Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cold Storage



My first foray into the wilds of true adulthood, sans semester and financial aid, I found myself, and two others, in the San Fernando Valley.  Studio City to be exact; off Coldwater Canyon in a two level apartment building that was a doppelganger for Melrose Place.  The manager was, appropriately, a Scientologist, cautioning the three of us against psychiatric drugs and urging a diligence to what she called our ‘tone scale’.  June was delightfully English but her skin was disturbingly orange.  Not from tanning but from carrots, I think, and I imagined that me and my mates would become rich and famous from a line of t-shirts we inexplicably managed to sell at Fred Segal, and, more successfully, in front of Trader Joe’s. 

But I also had a day job -- held in tandem with my Apparel Design and Production studies at Los Angeles Trade Technical College -- before The Recall and Schwarzenegger and the shift in higher education funding.  I worked as a sales clerk at a designer resale shop in Sherman Oaks.  A lengthy stroll from our apartment, down Ventura Boulevard, and supplying a sporadic dose of celebrity sightings, a la Alicia Silverstone and Justin Guarini’s mom.  A red blooded consumerist American, I’ve always loved stuff, but I considered being surrounded by barely worn Gucci and Prada and Balenciaga more as extra-curricular support to my fashion studies.  Plus I got fantastic pickings and an employee discount on top of the discount; but the best part about the gig had to be the furs.  Before arranging itself into a resale shop Casual Couture was a full service fur boutique.  It’s proprietor, a Polish Holocaust survivor and Argentinean transplant; he still kept cold storage on the premises along with conditioning and glazing services, which I found out were a requirement if you wanted to keep your full length at its best.  Cold storage is essentially an industrial closet, kept frigid and filled with every kind of fur-thing imaginable.  Sheared beaver, lion, ocelot, mink, fox, ermine, leopard and Persian lamb.  Stoles, car coats, scarves, full lengths, jackets, hand muffs, hats and jumpsuits, each with assigned spaces for ease in retrieval.  Mary Wilson the Supreme kept her pieces there.  It was luxurious and fascinating and creepy.  The idea that you would have to pay rent for an item of clothing was just so beyond, especially since the rent on our apartment was monthly struggle. 

And so it goes, nearly 15 years later - storage and its malcontents. And the NYC rent struggle too.  But I still like stuff.  Clothes are my weakness though, having died and gone to heaven via Bill Cunningham - but these days I make stuff in hopes of creating a physical legacy.  My art practice is enamored with objects and ephemera, and I’m trying to figure out the logistics what to do with the work I can’t sell.  Which, as an emerging artist means there’s a lot.  As in mainly.  Overwhelmingly.  Unfortunately? My uncle, who is an economist, once had a project where he calculated empty storage spaces in the U.S. as a variable for the gross national product, as in the emptiness actually had calculated value.  Perhaps that’s the lesson from my latest no-money move.  The angst about storing my work could be obliterated by (gasp) giving it away. I don’t have the answers, but I don’t believe that developing artists should be suckered into commodifying our work as the only assignment of value.  Maybe, by creating a network of sharing, emptiness becomes a vessel – an add-value space to push the work further. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

Grand Duchess Publications: Hood Tales


I fancy myself a bibliophile (I get it from my mama) and I have yet to meet a bookstore I haven't loved.  It's a wonderful problem to have and my eventual nesting impulse is evenly balanced by a need to have a home base and a home for my library.  As illustrated by my love for Strawberry, I do not not have discriminating tastes.  Hood Lit or Ghetto Fiction is a particular pleasure.  And, while some use American Black Vernacular to reveal the nuances of more mainstream classics, I believe that 'Hood Tales' provide and enviable examination of contemporary culture.  My collection and interest in these literary morsels is substantial, so much so that I've included certain details in my creative practice - the latest of which will be on view at Rush Arts come October, via an exhibition entitled GIRL-BYE.  Check below for a sneak peek of Grand Duchess Publications...

(None of the titles are available for download...YET.)

WHEN CHICKENHEADS COME HOME TO ROOST

By Yvette Moore

Dorothea Cash, Camille Banks, Evelyn Price and Zenia Benjamin compose the core members of an elite group assembled by the FBI’s CoIntellPro.  Intelligent, charming and stunning - these beauties each has their own terrible secrets – hanging debts now collected by the federal government, in flesh.  Dorothea, the sharecropper’s daughter, is a long way from Mississippi, but the life she longs for is farther than she ever thought possible.   Frustrated by a career in academia that is never to be, Camille uses her brain and body to get what she wants.  Evelyn, of fair skin and straight hair could easily pass into whiteness but a true love keeps her in sepia’s shade.  While Zenia’s past seems to be the only thing she can’t outrun. 
Expertly trained in the seductive arts, their latest targets are a reverend in Atlanta, a community organizer in Harlem, a lawyer in DC and a Hollywood entertainer.    A plan well executed could mean lack of want for the rest of their days, but also the destruction of the most important social movement in U.S. history.  But what happens when fate brings four women together and they realize that any true happiness has a legacy?

Historical fiction

THE GUNSHINE STATE

By Shavonté Cheek

The year is 2050 and Florida has been transformed into an armory pleasure dome.  Airports, hospitals, schools, strip clubs and theme parks throughout the state are the only places that require checking your weapon.  Church tithes can be remitted via cases of ammunition and all matriculating students must pass a gun safety and target test for admission.   It is state law.  The T. Martin Statue, passed in 2025, stipulates that vehicle and gun registration are mutually contingent.  Eligibility of gun registration is determined by the legal acquisition of a gun by the applicant’s paternal grandfather.
There have been many deaths.

Ballistics expert Cassandra John loves the science of guns.  A veteran of the Miami-Dade Police department she has served with pride for nearly 30 years.  Her son Trayvon would have turned 30 this year, along with Michael who would’ve been 27 and, her baby, Sean, who might been gearing up for college if his daddy’s father hadn’t been a preacher and a pacifist. 

They are all dead.

But she and her husband Matthew live with the sorrow…
…and the technology to make a body a weapon.

Science Fiction

BABY DADDY KNOWS BEST

D’aquarius Smithson

Pop Duwop is a midmarket superstar who has never encountered a problem with the ladies that he couldn’t solve with a heavy dose of the “d”.  A two hit wonder, Pop Duwop, has shrewdly managed to parlay his success into neighborhood chicken joints, cell phone emporiums and strip clubs; all while racking up an impressive harem of 11 baby mamas.  Latoya, Diamond, Precious, Stephanie, Mercedes, Wanda, Michelle, Porsha, Taj’ee, Ursula and Kelendria have become sister wives of a sort, bound together by a love for their patchwork family and a collective desire to give their 13 children the best life possible.  But the annual baby-mamas’-only-trip to Anguilla ends in tragedy - the result of an overloaded aircraft.

Now Duwop is a full time Pop.  Can he handle the rigors of fatherhood without adding another member to the tribe? 
Melodrama


JESUS BE A LACEFRONT

By Princess L. Wallace

It’s Minneapolis, but this ain’t no escapade.

Shirelle “Belle” White and Denise “Niecy” Adams have been sisters in style since they first put scissors to a Dreamdate Barbie.  Growing their business from kitchen sinks, to garage washbowls, to a full service salon frequented by the most discriminating clientele; they’ve enjoyed local celebrity and an impressive cash flow.  But ambition runs deep and these two will stop at nothing to make Belle & Niecy’s a global brand. 

Their latest venture is a range of hairpieces and lacefront wigs handcrafted from human hair of impeccable quality.  These natural blond bundles require no extra processing to achieve its luxurious golden shade. Their sources are a mystery – a heavily guarded trade secret, but there have been a rash of missing person reports.  Mostly white, young and male.  And rich.  Very rich.
Mystery/Suspense