Music is one of my old time companions when it comes to making, arting and art making. I used to have a playlist for drawing, one for cooking and playing in the kitchen, one for oil painting and one for everything else. But in the past two years i seem to have compiled the whole thing into a single playlist. It no longer feels the same. I don’t feel the same anymore. Things were different. Things are different.
Someone suggested i share this concern with you, Tumblr, and here i am.
Byron Kim: As an African American artist concerned with biography and history, you have a limitless store of subject matter. To me, content is the most important part of art, and the most difficult to acquire as an artist. The black and white paradigm that frames the issue of race in this country is basically constructed by white people, but I still sort of envy the idea that any time you need subject matter you just dip down into the well of blackness. I can’t do that. I should be critical of the whole setup, which I am, but the setup strangely benefits you as an artist, even if its relationship to you as a human being is more complicated.
Glenn Ligon: Envy is a curious, fascinating word in this context. Why are black people, marginalized and disenfranchised, enviable? The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (and the twentieth, I suppose) were not happy times for my people, yet we survived all that and became Americans. If i have a well to dip into, it’s filled with almost four hundred years worth of permutations of what blackness has meant and speculations on what it might mean in the future. It’s curious to me that our experience seems central, seems to be the quintessential American experience. Toni Morrison argues that blackness has been used by other groups to define their Americanness, blackness being placed at the limit of what it means to be American. So, obviously, exploring blackness as a subject matter tells you about what it means to be anything else in this country. Also, blackness—like Malcolm X said about whiteness—is a state of mind. There is no consensus on what it means, and each individual and generation has to renegotiate its meaning. I’m just adding my two cents to the debate.
Byron Kim’s interview with Glenn Ligon in Glenn’s book Unbecoming.