I was wandering through Bushwick again, the industrial part of Brooklyn that’s saturated with factories and warehouses. Suddenly, I reach an oasis. The walls of Seven House Gallery are lined with pastel visions, colorful paintings, lucid dreams, ethereal images. I’d walked into Dreamscape, an exhibition put on by Black Cherry. As a dedicated art curator and event planner, Tyla Pink realized the need for a platform to celebrate Black femme and non-binary artists, who are often pushed aside by the mainstream art world. She founded Black Cherry to fill the void. In curating Dreamscape, she pulled pieces from artists within her community, frequent collaborators and work she admired. Tyla envisions Dreamscape as a sanctuary to illuminate joy and take respite in an Antiblack world, crafting a colorful atmosphere full of art that celebrated and affirmed our resourcefulness, sacredness, and beauty rather than the pageant of Black trauma oftentimes paraded in white museums and galleries.
Dreamscape features work by a variety of multidisciplinary artists including Amanda Aponte, Maya Beverly, Isis Davis-Marks, Mckenzie Grant-Gordon, Amara Desta Korley, Moses Leonardo, Desiree Thomas, Alexis Williams and Jaleeca Yancy. The pieces in Dreamscape share the connective tissue of exploring identity, awe, the sacred, ancestral connection, memory, worldbuilding and bliss.
I dream in the space. I take in the familiar mysticism of Moses Leonardo’s self portrait Salt Water. I am entranced by the textures and patterns of textile in Untitled (Beloved) by Amara Korley. A sense of connectedness washes over me in studying the Africanisms of Isis Davis-Marks’ piece Dispossession. I am warmed by the sun depicted in Sekhmet I (Solstice) by Alexis Williams. I reflect on the alienness of Blackness as I stand in front of the vibrant color of Desiree Thomas’s painting No Longer Human. I stare at Maya Beverly’s Untitled sculpture, a mixed media angel rendered in glass, ceramics, silver leaf and concrete. positioned perfectly under a star. I come face to face with my ancestral spirits in Jaleeca Yancy’s mixed media piece Working the Roots: Reimagined Spirit Pixies in Afro-American Art - Unearthed Pixie. I grow nostalgic for moments long gone with loved ones in the velour darkness of Amanda Aponte’s Untitled (Times You Showed Me Things on Your Phone You Thought I Would Like). I am reminded of my grandmother Two Mommy immigrating to the states from Jamaica in the blues of McKenzie Grant Gordan’s piece Audrey’s Dream. I feel at peace in the space.
The energy is infectious, smiling as far as the eye can see, dresses and getups befitting of a gala. In addition to choosing the artwork, Tyla has also curated the drink menu. My drink of choice for the night was the Marie Antoin-ette cocktail infused with Flora Rosa courtesy of Ette Spirits. I bop my head to Tyla’s playlist, an ambient mix of everything from the R&B of sultry Londonite Ojerime to CLIP’s tough raps and featured artist Moses Leonardo’s dance infused crooning.
Intrigued to know more, I spoke with Tyla to get a deeper understanding of her intentions behind curating Dreamscape and the importance of centering Black femme and non-binary visions.
JL: How did you go about selecting the artists for this show?
TP: When selecting the artists to include in Dreamscape, I considered those whose practice would tie into the key themes – remembrance, wonder, euphoria, imagination, ancestral connection, and dreams. Everyone, included in Dreamscape is of African descent & identifies as women, femmes or non-binary, so I also wanted to show how diverse Black artists can be from a technique and thematic standpoint as well.
JL: What threads do you see between the pieces in the show?
TP: One commonality I observed was a connection to the earth – the use of natural materials (Amara Korley), natural dyes (Jaleeca Yancy), and pieces about the artist's relationships to nature (Moses Leonardo, Alexis Williams, Isis Davis-Marks). I’m definitely seeing a movement towards Black and Brown people reconnecting with the land, hearing about specific deities tied to Earth, and of course the ongoing impacts of climate change – it’s interesting how many of the pieces in Dreamscape connected back to those themes. Desiree Thomas took her work in a different direction with a piece taking place on an entirely different planet, which was her interpretation of Dreamscape!
JL: What were your intentions behind solely featuring artists from the African diaspora?
TP: My curatorial work is tied to my art platform Black Cherry and its mission has always been to highlight Black women, femme, and gender non-conforming artists.
I originally started Black Cherry because I was uninspired by the representation of Black visual artists in the press, and especially disappointed with the lack of representation of Black women and femme artists – especially those who are emerging & aren’t represented by established galleries. I wanted to carve a space for those I admired, but didn’t reach major recognition yet. Everyone I’ve encountered through Black Cherry has been doing incredible things, and it’s so rewarding to watch them on their journeys and work intimately with them!
JL: What kind of refuge for Black folks does Dreamscape seek to offer?
TP: Although we’re existing in an extremely difficult moment in time – globally, nationally, and locally in NYC, I really believe the show couldn’t have happened at a better moment. It’s so important for Black people to have spaces where we can express ourselves, have meaningful conversations, make connections, and be inspired creatively. For four days, Dreamscape was a refuge for myself and others to do just that. Bringing the concept to life and curating the space with some of my favorite artists was my own slice of dreamscape as well. It allowed visitors to find inspiration and encouraged them to contemplate their relationships to the dream realm.
JL: Can you define Dreamscape for me?
TP: The show title is actually a reference to Kemistry & Storm’s Dreamscape mix. I’m a huge fan of Jungle music, and the way I feel when listening to old recordings of Kemistry & Storm, and other musicians of that moment was a springboard for the show. Aside from the reference to music, I thought the themes surrounding Dreamscape were necessary to explore at this moment, both collectively and for me as an individual. It’s so important for us to imagine a different reality for ourselves. I feel that a lot of our imagination and dreams have been suppressed, so Dreamscape is a way to reclaim that.
Dreamscape is…..touching the grass and smelling crisp air, journaling by candlelight, immersing yourself in the ocean, the feeling you have after a long night of dancing, chatting with a friend about your biggest goals, pondering on what utopia looks like, and so much more. Dreamscape exists for all of us.
I felt an immediate connection to the works in Dreamscape, owing to my filmmaking practice that's based on my West Indian lineage and ancestors. The prolific author James Baldwin held that “an artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian”. As artists within the African diaspora, Dreamscape is an active documentation of our lost ancestors and hidden lineages through the processes of worldbuilding and rememory, a term coined by Toni Morrison to describe self actualization through reliving a memory. Tyla and Black Cherry are a force to be reckoned with, providing a dreamy alternative to the boring hegemony of the white art world.
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