Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie (Musings in the language of the ancestors)

In looking at the story of my family, community and culture, I am struck by the love, but also the rage and tragedy.  The women and men who sang through poverty, brutality, murder and indignity strike me. What is it that we have been surviving with this art?   What is it that we have been praying for? Healing from?

Circus Rituals

In 2008 and 2009, I created and performed characters for a cabaret theatre production, Circus Rituals.  My interdisciplinary performances in Charly Brownskin's Circus Rituals included movement, song and poetry.  Most striking about these performances was my use of racist Black imagery from the American minstrel tradition and the tradition of exhibiting native people in the West.  Costuming was a vehicle for conveying  meaning was very important to this work.  I used variations of black face and other elements associated commonly associated with native cultures in the West such as feather and animal skins.

The Misterious Indian (From the Circus Rituals Gallery of Characters)

Jewels Cards

In developing my "Jewels" divination deck, my intention was to create a performance poem in the form of a dialogue.  I used the cards in my Circus Rituals performance as the Misterious Indian.  The random choice of cards left space for the voice of spirit and of the ancestors, while prompting the audience to add their personal story to the narrative.  In much the same manner, the loosely improvisational script left room for spirit in my song and movement.

Songs of the Blue Goddess

In Spring 2009, I directed and performed in my two-woman choreopoem, Songs of the Blue Goddess, originally produced in the 2007 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.  I wanted to reproduce it with conscious attention the Black Theatre aesthetic it contains.  The show combined song, dance, poetry, found images, and video installation of actual family interviews.

masks/spirits of the ancestors
created for Songs of the Blue Goddess
materials: plaster, paper mache, acrylic
and copper wire.

Mariah Massey (Great, Great Granny) The following videos are the media component of Songs of the Blue Goddess, collected in McCrae Georgia, 2006. Aunty (Aunt Estelle) is projected onto the stage as the image of the ancestor spirits in the production. These videos are also part of a larger project; the recovery of my family's ourstory.

Songs of the Blue Goddess 

Camera work by Katrina Strickland

Songs of the Blue Goddess (excerpt)

Kungfu Jane
  For me the composition and performance of song is a complete spiritual immersion.  My creative process, in this case, is not cerebral but emotional and intuitive.   I teamed up with a guitar player, Lowe Harrison, to create the music group Kungfu Jane.   The name is a reference to my mother’s nickname, Karate Jane.  We use the blues scale and rock and roll chord progressions to create a music that experimental but based in a Black aesthetic.  

Streetwalker by Kungfu Jane
Photographs, editing and sound collection by Misty Sol, Guitar and vocals by Lowe Harrison
 John Cage’s collaboration with artist Tudor, David, Indeterminacy, combines narrative, music and noise, inspired my short experimental film StreetWalker. The foundation of the film is the sound of the train, Lowe Harrison’s guitar playing and still images of the ritual of traveling the El line. 

Freakout work in progress Electric Guitar by Lowe Harrison, other sounds produced and collected by Misty Sol and Lowe Harrison
above The Couple in the Cage (Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez -Peña)

Freakout combines guitar played with a glass bowl, the collected sounds of the El Train, the noise of the Philadelphia Streets, and created sounds using piano, knives, chains and sticks.  

Click here to listen to Star Baby, Danger and Freakout on  

  ...experimenting with sculpture and craft arts to create a series of masks inspired by concepts of Black beauty and caricatures of Blackness as seen in the work of visual artist Michael Ray Charles, who works with racist images such as picaninny and sambo.  I began experimenting with images of blackness when I made papier-mâché and plaster masks to be worn in the Songs of the Blue Goddess perfomance.   In my G3 semester, I expanded this technique by actually sculpting and casting the forms using plaster and clay. 


Tribute Performances
Tribute to Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention 2007

Tara (Misty Sol) (left), Ms. Nichols, Davina Stewart (left)

We were asked to write a performance piece in honor of Nichelle Nichols, who was commended by Martin Luther King for portraying Uhura on Star Trek.  Hers was the first positive, strong, non stereotypical African Female role on prime time television. She taught little girls like us how art can move us from dream to reality. Ms. Nichols' art didn't just portray a sista in space, it got us there for real. She was mentor to Dr. Mae C. Jameson, the first black woman in space.

Tribute to Octavia Butler at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, Philadelphia 2005

A medley of Octavia Butler's work, assembled by Tara and Davina out of a common love and respect for Speculative Fiction writer Octavia Butler

by Misty Sol

Deafening defeaning
the hum of mechanical dragon flys in the sky
overhigh shining their bright eye
one shot too shot
lightning in the sky
and the smell of gun powder
ghetto science fiction times
and we expect the mothership at any time.

chapbook cover art and graphic design by Tara A. Pearson (Misty Sol), 2004

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