historic moment. With not only respect to the flowers and the intention of the artist, but to being a black women actress/artist too, it was special to us. O’Keeffe’s interpretation of the flower is so symbolic of black women’s artistic works and pursuits. For years the output and its creator have been undervalued, denied and largely ignored. But that didn’t stop many black women who still said, I’m going to, I MUST get this out of me and put my stories, my art out there before I leave this earth. For this reason, the EmpowerHer Brunch was our own homage to the black women artists, collectors and curators who made a way, blazed a trail and opened doors. Women who were the first but won’t be the last or the only one anymore. People like our Keynote Speaker Naima Keith, Thelma Golden and Solange Knowles. That is why at TILA we also say, “Give them flowers when you see them.” Because we want them to know that we see, we honor and we value. How beautiful is it that we can say that and, furthermore, do it in a space both for seasoned/ veteran and emerging artists and people of the industry!
We fell in love with that #blackgirlmagical moment for Tyson, who has centered black women’s stories in mainstream cinema and television for a large part of her film credits and career. And when DuVernay said she reached out to her powerful network of sister-friends (being able to text Oprah, no less!) to collectively share how Tyson impacted their lives, we were here for that part of the speech too.
Garden Fellow Ayanna talks about community being all we have. The ability to lean on each other and love on each other. The ability to celebrate and push each other. The ability to, as DuVernay put it, “encourage, empower, enlighten and inspire.” It is paramount to actually SEE black women artists in the fine arts space so that when it is asked where are they, we can say they are here. ADVOCATING for equity and access because we want to raise the stat from just four percent of black women artists in fine arts institutions to #AboveFour.
SHARING the secrets to success to help the next generation of artists and industry insiders because helping someone else shine their light does not dim your own. Word to Miss Cicely L. Tyson. Muva. Queen. Legend.
Frankly, for black women and fine arts, we’re kicking it up several notches and uniting at the nationally and internationally recognized Art Basel Miami Beach. Multigenerational and multiethnic women with varied roles, disciplines and points of entry will gather at the Perez Art Museum Miami over delicious food and suave drinks. Will you be there or will you stand on the sidelines to witness history as it unfolds right before your very eyes? Will you tune in online or miss the moment that could spark your own breakthrough?