• TILA Studios

You Can Throw That Rock But Paper Always Wins

Updated: Mar 9, 2018

Toyin Ojih Odutola Lecture at SCADShow

Author: Tiffany Latrice



It’s Wednesday, February 21, a beautiful evening in Atlanta. It’s the perfect day for a #LBGC (lit black girl creative) meetup. I love our #LBGC meetups because they happen organically. They are genuine, invigorating, and filled with nuggets of magic that leave you inspired.


When I arrived SCAD Show around 6:15 p.m., I scurried quickly through the doors to meet nine other black women who so graciously held my seat. As Toyin walks us through her practice with brilliant metaphors and an uncanny awkwardness, we begin to learn more about why portraiture and skin are landscapes, shapes, permeable and impermeable blackness for us to learn more about ourselves.


She reminds us that “the portrait is an occasion for marks to happen, it’s not about presentation, but fiction to reveal itself.”


Toyin admitting “there’s no shame in not knowing” comforted our ears. Often times, we belabor the idea that we should know, that every mark has to have intent, and that a ‘just because’ moment in a body of work is unfathomable.


We all found peace and surrendered to Toyin’s words because finally, someone was speaking our language. A black woman who has exhibited in the Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum admitted that sometimes she just doesn’t know.


She reminded us that your practice will resemble a “rock, paper, scissors” match between you and the work, between you and the public, between you and the white walls of a gallery. That no matter how hard you may throw a rock, paper will always suffocate, its whiteness and subtle abrasiveness may leave you hopeless. But the weight of the rock, it’s tenacity, carrying the weight of rejections and uncertainty, is what will keep you going.


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