Erika Roberts is a creative force. With words written and spoken, she brings power to her art using her strongest tools: language and love. In this new blog takeover series, Erika not only gives us a look into what it’s like to be a collaborator forced to work from a distance during a global pandemic, but she’ll also introduce the GHC team through the lens of the shutdown later in the series.
We are now in this weird tango dance of staying in or going out braving the conditions safely. It has been a wild dance full of masks and antibacterial gel. We have Instacarted, Zoomed and Doordashed ourselves into an anxious tizzy. We are feeling rushed to show back up in the real world the same way we were back then. The quarantine has us trying to live our best lives within 4 walls. We tried new recipes and picked up new hobbies. We made new friends virtually. We have learned some very valuable lessons. We cried together over the changes in our world. We became angry together. We’ve marched together. We have protested together. We have had to have hard and brave conversations alongside the raggedy roads of racism. Here we are but back to what? By the way, there isn’t a vaccine or cure for the Coronavirus or for racism.
This new way of life started months ago with the pause. We had to STOP. We had to catch our breaths only to lose them in so many other ways. We cried in the comfort of our homes only to cry in public over the deaths of those that didn’t have to die. We all became their voices. Many learned the deep meanings of things that they never even thought about. Many have returned back to the basics. Taking care of our families has been a great focus. Spending time caring for ourselves has been an entire, separate and loving goal.
In that pursuit of a happy return, self care has shown up in hobbies based in the arts.
Many have returned to their first loves within the arts. Many never left their lanes of creation. They began creating based on these times. Artists are healers. Life plays a huge role in how artists build visions.
We will write, dance, sing, and create in response to THIS time.
During the early parts of the year and into the quarantine times, I performed and wrote per usual. The work that I was doing was meaningful. I was approaching the month of March still on a high from performing at the Hunter Museum with Marcus Ellsworth. That particular performance (February) was special to the both of us because it w
as about something that we identified with immediately.This p
articular installation spoke to the parts of black people that didn’t believe that they were enough. This piece has the words “I AM SOMEBODY” repeated over and over. The words are clear at the top but then begins to fade at the end. In February (month before quarantine)of this year this art piece began speaking and we listened.
This art piece is housed at the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga, TN.
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960)
Untitled (I Am Somebody), 1991
Oil stick, gesso and graphite on wood, 80 x 30 inches.
On loan from Art Bridges: : AB.2016.8.
Art has been saving us during this uncomfortable time. I relied on it from the beginning. I had to find my place as an artist during the quarantine. It was hard and painful. I had to write about IT. I needed to find a way to use my gifts. I had to create.
March 12th (beginning of the shutdown)we revisited the “I am Somebody ” installation with an intimate group of people and I could feel the mood of uncertainty for what would be happening in a few days. We would be in complete shutdown in a few days after that performance. Fear was being served on social media like free appetizers. Confusion was iced in a highball glass cup. We are facing societal demons as they try to choke the life out of the culture. I am thankful that I have jobs that thrive from the impact that art has on the world. I get paid to be creative. It has been an interesting challenge these days, I must admit. It is an honor to be able to work through an organization that values art and that believes in Black Creatives.
WE (you and I) must remember that we don’t have to do ALL of the things in order to seem productive right now. If we make it through the day, we are good. If you manage to do more, then make it happen. Be gentle with yourself right now. Allow the power of the arts to move you. Be inspired by the good and bad of this time. Challenge yourselves to be prepared for a new way of life. Welcome it.
Whitfield Lovell (b. 1959)
Charcoal on wood and found objects, 47 x 48 x 7 inches,
Museum purchase made possible by the generosity of the 2000 Collectors’ Group
This art installation is housed at the Hunter Museum
This piece speaks to the nostalgic view of hope. All of the rallies, sit-ins, marches and speeches were done in the hopes of changing the lives of the black community.
The last Mason jar is empty. It represents the future view of hope. This administration is testing our desire to see better days.
With this I wish you a happy and hope filled day and weekend. I am sending you all positive vibes and love.
Meet mE back here next Friday. My words will be here and I’ll leave a light on for you.