Category Archives: Freedom

“Art is the Battery”: Delphine Diallo Discusses Her Photography and the Magic of Spirit

Magic Photo Studio, Delphine Diallo

“We’ve been influenced by the pessimistic vision of photojournalism, and the obsessive, perfect fashion aesthetic…These images are still in my mind, printed in my subconscious. It is time to transcend them.” –Delphine Diallo

Delphine Diallo transcends the status quo in photography by simply following her spirit.  Trusting it led her to Senegal–her father’s homeland, Indi–the little girl that became her muse, and dipping herself in blue after being inspired by the film Avatar.

Delphine was born in Paris and currently lives in New York where she has continued to work as a photographer, graphic designer, illustrator and filmmaker among other creative ventures. After graduating with distinction from the Académie Charpentier School of Visual Art in 1999, she worked as a graphic designer and animator for several musicians, including Coldplay, Smashing Pumpkins, and Manu Chao.

In speaking with Delphine about her background, travels and views on art and style, we learned that her major influences are love and spirit.

Indi, Delphine's Muse and Mona Lisa, Delphine Diallo

Avatar, Delphine Diallo

How does your background influence your work?
Being mixed and having an African dad and a French mom makes me realize that I might have something different to express. Also, working in the music industry with great artists inspires me to create artwork that is personal and very emotional. It helps me to take a risk and be totally free–to open my mind about a different vision of the world.

Some say art is like a window into themselves and the world. Do you agree?
Yes it is… art is a reflection of my thoughts, my beliefs, my fear, my love about the world. I have direct connection with the world… it is like a fluid, where media influences become secondary and where your mind is feeling every single moment of your life and translates to your own vision through photography. This vision becomes the part of your real world and you are able to build a strong link with the world around you.

Photography allows me to develop images that transcend stereotypes in a world that consistently perpetuates a singular attitude as to what is deemed beautiful.

"Monica" and "Azza" from the Queen of New York series by Delphine Diallo

What does art allow you to discover about yourself and others?
Art is the key to live in a better world if you know how to use it.  Art has opened my mind to understand how as an individual you can contribute to improve others life too.  I became more tolerant, less selfish, giving myself the freedom to understand the other and discover that without your friends and family, you won’t be inspired.

Can you tell us about how Africa came to be a recurring theme in your work?
Africa is the first place where I was inspired. In this land, no one is running and people take time to share and stay in family. I’m inspired because of the nature, light, people, colors, wildlife…everything about Africa is inspiring. It has a pureness of the beauty of the moment.  A natural moment is unique, like a magic chemical, instant. My pictures are raw and full of natural emotion.

"Dream Life" from the Renaissance Series by Delphine Diallo

You created a body of work called “Renaissance,” which captures images from your trip to Senegal? Can you share with us what you learned from your experience in Senegal and what you wanted to capture in pieces inspired by that trip?
I FLEW to Saint-Louis, Senegal, land of her ancestors, in search of Something permanent. “Renaissance” is the body of work that resulted from this trip. It is a series of stories in which the protagonists are heroes of ancient tales, where beauty and violence coexist on parallel planes, the one reflected and made possible only by the other. The men and women featured in “Renaissance” are spiritually strong, beautiful, full of life, and proud despite life’s cruelty. In “The Beautiful Ones,” Anta, an eleven-year-old girl appears frequently in the photographs, symbolizing youthful strength, potential and innocence not yet lost. Khady Kebe & Loli, two seventeen year olds represent young ladies full of life, joy, and (perhaps naïve) hope for a better future. Kine Diop is a twenty eight-year-old who represents the proud African queen, symbolic of maturity and serenity in the face of hardship. My work is often autobiographical and these women are me at various stages of my own life. The images encountered are filled with weakness and suffering. “The Goats” depicts tranquility and slaughter, innocence as well as a supreme vulnerability culminating in death. “Le Boucher” is the story of a slayer, one who carves food from the dead to sustain life. He represents the cycle of life – destruction, distress, and the raw violence of reality in balance with life-sustaining nourishment and renewal. metaphorically, “Le Boucher” also represents a broken heart cut in pieces. The flesh is dead and from this carcass the spirit is reborn.

"Universal Magazine" and "Superstar" by Delphine Diallo

"Oulofs" from the Magic Photo Studio Series by Delphine Diallo

Could you talk about the use of collage and layering in your art? What draws you to merge photography and other mediums as seen in your collection “Magic Photo Studio”?
Photography is a process that can be reproduced and copied. I was trying to find a way to do something unique, so… I was definitely interested in drawing on top of it. The purpose of “magic photo studio” was to create a strong link with my family that i just discovered.  It was also a powerful message about giving love through photography to the one who makes your life beautiful.

You once said your art reflects “spirituality and lots of love.” Can you say more about that? Would you consider yourself spiritually grounded and do you think that helps your art?
Being spiritual is sometimes something that you have in yourself since you are born.  Let’s just say that for me, I was already with strong spirit but I didn’t know what it was. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s like having a lot of energy and feeling and not knowing how to use and control it for a long time. The maturity and experience help you to channel this power and transform it through art. Love, love is the key.  It is hard to love yourself and be confident but that’s the first part, to be able to embrace your spirit.

Art is the battery, a meditative process to connect with yourself… you will believe I am crazy… but I think we should be able to be educated this way. Our wisdom and connection to the planet have been lost growing up in the 21st century.

What does living unchained mean to you?
I am, and my life is a journey to discover everyday what I’m going to become–with no fear.

Follow more of Delphine’s art, thoughts and musings on her blog, http://delphinediallo.wordpress.com/, and visit her professional site at http://www.delphinediawdiallo.com/.

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Dreaming Through Art: Our Conversation with Daisy Giles


I aim to explore the beautifully natural and the stunningly fantastical…to express things that are inexpressible in words, which only live on the tips of tongues, in the subconscious, and in dreams of suppressed purposes and identities. –Daisy Giles

Live Unchained had the pleasure to speak with painter Daisy Giles, who studies and creates art in Minnesota. An admitted Harry Potter fan, she recognizes the magical in everyday life and translates that into vibrant, fantastical and beautiful paintings. We discussed her art, creative process, and inspirations.

Photo of Daisy Giles by Gyasi Jones

Can you tell us a little about your artistic background?
How did you become interested in art and why?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mother’s and my paintings cover the walls in our home (and my father’s office). My mom always loved to paint, as did both of her brothers and her own mother, so I suppose you could say its in my blood. Art was always a hobby for me however, and it wasn’t until taking some elective art courses at the University of Minnesota that I was opened up to the idea that I could pursue art as a career. I am incredibly thankful to my parents for always being supportive in this interest – my father bringing home stacks of recycled paper from his job for me to draw, my parents’ paying for private and community art classes when I was younger, building special storage in their basement for my artwork, and most recently – providing me with financial support that enabled me to quit my job so as to spend more time on the my art as I complete my BFA program. I am incredibly and eternally grateful to them for supporting my passion.

Mette by Daisy Giles. Oil on Panel.

Of your art, you’ve said:
In my work, I aim to explore the beautifully natural and the stunningly fantastical…My work is meant to express things that are inexpressible in words, which only live on the tips of tongues, in the subconscious, and in dreams of suppressed purposes and identities.

Can you say a little about what you mean by this? How did you come to be committed to this purpose?
Guilty pleasure and embarrassing admission: I am a Harry Potter fanatic. I love the Twilight series, I love fairy tales and folktales, I love campfires and spooky stories, and I love the idea that there is hidden magic all around me. I also am very interested in showcasing the beauty in things and people as they are: round bellies, soft bodies, wild hair, and humped backs. I feel like I am constantly painting portraits of myself, be it how I feel or how I want to feel.

The relationship between these two interests is what I am most concerned with exploring. I like the tension it creates when these two ideas collide. I think that there is something magical in every one of my paintings, something hidden and secret, something private, but something powerful nonetheless. I like playing with the simple situation of a beautiful and natural woman, pot bellied and relaxed, with the implausible situation of her hair growing three feet past her head and branching out to become a resting place for nearby birds. I like creating images of things that aren’t actual possible but that I wish were possible and that somehow feel like they could be. I think that these feelings are ones that many women can relate too, but that they perhaps can’t quite put their finger on and can’t quite define. When I am creating images, its always to express a feeling or an idea that I feel cannot ever be fully expressed in words.

Pomi's Roses by Daisy Giles. Oil on Canvas.

We’re sure it differs from piece to piece, but in general, can you share what the creative process and inspiration has been like for your portraits and your new series, Roses? How would you describe the aesthetic of these pieces?
The works in Roses, like all of my final works, begin with sketches, sketches, sketches. I let myself daydream and sometimes I let myself sleep. I like to create environments unto themselves, where my subjects are able to ponder whatever they so desire in solitude. Roses was no different from my Trees & Birds collection, in that I wanted to create these fictional locations, however in Roses, I really wanted the focus to be much more on the environment and on that seclusion than on the subject. So, rather than use the sparse open spaces that I created in my previous series, I came up with this concept of flowers crowding and encasing someone. I always begin my sketches with an overwhelming feeling (or some times multiple feelings) that I want to come across and then I go from there.

Who are some of your artistic inspirations?
Kara Walker is a huge inspiration. Her work literally gives me chills. I think I am so enamored with her work because she is able to walk that line of fantasy and the barely plausible so well. Her large-scale installations allow her to place the person viewing her work into her created environment and further heighten the tension created by the dark and violent images she creates. I admire her ability to create extremely beautiful and delicate images that are at the same time so heavy, so disgusting, and so off-putting. Mark Ryden greatly inspires me for similar reasons, although these tensions are expressed very differently in his work. I sometimes spend hours browsing his website and I absolutely never become bored with his highly detailed and romantic surrealism.

Ms. Paris by Daisy Giles. Oil on Panel.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I am constantly working on new and different projects. I like to keep it moving so that I am never bored with what I am working on and so that I always have five different things I can work on at once. However, I am currently most excited about my first portrait project. I have always drawn and painted commissioned portraits for those that would like them, but the portraits in this current project are created completely on my own terms. I am using real people and their real personalities for inspiration. (-Big thanks to my good friends who didn’t put up a fight when I begged them to model for me!) I have so far completed three of these life-size portraits and I have four others in progress. It is a new direction that I am very excited about.

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?
Living unchained can mean many things, but to me, it means following your gifts and your passions without fear. The fear of failure can be overwhelming at times and I fall victim to it as easily as does anyone else, but it is important to me to not let that fear paralyze myself from action. I plan to give my art everything that I have and I’ll know then that I tried. The worst case scenario is that I never make it big, but I do know I will have created some beautiful things along the way and that’s okay with me.

Join Daisy’s e-mail list here http://daisygiles.com/contact.html to get the latest on her shows, exhibitions, new work, and publications.

Meet Res. Res Rocks!

We love “There’s No Way” by Res, a beautiful tune about defining freedom.

Get her latest album, Black.Girls.Rock! for $Free.99 here.

Poets Are Leaders

I guess it’s funny that I feel more comfortable calling myself a leader than an artist. I came across this poem by Maya Angelou and realized that you can’t be a poet without being a leader.

A Conceit

Give me your hand

Make room for me
to lead and follow
you
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.

For me
Give me your hand.

Perhaps it does take a bit of conceit to think your experiences, dreams and passions could be instructive to someone else. Of course, many of us may not intend to lead with our works. We create because something in us needs freedom and form. We know if we tried to contain it, we would implode. Still, our work takes people on a journey that they wouldn’t have taken or even known about if we had not used those words, colors or sounds. Obvious politics or not, art is leadership. It can take us to scary places within ourselves or drag us out into the sunshine.

Our personal creations are the evidence of our courage and unity. It is always a risk to write, but the fact that it may be received by someone on a similar journey makes it worthwhile.

Warrior poet Audre Lorde once said:

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

I was recently speaking with some friends about why we do not share certain creative pieces with people. I wish I had mentioned Audre Lorde then. She makes my voice move when it needs to and motivated me to share the piece below. This poem came about after I received a big career opportunity based on my performance, but still felt like a little girl scared to show her face.

Then

When I have nothing
to prove.

When I have nothing
to hide.

Then,
I will be free.

Toni Cade Bambara tells us,  “The job of the writer is to make the revolution irresistible.”  She also explains, “Revolution begins with the self, in the self.”

Which poets lead you? Where do they lead you? Do they make change irresistible?

About The Editresses

In light of all the interviews that we have done, some folks were surprised that Kathryn and I had not shared more about ourselves. So, we finally decided to interview each other. Here, Kathryn and I discuss our backgrounds, current work, and of course, what living unchained means to us.

KATHRYN BUFORD

You are studying sociology. Why did this subject matter interest you?
Sociology, simply put, is the study of society and the local and global communities and forces that shape it. Also, as a social science, many sociologists conduct experiments and develop theories to better understand social issues. So, I think everyone is a sociologist really—everyone has tried to make sense of the world and how they fit in it and why.

I became interested in sociology because I had a strong understanding of social injustice and inequality at an early age. I thought sociology might help me understand the social processes and problems I was seeing better…I think it has.

You are studying sociology. Why did this subject matter interest you?

Professor Delores Aldrige

I have SOOOO many opinions about this. If there were and audio button that I could insert here, you would hear me screaming: YESSSSSS!!!! Many black female sociologists are concerned with issues of race, class, gender and sexuality.

They have been strong advocates of the feminist “personal as political” concept, which explains that the discrimination that individuals experience in private spaces cannot be separated from their public interactions. Black female sociologists were also important in popularizing the concept of intersectionality—the idea that our race, class and gender identities, for example, cannot be separated.

Two important women in this regard are professors Delores Aldrige and

Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

Patricia Hill Collins. Let me say that what I admire about both of them is that they have acknowledged the black women who have come before them and are creating spaces for more black female voices. Delores Aldrige’s, Imagine a World: Pioneering Black Women Sociologists discusses the important contributions of black women to the field of sociology and academia, in general.

As for Patricia Hill Collins, I’ll try not to say too much about what she means to me because there simply aren’t enough words (maybe a million would get me halfway there…). Perhaps, her most recognized work is Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment —I read this book and it became a part of me. I am so grateful and honored to have her as an advisor. I see so much consistency between her words in Black Feminist Thought and how she approaches the discipline of sociology and interacts with her students—she doesn’t want to be idolized, she wants her work to stand for something and liberate minds. She makes me proud to be a part of this profession. (By the way, her nickname for me is “Miss Thing”).

Most importantly, both of these women have incorporated their knowledge into their activism; they have fought and risked a lot for their beliefs—they were truly unchained. I think many black women sociologists bring the field back to its roots as a discipline that aimed to not only make sense of society, but to better it. Sociologists in this camp include Harriet Martineau, W.E.B. DuBois (love him!) and Karl Marx who famously stated: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point, is to change it.”

What does living unchained mean to you?
Some women live in societies where it is dangerous, even deadly to speak honestly about the way they see and understand the world. So, for those of us who can share, why would we take our voices and talents for granted? Living unchained means living with an awareness of the world around us and knowing women’s voices in it matter—deserving respect and an audience.

Living unchained also means being true to yourself and not waiting for things to be perfect or having something that someone says you need to have to act or speak your truth. Anna Julia Cooper did not earn her PhD in sociology from the Sorbornne until she was 66. She had gone most of her life sharing her social analysis and critique without having a formal titled that said she was “qualified.” I think that many women are waiting or simply have chosen not to speak because someone discouraged us; we don’t think we’re good at it, we haven’t studied it, we don’t want to be misunderstood. So we kill our potential, we bury our creative voices. Living unchained means coming back to life and squeezing all of the juice out of it. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m know I’m getting closer with every blog post, every dance, every tear.

MIRIAM MOORE

What do you do when you’re not working on Live Unchained? Is there anything else you like to do creatively?
When I’m not working on Live Unchained I’m often working on other design projects either for clients or myself. Digital media is my primary tool for creating art, but I also enjoy taking out my camera or paints and pencils and working in those mediums as well. Sometimes I find that I can take elements of those creative experiments and bring them into my graphic design.

What made you interested in graphic design? What do you like about it?
As a teenager I took a graphic design class and was hooked. Back then I hardly knew what graphic design was, but I loved how it merged technology and creativity, and I wanted to learn more about it.

There are many things I like about graphic design. As a designer I love to help my clients realize a vision. Many of my clients need logos or marketing materials for businesses they started or projects they are a part of. It is great to create a sharp logo to show of their business or develop marketing materials that help to more clearly articulate their message.

As society and technology changes, so does graphic design. It is a communication tool that has the ability to bring across important messages when used responsibly. I like responsible and thoughtful graphic design because of its utility and beauty.

Do you have any advice for people interested in graphic design or creating digital media?

Graphic design can be beautiful and it can be seductive as well. It is important for designers to be responsible and conscious of what they produce and put out in the environment. Graphic design can be just as effective in selling cigarettes as it can be in selling the idea of quitting. Make sure you take the opportunities when they arise to create something meaningful.

Can you share some examples of your work?
Sure, I’d Love to! In addition to the pieces seen below, my design work can also be viewed at: www.miriammooredesign.com.

Also, I just started a blog: www.miriammoore.wordpress.com, where I will show work that is not on my website. It is sparse now, as it is just getting started, but stay tuned! I would love to receive feedback from the live unchained family.

BOOK JACKET RE-DESIGN- I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS: In this jacket re-design I experimented with using type as image to create the birdcage imagery, and included paint elements in the piece as well.

PEZ WALL GRAPHIC- PROJECT FOR EBAY CAMPUS: Ebay wanted a fun wall graphic for their toy themed building. To create this wall graphic each PEZ dispenser had to be shot individually with a high resolution camera and photoshopped to fit seemlessly into the auditorium image. This image shows the final wall graphic.

ROCK TIMELINE - PROJECT FOR EBAY CAMPUS: To maintain a varied and fun environment for their employees, E-Bay has several buildings on their campus each with a different theme. This poster was a large wall poster for the music building on that campus.

JAZZ TIMELINE - POSTER FOR EBAY CAMPUS To maintain a varied and fun environment for their employees, E-Bay has several buildings on their campus each with a different theme. This poster was a large wall poster for the music building on that campus.

What does living unchained mean to you?
Living unchained is allowing yourself to create and speak your truth honestly and freely.

Spare a line?

Because our two favorite “ivities” are collectivity and creativity, we wanted to invite you to a special gathering…

A potluck poem is a poem that is created collectively by a group of people who take turns sharing words. We would be so honored to have you join us by sparing a line or two and posting it in the comments section below this post as Miriam and I have.

The theme is freedom–so share whatever line you think speaks to this. Most importantly, you should feel free when you write. Don’t worry about what someone else wrote or think too much about what you should say–just share and we will love you. =)

We will post the poem, in its entirety, on Monday, March 8th as one document to be downloaded from this site. The final collective piece will be read and recorded by one of our contributors and posted as a video blog the following week.

Happy writing!

The next part is a creative opportunity for our contributors with a poetic spirit and access to YouTube or Vimeo. Learn more at our contests page.

What is Live Unchained? Tell us, and get a prize…

(English/Español)

We want you to tell us (1.) what Live Unchained means to you and (2.) why you want to contribute to and or support this project.  Anyone can participate, in any language—this includes our brothers and sisters outside of the continental United States.  Simply make a comment to this post.  In no more than 5 sentences, respond to both points (1.) and (2.).

The editresses will review the responses and announce the reply that we feel touched us the most.  The “winner” (even though we love you all) will receive a free t-shirt from our Live Unchained store.  The winner will be announced, February 22, 2009.

Here is what Live Unchained means to us:

We have described Live Unchained as a collection of women coming together, from across the African Diaspora, to collectively create a multi-media anthology.  Beyond that, however, it is a way of thinking and living (a philosophy), as well as a movement.

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