Art As Re-possession: Ayanah Moor on “The Spaces in Between” Monday 20 May, 2013

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Art can re-posses. The fact is, there is a time to stand out and do your own thing, especially when the decision makers aren’t including your perspectives and experiences in their media, film and creative outlets. But, there’s also a time to re-write and re-interpret the stories that mis-represent or ignore you, put some stank […]

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Art can re-posses. The fact is, there is a time to stand out and do your own thing, especially when the decision makers aren’t including your perspectives and experiences in their media, film and creative outlets. But, there’s also a time to re-write and re-interpret the stories that mis-represent or ignore you, put some stank on it and make it your own. The work of today’s featured artist, Ayanah Moor is about re-possesion.

Ayanah’s wide-ranging talent is demonstrated in her ability to utilize sound, video, and screen-printing to create an experience that makes “meaning with the viewer.” Her work re-interprets pop-culture to highlight the narratives that flow through it, often unnoticed and marginalized. In addition to being our latest creative muse, Ayanah Moor is also an Associate Professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Some creatives are blessed with the unique mixture of discerning insight and talent to create the artistically appealing and intellectually profound. They can both craft work that engages our imaginative selves, our right brains if you will, as well as offer understanding into the culture that surrounds us. Those artistic prophets are rare, and Ayanah Moor is one of them. In this interview, we discuss her artistic voice, pop-culture guilty pleasures, and what living unchained means to her.

Ayanah Moor.

In just 5 words, how would you describe your aesthetic?

queer

blackness

dialogue

familiar

appropriation

 Your work utilizes a variety of artistic mediums, such as, sound, video, and screen-printing. How do you decide which form is most fitting to your vision of a particular work?

I allow the idea to dictate the form my work takes. Sometimes the idea results in using tools I’m already familiar with, but other times ideas invite collaborative opportunities or hiring someone to help me with a project.

Things Are Looking Blacker But Black Is Looking Whiter, 2013
silkscreen on craft paper

Some of your work takes a pop culture occurrence or a media feature and shifts its focus to interrogate its underlying, unquestioned assumptions, as you did with your exhibitions, “Good News and STILL.” What spurred your desire to bring those “afterthoughts” to the forefront?

I’m curious about the spaces in between. I like exploring narratives that are at the margins. I’m also interested in print media. Often, I invert what is given in order to shift the conversation. So in “Good News” I appropriate a narrative about eligible black men printed in an 80’s Ebony magazine and flip it to showcase what it would be like to read a story about women desiring women. For the straight reader, seeing this change displayed as fact in my work may be surprising or even shocking, but for the queer reader it might be a wonderful affirmation to see that desire and love in a mainstream black publication.

Do you have any pop culture guilty pleasures?

I really enjoy the blog, Crunk & Disorderly. It’s how I keep up with black celebrities.

by and about, 2012
silkscreen on newspapers (exhibition view)
The Mattress Factory Art Museum, Pittsburgh PA

Do you ever feel protective over the uniqueness of your artistic voice?  I ask because we have a friend who is a visual artist that says she doesn’t like to go to exhibits, she doesn’t even like staying up to date with what’s going on in the field, because she doesn’t want that to influence her aesthetic – she doesn’t want to “bite” and be untrue to herself. 

My interest in “voice” is not limited to my own. My artwork is in dialogue with other artists and I enjoy making meaning with the viewer. Attending exhibits and keeping up with current dialogue is critical to staying engaged with the art world and academia.

Along with being a successful artist, you are also a professor of art at Carnegie Mellon. Since art is deeply personal and subjective, how can one really teach it?

Once the mystical, magical part is removed from how some people perceive art, there is an incredible history of thinking and making. If a student is genuinely interested in the discourse of art and ideas, there is so much to share, learn and be inspired by. That’s how I approach teaching.

by and about, 2012
silkscreen on newspapers (detail view)
The Mattress Factory Art Museum, Pittsburgh PA

 Is there anything you would like to see more of the art world offering black women artists?

Access and opportunity.

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?

Freedom and responsibility.

Written by Nesrien Hamid and Kathryn Buford

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