skating through the pandemic: Stephanie Clark

Hi Stephanie! It’s such a pleasure to meet you in real life. You’re the first person I’ve met on Instagram and then brought to a real-life photo shoot. I’m such a fan of your joy and plant exuberance and kindness. First question: tell me about your paintings! I just found out you’re also an artist (in addition to all your other amazing hobbies and career pursuits). How did you get started? Why is painting your favorite medium?

Drawing and painting are things I’ve done for as long as I can remember, but I started using my current style of acrylic painting when I entered high school. I started experimenting with a lot of different mediums around that time, and acrylic paint turned out to be my favorite. I can usually produce some pretty bold, solid colors with it, and I love that it dries quickly. My favorite thing about painting is that it allows me to observe and reproduce colors that may not be immediately obvious when you look at something. There’s a whole rainbow of colors even in items that appear to have only one! 

What experiences have you been able to enjoy because of art?
There are so many treasured experiences that being a part of the West Michigan art community has given me, but my most recent favorites have been doing murals for the city of Grand Rapids this summer, hosting my first in-person art sale during the May 2021 Art Hop (I was sponsored by the lovely Kalamazoo State Theatre), and seeing my work get tattoed. There is truly no feeling like seeing something I drew immortalized on someone’s skin, and several really cool people gave me that joy this year! I am deeply honored that my art is a part of some people’s daily lives.

I‘d love to know about your research projects and experiences.
I started my first round of field research in the summer of 2018 right after my junior year of college. I had recently decided that I wanted to be an Ecologist instead of a Veterinarian, and I knew that spending a summer deep in the woods of rural Michigan would help me figure out if this was the right path.

My research partner and I were studying an invasive plant species called Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) at the gorgeous Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, and since I’d lived my entire life in the city of Grand Rapids, I felt like I was entirely out of my depth at first. I was battling a pretty intense phobia of insects at the time (which is ironic given my current research), so there was definitely an adjustment period. I ended up conquering my fear by learning as much as I could about the insects I frequently encountered, and eventually I became very comfortable with them and the outdoors by the end of that summer.

That’s awesome!

I graduated with my B.S. in Biological Sciences at the end of 2018 and immediately started working for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) as an Environmental Education intern. This experience allowed me to develop a passion for science communication and sharing my love of plants and insects with different audiences. In the second half of 2019 I began working for both Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners and The Plant Parlor in Grand Rapids. I was able to develop my skills as an entomologist by trapping and identifying ants in the lab while also strengthening my skills as a botanist by memorizing everything I could about the plants I tended.

I’m currently in the second year of my PhD, and my research centers on how butterflies and moths are affected by climate change and human activity. There’s a massive and very concerning insect decline happening worldwide, and I want to do my part to help figure it out. Although plants are not the main focus of my research anymore, I still get to feed my inner botanist by raising thousands of them for my caterpillars to demolish each summer. Since my entire graduate school experience has been during the pandemic, it’s certainly been difficult in some unforeseen ways, but I am forever grateful that I get to study and interact with the organisms I love all the time. 

Absolutely! I imagine that it’s incredibly satisfying to combine so many of your interests and loves in your studies. New topic: what advice can you offer someone wanting to “make peace” with their body and their way of moving?
I started roller skating a few months before entering a very painful time in my life, and it was the only activity that helped me feel anything other than turmoil for a long time. When I was at my worst, skating was the only thing that got a genuine smile out of me due to the sheer joy of what my body could do. Whether its skating or any other type of movement – my best advice is to let it transcend your thoughts and become a form of meditation. Use it as a way to celebrate and check in with your physical body since we live our whole lives in these strange little meat suits. Even if we never make peace with all parts of ourselves, movement can help us make incredible amounts of progress.


What’s your favorite thing about living in Michigan? Your least favorite?

Due to the oddity of my profession, I get to live in the woods and observe some incredibly beautiful wildlife every day. Living in rural Michigan has given me so much insight into who am without the convenience and bustle of a city. My spiritual beliefs are entirely nature-based, so being immersed in the seasonal changes of the woods around me has been insightful and comforting in ways I didn’t know I needed. My least favorite things about Michigan are the cold and the racists.

Ugh, yep, both of those things suck in very different ways. Thank you for your honesty! Last question: where do you draw inspiration? What art, books, music, etc. bring you joy and/or insight?
I draw a lot of inspiration from my dreams and nature. I have had extremely vivid, meaningful, and intense dreams since I was a child, and I’ve found that documenting them over the past year has given me endless fuel for my artistic endeavors. My favorite animals, snakes and crows, are often in my dreams and in my art. When drawing or painting organisms, I almost always reference natural science field guides for anatomy and color. The artists whose work is featured in these books have my undying respect due to how detailed and realistic their craft is required to be. I have several insect, plant, and bird field guides in my personal library and am always looking for more! 

Follow Stephanie’s adventures on Instagram and check out her art here!

“There is Always Tomorrow”: art & poetry

I know (and appreciate the humor of!) Thomas Fucaloro from the slam poetry scene in the U.S. When I found out he was releasing a collaborative chapbook of poetry and art, I was very excited to snag a copy! The design and illustrations in this lil book are so well done. I particularly love the Ralph Steadman-esque illustration accompanying the fourth poem (right). 20180819_011405.jpg

My favorite poem is the profound, personal “List of Secrets I Keep From Myself”, which reminds readers of the importance of healthy self-esteem and confidence.

This chapbook seems particularly well-suited for art book collectors or quirky people. I plan to use two or three of the collaborations in my poetry workshops for middle and high school students, as the content, formatting, and “doodle” vibes are approachable and fresh. I would love to see more illustrated poetry collections like this one!

There is Always Tomorrow is available from Mad Gleam Press for $10.

money & guns: this is america

Gambino’s new video “This is America” is a thoughtfully choreographed masterpiece, evocative, timely, crucial. I was reminded of others’ work, Danez Smith, Claudia Rankine, Michelle Alexander, Jess X Snow, Myles Golden, George Abraham, Toni Morrison, Khalid Abudawas, and I felt that this video is poetry, that it takes audiences on such a stark, emotional journey, and it does so well. This project uses every imaginable aspect to convey violence, corruption, and terror. Each swell, musical style, and rhythm is meant to bolster the content of the lyrics and visuals.

The very first glimpse we have of Gambino is when he comes into view from behind a beam: taking us by surprise. Before the first sound loop changes into the next section of the song, we see him pull a gun out and execute the guitarist, terrorist / POW-style right after grooving to the intro, aka in the middle of ordinary activities.

After the commentary indicative of a Black Lives Matter / cultural truth “we just wanna party”, the chorus dives into critiques of guns, police, and the divide between people of color (particularly dark-skinned Americans) and inner city police forces (“Don’t catch you slipping up” and “guerilla”).

His main entourage or co-stars in the video are young; including young dancers is a beautiful statement and nod to those learning and dancing young, particularly to those youth of color in inner cities (the school uniform aesthetic) who dance for fun; it also serves, as culture and roots remind us, as an homage to inner city youth of days past.

Obviously one of the most fucked up and therefore powerful images in the video is when he slays the church choir. But the very way the scene is set up is also a powerful statement; Gambino slips in a side door unnoticed, meaning we as the audience probably didn’t even notice the door until he came in, since we were so focused on watching the choir perform. He acts at home, dances, smiles, laughs, freezes, turns, catches an assault rifle, and guns down the choir. During my first time watching the video, I said to my husband, “I almost had to expect that after the first guy he killed.” That in itself is part of the statement. How often do we just feel numb to the news of another mass shooting, another school shooting, another person with access to a gun who had never passed a background check, another bucket in the ocean of reasons assault rifles should not be manufactured for civilian sale. Another instance of Conservative gunowners possessing more rights than victims of gun violence.

The next scene depicts police and violence against individuals dressed in street clothes, hoodies, loose pants, etc. During the middle of this scene, Gambino jumps on beat and makes eye contact with the camera while singing, “Whoo, whoo!” He jumps playfully, sings goodnaturedly, as though the officers are a joke. As though the scene is a joke. Because how Black men are treated in this country by the police SHOULD BE A JOKE. But it isn’t. This irony packs a punch.

He dances again with the group of young people. He plays it off. It’s not ‘serious’; it’s normal for these kids to be dancing in the middle of chaos with the police; their neighborhoods are overpoliced and underserved. This generation is growing up when Black Lives Matter and social media and everyday life in their communities teaches them that this combative existence against the police is normal.

The lyrics during this section focus on a materialistic critique, a critique about caring about superficial things (“geekin out”; “fitted”; “Gucci”; “so pretty”). Then, the content moves in on a critique of guns and international weapons trafficking (“contraband”; “the plug in Oaxaca” (a city in Mexico); “blocka”). You’ll notice also that as the camera pans over some kids sitting on a balcony / second floor of the building, one kid is recording everything on a phone; this serves to critique the normalization of recording violence. I’m sure others who teach or are around teens can attest to this prominent habit of theirs today. When I was in high school six years ago, only a few (and I’ll be rude and call them shitty) of my peers recorded fights instead of getting help or trying to intervene. Now, I see my teen students pull up videos of fights or show off footage they recorded almost daily. They don’t seem to mind the wrongness of laughing at and celebrating violence; they’ve been desensitized. Inner city violence is multi-faceted and has a long history that can be traced directly to racism, segregation, poverty, systemic discrimination, intentional drug ferrying, redlining, gentrification, and on and on. But none of this okays the celebration of violence.

Gambino pauses in the next moments, and the music stops. He lights a joint. Casually. Pointedly. Again, a critique. Others of us light up to escape, to ignore, to waste time and not improve the problems laid out in the video.

I know there are so many things that have escaped my notice or that I can’t catch as references or significant because I lack the knowledge. One of these is the significance of all the parked, abandoned, hazards-flashing cars. I notice a young woman perched on one car’s bumper who seems to blow a kiss as the camera pans out.

The song shifts again, a second moment where we expected the song to be over, yet it continued. Point being, yes, these problems, that’s just it, they keep going. There are that many of them. They remain unsolved, placed on America’s back burner.

The final section of the song sounds like an outro or like background music in a slow-mo or timelapse portion of a movie. The part of the movie that isn’t content persay but filler. The scenes that help you understand the transition or the passing of time. The story being depicted here is Gambino running, terrified, from the police. But this is just something that happens. It’s just filler, just time passing. Right?

The conversation continues in the words of many other, wiser writers and people. Individuals on my Facebook timeline have pointed out references to Fela Kuti and New Jack City. I’m not pretending to be an expert by any means, but I’ve been a fan of Gambino’s for years, and this new video is fucking powerful. Thanks for reading. What do you think of what I unraveled? What did I misinterpret or miss altogether?

And may the universe bless Donald Glover.


Featured image credit: Highsnobiety & Donald Glover

Hannah Berry: Art is a job

When did this journey begin?

In October 2013. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, honestly. I was a single mom. I have a degree in art education [and wanted] to use it somehow.

[Initially], we had a lot of zoning issues we had to go through. We gutted [the building] and are still refurbishing it in sections. We just started getting off the ground this year in March.

Now, it’s super sweet to be able to work with other creatives. Doing weddings makes it easier for me to let artists do things here for lower costs.

The more recognition the place gets, the more my niche gets recognized as healthy. This is my way of helping people.

What a great partnership! What all goes on at Lions & Rabbits?

We have:

  • three yoga instructors
  • a meditation coach
  • a swing dance group (Rapid Rhythms)
  • art classes for children and adults
  • family days on Saturdays
  • we host weddings and events (max. occupancy is 135)

Also, all art pieces that are hanging up for sale are [from] local [artists]. A lot of people don’t buy art. [They] usually don’t give a shit about art, but then they like what we have [here] and start hanging it in their offices.

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Tell me about your own art career.

I paint and draw on wood. Instead of doing actual woodcutting, I’ve been doing jigsaw cutting. With my daughter, Haidyn, I do a lot of collaborative painting. [She’s] almost six.

[My dream is] I want to do murals. I want to travel and do murals. Real goals are to make the roof a botanical garden for weddings and events. I also curate other venues.

Fun fact: Hannah started hiding a stick figure in all of her art pieces. Is your family supportive?

My husband, Chris, is obviously. My dad’s a small business owner and my mom just graduated from business school. I’ve always known that art’s my jam, and they’ve always been supportive of everything I’ve done.

Keep up-to-date with all things Lions & Rabbits by liking their Facebook page and stopping in to see for yourself what’s happening in Creston. Located at 1264 Plainfield Ave., Grand Rapids, MI.

 

poetry as spiritual practice & homage: interview with Dominique Christina

Kelsey May | September 24th, 2017

Dominique Christina: poet, champion of slams, acclaimed performer, author of two books (including the first and so far only poetry collection my husband has read in its entirety – high praise indeed). I first saw Dominique perform at the Split This Rock poetry conference in 2016. During her performance, I became convinced that the best spoken word poetry is page poetry, literary poetry. Dominique blended words, alliterations, alchemed magic on the stage, and the audience was enraptured; I know I wasn’t the only person with tears streaming down their face while listening to Dominique detail the terrified escape of a slave across the historic Mason-Dixie line.

Thank you, Dominique, for doing this interview with me! How long have you been writing?

​I started writing poetry when I was 22 and in a Creative Writing class in undergrad. That course changed the trajectory of my life. I was forced into a kind of honesty that I didn’t think was available to me. But it was, and once I engaged it, I never looked back. It still took me more than ten years after that to read anything out loud, but it was miraculous for me.

[Since then], I have tried to be a more deliberate writer. I am an accidental poet but not an unintentional one. I am an elegiac poet. I write about those who have died. I feel a responsibility to them… to a great many people. When I first started writing, it was largely autobiographical. And it still is, but there has been a shift in consciousness for me. I am interested [now] in re-fleshing the bones of others.

dominique christina 2

How do you blend performance poetry and page poetry?

Whatever is excavated from me is excavated, and I make a spur of the moment decision about what I share out loud and what I do not. But I recognize that language is urgent, and it deserves an appropriate reckoning. [I give it] the weight it deserves.

Poems like “I tell her about Jasper Texas” are difficult to read, painful to digest. They’re well-written and convincing enough that I find myself picturing a scene I don’t want to picture. Could you comment on the process of writing this piece and others like it?

​There is a nagging in my spirit, in terms of these elegiac poems specifically, but also poems that are largely social commentary; there is a nagging in my spirit that I can’t quiet down. So I wait. I wait on the words to come, and they always do. It feels ancestral. I believe it is ancestral. It’s like falling into the deep. I don’t know if I will hit the bottom. I don’t know if there will be arms to catch me. I don’t know the destination. I just know something in my consciousness needs room to move, so I give it room.

the bones the breaking the balm.jpg

One of my favorite lines from your debut collection, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm, is “make me wanna curse my own sugar” from “The Shug Avery Mimicry”. How have you dealt with people who don’t support you?

​I don’t pay attention to detractors too much. I don’t hold court with them, and I don’t give them relevance. I really mean that – so much so that it is literally erased from my consciousness. I have had to fight to name myself, and I have had to mean my life all my life so I am predisposed to self-resilience. It’s second nature. I don’t expect things to be easy, but I do expect to be victorious. I refuse to hate any part of myself. I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to be silent, and I will never apologize for any of it. ​

One area we document and celebrate at Hyype is natural beauty, self-esteem, and confidence. We LOVE your naturally beautiful self, especially your hair and fashion.

​I wear my hair the way it comes out of my head. I love my hair. I don’t need coaching around that, but I recognize that many of us do need ​it, and I know why that need exists. I think the natural hair movement is as much about challenging standards of beauty as it is about deep affirmation that we are enough and have always been enough.

dominique christina

Hell yeah. Thank you for the many ways you empower others. What do you consider a highlight from audience and reader reaction to your work?

I am always deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear how the work resonates with others. I am doubled over in gratitude for those who have told me that my work permissioned them to heal. That’s a hallelujah every time. ​

​What are you working on now?

​All the things. Branding for Under Armour. Writing for HBO. Traveling. Touring with my sister Rachel McKibbens as Mother Tongue Poetry. Finishing volumes of poetry. Working on an a mixed media art exhibit​ called The Ruined Woman. All the things.

​Mixed media? That sounds promising. I look forward to seeing what you create! What else is important in your life? I believe you’re a mother. How do you balance your writing career with other aspects of life? 

​I don’t know how I do it. It’s a magic act. But I have a very supportive family. They want me to be in the service of my gifts. I am met with no resistance on that front. Everybody stands back to let me get my crazy done. I’m lucky. ​


Interview edited for grammar and clarity. Photo credit: DominiqueChristina.com.

short poems

Beautiful and Broken

by J. A. Anderson 

The most

Beautiful art

Comes from the

Most broken

Minds

 

Stories Never Die

by J. A. Anderson

The smell of

Pages aged by

Time

The binding

Broken by

A hundred hands

The title

Almost unreadable now

So faded,

But not gone

And yet the

Stories never

Die

 
Dad’s Shoes

by J. A. Anderson

when i was little

i used to wear

dad’s shoes

and stomp around all day

but Now

I only stare at his

Military boots

And cry over the

Only thing

Left of him

 

 

More Poetry at “always anxious, sometimes brave.” and “A Handful of Roses.”

I cut off twelve inches of my hair. The Art Form of Self-Expression.

My hair was over a foot long. So for my birthday, on July 13, I decided to have it cut.

All together, they cut off about four feet of hair which I plan on donating to a program called Wigs For Kids (linked below.) I’ve donated my hair three times now and will continue to do so as long as my hair grows.

My hair now hangs a little longer than chin-length and I’ve never felt so confident and empowered from a haircut. Maybe it’s the wave in it. Maybe the length. Maybe because it makes me look a little older. But I feel ready to take on the world.

I also like feeling a little rebellious. My hair is short and dyed a blue-green color, which is not very “feminine.” Girls are supposed to have long, natural hair, right? Nowadays, it has become more normal for people to have different haircuts. Pixie cuts, shaved heads, long hair and everything in between. But still, it’s fun to be a little rebellious now and then.

And then I dyed it blue with real hair dye. Not Kool-Aid, which I have also done. I love it so much. Not just because it looks cool or because it’s fun, but because it’s self-expression. Everything you do is an art form, it’s self-expression. Have fun with it!

Speaking of self-expression, I really do think it’s an art form. How you dress, how you do your makeup or if you choose not to. How you act. The things you love. The way your hair is styled. It’s art 1. I think it’s so beautiful that people like to present themselves in different ways that they think is beautiful to them.

If you are looking for some sort of change, get a fun haircut. It’s empowering and fun. It makes you feel good.

Do you have a lot of hair? You should try donating. Wigs For Kids is linked here.

Is your hair dyed? Do you have a cool haircut or just got one? Let us know in the comments!!!

art1
ärt/
noun
  1. 1.
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Choose Happiness

While talking to a few of my friends one night, an interesting topic came up. Happiness. My friend said he was going to be a lawyer and I asked him if he wanted to be a lawyer. He said, “It isn’t about want.”

After a little bit more talking, he explained that he could be rich and retire early, give his kids an easy life. He said he didn’t have a problem with it, he didn’t see a problem. He also didn’t see how happiness and enjoyment came into the equation.

So I started to think about how so many people choose to do something for money. And yes, having money is helpful. Especially in this new up and coming world, where everything cost ten-times-more.

But whatever happened to happiness?

Nowadays, everything is all about working, being “successful” and following the crowd. But that isn’t happiness. So what do you think?

Happiness or success?

Why not both? Find something you love and turn it into a career. Do what you love because one day, you might regret only working for money while not being happy.