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Meet Shani Peters, 2015 SOAPBOX Honoree

May 18, 2015

We asked Shani Peters, LP alumni and 2015 SOAPBOX Honoree, a few questions to find out more about her connection to The LP, what inspires her creative practice, and more. Read on to find out what she had to say. (Photo by Sonia Louise Davis)

Tell us your bio in six words or less.

Lover of laughter, justice, and beauty.

 

How did you first connect with The LP?

Via a blind studio visit with Petrushka “2 Brainz” Bazin Larsen.

 

What motivates or inspires your creative practice?

Taking my own ideas serious enough to cultivate them. Also music, new experiences, and a love of people—particularly those who fall into various underdog categories.

 

You’ve worked with The LP in many capacities: as a teaching artist, artist-in-residence, and Artist & Community Council member. Can you share an experience working with The LP that was particularly inspirational?

The first capacity I worked in with LP was as a teaching artist leading workshops on the sidewalk outside the Laundry Room, three blocks from my apartment. That experience taught me that making space for people to sit down on the premise of just one hands-on, imaginative thing can get them to open up to a conversation about anything. That lesson inspired my LP residency work, my teaching practice everywhere, and influences the way I imagine executing and sharing my own ideas and work.

 

In 2013, you brought an independent film festival to a local Harlem laundromat, showcasing work by 32 artists and filmmakers. How did community members respond to your residency project?

This question makes me smile. Let’s see… they responded with questions, confusion, a fair share of quintessential NYC indifference, AND with laughter, smiles, more questions, bobbing heads, black power fists, hugs, and VOTES!

 

You grew up in Michigan, but have since made Harlem home. What do you love most about Harlem?

Harlem is the place in this country, more widely recognized than any other, where black people have formed together like Voltron and radiated ridiculous levels of brilliance across discipline. The people here carry this legacy in their DNA and walk in that shine whether they are up or down, in or out. There is a shared knowing here, I love walking with it.

 

What is your favorite book, film, and / or album about NYC?

Do the Right Thing.

 

Short answers (please tell us the first word that comes to mind!):

 

art:

Ideas

film:

Spike

culture:

Life

media:

MakeMyOwn

power:

Shared

community:

We

race:

Capitalism

print-making:

Catlett

self-determination:

MentalSpace

studio:

Everywhere

music:

HipHop

laundromat:

Project

neighborhood:

Harlem

love:

IsEverything

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

So, I just heard this the other day and it’s been blowing my mind like I was 6 years old ever since… “If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you always had. If you want something new you’ve got to do what you’ve never done.”

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Shani Peters is a multi-disciplinary, Harlem-based artist whose work explores community building, activism histories, and reinterpreted notions of media. She is currently enjoying a one-person show at the University of Michigan. Shani was a 2013 artist-in-residence in Harlem and has been a teaching artist with The LP since 2010.




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Meet Glenn Ligon, 2015 SOAPBOX Honoree

May 17, 2015

We caught up with artist Glenn Ligon, our 2015 SOAPBOX Honoree, to find out a little bit about what inspires his work, his connection to The LP, and more. Read to find out what he had to say. (Photo by Paul Mpagi Sepuya.)

 

What is your bio in six words or less?

I’m an artist from the Bronx.

 

How did you first connect with The LP, and what inspired you to be such a wonderful supporter?

I connected to The LP by word of mouth, from the buzz on the street about the wonderful work the organization was doing, and from a prior relationship with Kemi Ilesanmi, who I met many years ago in the context of curating a show in Minneapolis.

 

What motivates or inspires your creative practice?

Making art is a way of thinking about the world so what motivates me is to think more deeply about the world we are in, the events from the past that have shaped it, and to speculate on where we might be going.

 

Your new book, A People on the Cover, which traces the shifting representation of African-Americans through book covers, is being published this year by Ridinghouse. You began this exploration during an artist residency at the Walker Art Center (working with our executive director Kemi Ilesanmi when she was a curator there). What led you to return to this project a decade later?

The book has been germinating for a long time. It was first suggested as a project by Hamza Walker and Anthony Elms, two curators who saw the show I did using book covers at the Walker with Kemi. It took so long to get it to press because other projects got in the way but when I was working with Ridinghouse on catalogue for another show I approached them about publishing A People on the Cover and they jumped at the chance. The book feels timely in the light of ongoing debates about black lives and representation: how we are represented, how we might represent ourselves and the overlap between those two binaries.

 

You were a teenager in the Bronx at a time when graffiti culture was nascent, but would soon explode into a worldwide phenomenon. Did this influence your relationship with the visual dimensions of text? How did growing up in the Bronx inform your practice (if at all)?

I was less directly influenced by graffiti than by the idea that text could be art (though I always thought graffiti was art, which was contrary to what my mother thought. She just saw it as scribbles by neighborhood hoodlums that needed to be painted over). Ironically, it was my mother’s belief in the power of literature that was my biggest inspiration. She took books seriously and even with limited economic means she made sure that whatever book I wanted to have I could.

 

What is your favorite book, film, and / or album about NYC?

Films:

The Warriors

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

The French Connection

 

Books:

Teju Cole, Open City

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Patty Smith, Just Kids

 

Free-association—tell us the first word that comes to mind:

art:

citizenship

language:

is a virus

book:

speech

biennial:

venice

culture:

nature

community:

home

race:

body

television:

online

studio:

laboratory

music:

regeneration

art fair:

get thee behind me Satan

laundromat:

hub

neighborhood:

microclimate

love:

life

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

Keep up the good work at The LP!

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Glenn Ligon is an NYC-based artist whose art examines race, language, desire, sexuality, and identity. A mid-career retrospective of his work opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2011. He is included in this year’s Venice Biennale, and his painting Black Like Me #2 is on view in the Obamas’ personal quarters in the White House.




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Meet SOAPBOX Print Artist Xaviera Simmons

May 12, 2015

Meet 2015 SOAPBOX Featured Artist Xaviera Simmons. Check out Cedar (A), a special edition print by Xaviera, available for preorder now.

 

Image: Performance still from Xaviera Simmons: Underscore, commissioned by The Aldrich Museum Of Contemporary Art, 2013

 

What is your bio, in six words or less?

Photography, Performance, Video, Sound, Sculpture and Installation.

 

What is your neighborhood and what do you love most about it?

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and in upstate New York. But my heart is always also in California—LA and the landscape there.

 

I travel a good amount so home is wherever I go. I have lived in Williamsburg for a good long while and I think I love its proximity to the water. I love being reminded that we live on an Island. Any connection to natural spaces are the most fulfilling spaces for me.

 

What inspired you to support The Laundromat Project?

I am proud of the work that The LP does. It’s so vital to our worldwide community that creativity is sparked and nurtured on all levels and everyday. I have seen The LP grow and mature in so many phenomenal ways and I admire the projects that are being fostered as a result of The LP. It’s just cool.

 

Could you tell us a little bit about the print you’ve chosen for The LP edition?

Cedar (A) is a work I produced in 2009. It’s a part of a larger body of work involving characters in landscapes with record album covers as one of the focal points in the work. I like to think of this body of work as a layered image where inside of the image there is an opportunity to contemplate the photograph as a whole as well as the individual components that make up the image.

 

Contemplating the landscape that houses the character and the character inside of the landscape and finally the image/portrait that the character holds. How do these layers resonate with the viewer? Have we seen characters like this before? I try and make things I have never seen before and also to think about non-linear narrative and characters developed in relation to various landscapes.

 

What’s your favorite sound, texture, or color?

The sound of the ocean anywhere. The sound of the birds who surround my home upstate who sing all day long and there are a lot of them. The sounds made by the amazing DJ’s on a night out in NYC.

 

I love all textures and all colors because they give me information that I can use in my work.

 

Do you have any upcoming shows or exhibitions scheduled?

I do and I am really excited about them. Here are a few below:

Soundwork (Frieze NY)

Photograph (Guggenheim)

Sculptural and photographic work (No Longer Empty)

Large scale sculptural installation and large scale photographic work (Pérez Art Museum Miami)

 

Please tell us about an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you.

I am a big fan of Naomi Beckwith, Thelma Golden, Isolde Brielmaier, Connie Butler, the great Helen Molesworth and Trevor Schoonmaker as far as curators go. Although I have worked with so many great ones.

 

There are too many artists to even begin to answer that question. I love looking at art all the time. For me art is design, and it’s fashion, and it’s architecture, and sound, and food, it’s the landscape and theater and cinema. It’s all over and it touches everything.

 

As far as projects go.. Hmm, that’s also tough for me to narrow down. I can’t say a singular one. I don’t generally think in terms of favorites…Although I am very impressed by Toni Morrison or John Ashbery’s projects of writing the same way that I am influenced by Neil Young, Kanye West’s or Nina Simone’s projects of music production. I’m no good at narrowing down favorites.

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

I try to be a thankful person all day long.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Xaviera Simmons’s body of work spans photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture and installation. She defines her studio practice, which is rooted in an ongoing investigation of experience, memory, abstraction, present and future histories-specifically shifting notions surrounding landscape, character development and formal processes, as cyclical rather than linear. In other words, Simmons is committed equally to the examination of different artistic modes and processes; for example, she may dedicate part of a year to photography, another part to performance, and other parts to installation, video, and sound works-keeping her practice in constant and consistent rotation, shift, and engagement.

 

Simmons received her BFA from Bard College (2004) after spending two years on a walking pilgrimage retracing the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade with Buddhist Monks. She completed the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in Studio Art (2005) while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with The Maggie Flanigan Studio. Simmons has exhibited nationally and internationally where major exhibitions and performances include: The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, The Studio Museum In Harlem, The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Public Art Fund, The Sculpture Center, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum; David Castillo Gallery and The Savannah College Of Art and Design among many others.

 

Selected upcoming solo and group exhibitions for 2015 include a commissioned sound work for the 2015 iteration of Frieze, NY along with the exhibitions Accumulations, Light Work Syracuse, Foto, Annin Arts, London, Number 16, Kemper Museum Of Art, Kansas City, Radical Presence, Yerba Buena Center For The Arts, San Francisco, Where Do We Migrate To, Vamlands Museum, Sweden and When The Stars Begin To Fall, ICA Boston among many many others. Her works are in major museum and private collections including Deutsche Bank, UBS, The Guggenheim Museum, The Agnes Gund Art Collection, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Studio Museum in Harlem, MOCA Miami, The Nasher Museum Of Art at Duke University and The Perez Art Museum, Miami. Simmons is the recipient of significant and numerous awards including a 2015 Recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Art Grants To Artists Award for Visual Art.