Q&A with legendary fashion icon André Leon Talley
The curator of the Mint’s exhibition The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta and star of the fashion world spoke to the Mint’s director of public relations and publications in 2018 just before the opening of the exhibition. Following is the article that published in the Winter 2018 INSPIRED member magazine.
By Leigh Dyer
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT TO KNOW OSCAR DE LA RENTA?
My first meeting with Oscar was in December 1975, when he and his first wife, the late Francoise de la Renta, invited me at the last minute to their table for two at the annual Met Costume Institute dinner. It was held in December in those days, and it was a very small, intimate society dinner and celebrity-filled. Diana Vreeland had spoken so highly of me to the de la Rentas that he simply made space for me at his already seated table.
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HIM?
My first impression and my lasting impression, was he was a great man of impeccability, elegance, well-groomed, and polite. He also had a wonderful charm and smile. His whole being simply exuded a natural nobility of goodness and sunshine, warmth, laughter, and generosity. All the real things that matter. I miss him every day and his second wife, Annette, was also a close friend of the first Mrs. de la Renta. They both love beauty and comfort, nothing over the top, as the late Bunny Mellon said, “nothing should be noticed.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF HIM?
I loved watching Oscar dance and sing. He was the best dancer and did the best merengue. He was so soigné, even dancing. And swimming, in his native Dominican Republic. He also had a voice that was as rich and warm as his heart. He was kind, but he also had a wicked sense of humor, loved telling the anecdotal historical narrative of French high society in fashion-for example he went to some of the famous Paris society balls. And I loved him telling the narrative of those glamorous women.
WHY DO YOU THINK HIS DESIGNS WERE SO SUCCESSFUL AT CONNECTING WITH THE PUBLIC AND POPULAR CULTURE?
His designs impact everyone, from the 8-year-old girl to the 80-year-old grand dame. I fondly remember a young girl being brought by her parents to de Young in San Francisco for the retrospective on Oscar, and she was so impressed by the pale pink tulle dress and hat and veil, inspired by Madame Bovary. It was actually a wedding dress in a Pierre Balmain collection in Paris, designed beautifully by Oscar. So romantic, so rich in romantic history. Oscar always wanted to make women beautiful; he didn’t care about being an artist, he wanted to make dresses that were worn and admired by the women who loved them. Embedded in every bow and every nuance of taffeta flourish, every flounce of velvet edged in sable and embroidery, was his sense of romance. The body of work from his beginnings at Lanvin Castillo to his early youth in Spain anchor him in the historical context of romantic and glamorous design. He loved so much to realize clothes that were exuberantly baroque in surface, yet weighted in elegant simplicity.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HIS MOST IMPORTANT LEGACY IN THE FASHION WORLD?
There are three designers I think of who have left a lasting mark in the realm of modern fashion that is romantic: Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent. All three of these titans of talent, I know or knew personally. In the hands of each, a dress, a coat, or a suit became a poem!
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LONGTIME MINT SUPPORTER MARIANNA SHERIDAN?
I worked closely with Marianna and she was quiet, yet fiercely passionate about Oscar de la Renta. She loved the designer so much, she had a family home built in the Dominican Republic. I always looked forward to her e-mails with another glorious find. She frequently would seek my advice on if she should or should not acquire certain looks, but she was somehow drawn to the glorious pieces that always reflected the best of Oscar’s designs. Under her direction, the de la Renta archives became a wonderful resource, a literal goldmine of offerings in every category. We were friends, and I had a deep respect for her dedication and her work. She had a love of beauty, luxury, and elegance.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING THAT VISITORS TO THE EXHIBITION WILL COME AWAY WITH?
I hope visitors wi11 take away a breathtaking sense of Oscar’s love of texture and fabric, color, and complex layerings of details of the world of couture conceits. Romantic ruffles and the glory of Spain’s culture in the arts, and flamenco, the bullring, and the idea of the warmth of the sun in Sevilla on a beautiful day is somehow in the very cut of the cloth. More than anything, he was a true romantic and loved life, and he showed that in his love of gardens, garden motifs, flowers.
THIS EXHIBITION HAS COINCIDED WITH THE PREMIERE OF YOUR NEW DOCUMENTARY, “THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE.”
I am proud the documentary opens at the same period this spring as the exhibit. Kate Novack, director, narrates brilliantly my humble beginnings in Durham, N.C. and how I soldiered through the “chiffon trenches” for decades to arrive at the heights of my career, landing at Vogue for nearly two decades. I am still aligned to Vogue as a contributing editor and consider Dame Anna Wintour a close friend. She has supported me throughout my career and I am blessed to have her [in my life]. The documentary received the Whistler prize last December at the Whistler Film Festival, as World Documentary.
It’s a great honor to curate this, my third exhibition since Oscar de la Renta died. I considered Oscar one of my close friends and I think of him every day as I do so many wonderful people who have passed away: Yves Saint Laurent, Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol (who gave me my first job in fashion in 1975), and Azzedine Alaia. I am also proud of the books I published in collaboration with SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, published by Rizzoli, Little Black Dress and Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style.
Celebrating Mexican artists for Cinco de Mayo
Get to know Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas
Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas is a teaching artist living and practicing in the Queen City. She has experience teaching art at all life stages from child to senior adult. Her practice is very versatile and she likes to explore anything and everything from painting to jewelry making and everything in between.
Tell us a bit about your background
I was born in Huitzuco, Guerrero, Mexico to a young mother and father. I spent my first couple of years living there with my mother. My father made his way to the U.S when I was 1 year old to help provide for us, since we were scarce on money and resources.
My mom and I arrived in Monroe, North Carolina in August of 1996 shortly before my third birthday and my mom’s 18th birthday. We arrived to the United States at a time where resources for Spanish-speaking individuals were not as easily accessible as they are now. Mom and I did not speak any English and my dad was always working, so he did not teach us the little English that he already knew.
Early artistic roots
Because mom and I didn’t speak English, and mom didn’t know how to drive, we passed our time walking to the nearby Family Dollar. From a young age, Mom and dad always bought me coloring books, puzzles, crayons, watercolor paints, and notebook paper.
I eventually started kindergarten and the only things I knew how to say in English were, “Can I go to the bathroom?’ And “finger.” I learned English quickly after that and soon excelled in all of my studies. I was the first in my family to graduate both high school and college. I graduated summa cum laude from Johnson C. Smith University in May of 2016. At JCSU, I studied visual and performing arts with a concentration in studio art.
Observe. Bridge. Respond. Art (OBRA)
Early in college, I joined a Latinx-led art collective called OBRA collective. We are an art collective made up of Latinx and ally artists that create art that celebrates our heritage and raises awareness about issues that the immigrant community faces.
As an art collective, we:
• Lead community workshops
• Plan and execute art exhibitions
• Collaborate with different partners, including the city of Charlotte
• Listen and respond to the needs of our community
OBRA collective tapestry mural
This is one of our largest projects. We partnered with the city of Charlotte and the community of East charlotte to design and create a mural that was representative of the people of East charlotte. You can see the mural at the intersection of Monroe and Idlewild roads. The people of East Charlotte come from many parts of the world. These countries were represented through their fauna, flora, and traditional textile patterns.
My art is very reflective of my Mexican culture and heritage through its imagery and bright, bold colors. Most of my art is highly influenced and inspired by my experience as a Mexican woman.
These two photographic series were both inspired by my parents. I am forever grateful for all of their sacrifices because I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Celebrando Artistas Mexicanos Por El 5 de Mayo
Llegar a saber Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas
Soy un artista docente que vive y ejerce en la Cuidad Reina. Tengo experiencia enseñando arte en todas las etapas de la vida, desde niño hasta adulto mayor. Mi práctica es muy versátil y me gusta explorar cualquier cosa, desde la pintura hasta la fabricación de joyas y todo lo demás.
¿DE DONDE SOY?
Nací en Huitzuco, Guerrero, México a unos padres jóvenes. Pasé mis primeros años viviendo allí con mi madre. Mi padre se dirigió a los EE. UU. Cuando yo tenía 1 año para ayudar a mantenernos, ya que éramos escasos de dinero y recursos.
Mi mamá y yo llegamos a Monroe, Carolina del Norte en agosto de 1996, poco antes de mi tercer cumpleaños y poco antes de que mi mamá cumpliera 18. Llegamos a los EE. UU. en un momento en el que los recursos para las personas de habla hispana no eran tan accesibles como ahora. Mamá y yo no hablábamos nada de inglés y mi papá siempre estaba trabajando, así que no nos enseñó el poco inglés que el ya sabía.
Primeras raíces artísticas
Debido a que mamá y yo no hablamos inglés y mamá no sabía conducir, pasamos nuestro tiempo caminando hacia el family dollar cercano. Desde temprana edad, mamá y papá siempre me compraron libros para colorear, rompecabezas, crayones, pinturas de acuarela y papel para cuadernos.
Finalmente comencé el kinder y las únicas cosas que sabía decir en inglés eran: “¿Puedo ir al baño?” y “dedo”. Aprendí inglés rápidamente después de eso y pronto sobresalí en todos mis estudios. Fui la primera en mi familia en graduarme tanto de la escuela secundaria como de la universidad. Me gradué Summa Cum Laude de la Universidad Johnson C. Smith en Mayo de 2016. En JCSU estudié artes visuales y escénicas con una concentración en artes plásticas.
Observe. Bridge. Respond. Art (OBRA)
Temprano en la universidad me uni a una colectiva de arte latinx llamada obra colectiva. Somos una colectiva de arte hecha de artistas latinx y aliados que crean arte que celebra nuestra herencia y que sensibiliza los temas que enfrenta la comunidad inmigrante.
COMO COLECTIVA NOSOTROS:
• OFRECEMOS TALLERES COMUNITARIOS
• PLANIFICAMOS Y EJECUTAMOS EXPOSICIONES DE ARTE
• COLABORAMOS CON DIFERENTES SOCIOS, INCLUYENDO LA CIUDAD DE CHARLOTTE
• ESCUCHAMOS Y RESPONDEMOS A LAS NECESIDADES DE NUESTRA COMUNIDAD
Este es uno de nuestros mayores proyectos. Nos asociamos con la ciudad de charlotte y la comunidad de east charlotte para diseñar y crear un mural representante de la comunidad de east Charlotte. Puedes ver el mural en la interseccion de Monroe Road Y Idlewild Road.
La gente de east charlotte proviene de muchas partes del mundo. Estos países estuvieron representados a través de su fauna, flora y patrones de textiles tradicionales.
Mi arte refleja mucho mi cultura y herencia mexicana a través de sus imágenes y colores brillantes y atrevidos. La mayor parte de mi arte está muy influenciado e inspirado por mi experiencia como mujer mexicana.
Estas 2 series fotográficas fueron inspiradas por mis padres. Siempre estaré agradecida por todos sus sacrificios porque no estaría donde estoy sin ellos.
Stephen Compton: From Jugtown Pottery to hyalyn Porcelain: A Collector’s Journey
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Steve Compton discusses his history as a collector of NC pottery, and how his interest led him to become a noted researcher and author. Steve shares details about his collection of pottery, now including over 2,000 pieces, and some of the many books he has authored.
Just part of the story: A chat with Constellation CLT artist de’Angelo Dia
By Rubie R. Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations at The Mint Museum
In September 2008, after 20 years away from Charlotte, I was drawn back to the Queen City and its art scene by what felt like a magnetic force and wide-open door. I was coming from the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as its community affairs director. I had worked with numerous amazing statewide artists, yet the springing up of talented Charlotte artists was nothing I had experienced. Charlotte and the Carolinas were rich with young, creative, thoughtful minds, and The Mint Museum was where I saw myself. At that time, it was showcasing a Charlotte-born, renowned artist whose work I loved—Romare Bearden. At the same time, the Mint was presenting an exhibition called A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image. Two wows! I was impressed.
As I settled in the City once again, in summer of 2009, I was invited by God City artist-educator John R. Hairston, Jr. to the opening night of a NoDa art show that he and artist de’Angelo Dia had put together to debut their latest works. The atmosphere, the creative works, and the vibe of North Davidson were soulful, and light. I knew Hairston as this hip surrealist artist, and he introduced me to Dia. We chatted, he showed me his work, and we discussed his artistic views, society, and what he envisioned. It was a great show.
After that, I engaged the God City art collective members, including Dia, to engage with the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program as enlightened artist-educators that our students could engage with, and who were young, cool, and looked like them. God City connected with the students like a magnet, and Dia’s sessions brought out the best in the students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. They talked about current events, what they would do if they were the mayor, and how they could change their community by changing how they viewed themselves and “Griertown.” He was a newer member of the God City, and art, education, and social activism seemed his platform too, especially with young minds.
As an instructor at Trinity Episcopal School and through the Mint’s Grier Heights art program, Dia challenged his students and they enjoyed his teaching style and socially-conscious poetry. I also invited Dia to the Mint to present on his service projects, where youth were introduced to the concept of being more spiritual, with introspection, and of giving back to the community, and learning to delve deeper within to discover their own style and individuality.
Over a short time, Dia branched into several modes of art exploration, including photography, poetry, creative writing, oral presentations, and painting. Interestingly, he also was drawn into religious studies and received a Master of Divinity degree. He intertwined his growth as a young radical artist and theologian with his desire to be a social activist through his works of art and his engagement with youth in the Black church. He currently serves as the minister of social justice at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte where he is known as Reverend de’Angelo Dia.
Dia’s Constellation CLT installation is on view at Mint Museum Uptown through March 7. I had a chance to recently chat with Dia and see where he was with creating this body of work on exhibition at Mint Museum Uptown, his art projects, his religion, his thinking, and his latest vibe.
RBH: What was your inspiration in creating these works featured in Constellation CLT?
Dia: Works featured in Constellation CLT are part of an on-going passion project. At this point, I have created 70 large-scale pastel drawings exploring representation and the celebration of creating cultures within a culture. The works of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein inspired this collection. The book Where the Wild Things Are was the Holy Grail for me as a kid, however, I couldn’t identify with the main character Max, so I decided to place my cultural embodiment into Max and the Wild Things and create a pantheon of original characters. Each drawing was created at Goodyear Arts while listening to the works of assorted jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ghost Tree). Each drawing has a poem reflective of what I was theologically and culturally processing at the time.
RBH: In relation to your installation and viewing today’s America amid a divide, at what phase do you see African American art and culture as social commentary/activism?
Dia: African American art and culture has always been a mirror to America, exposing its hypocrisy and systemic oppression. The work of AfriCOBRA, Emory Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks and so many others exemplify this. However, I want to be clear, African American art and culture are not a monolith. Through this body of work, I am attempting to balance the tension of processing our daily reality of being Black in America, to highlight our resilience and tenacity, and to celebrate our inherent ability to thrive amidst a divisive social and political climate. The childlike elements of these drawings are my attempt to reclaim my own sense of Black Boy Joy with the understanding that joy is an act of resistance. These drawings are reminiscent of my drawing style in the second and third grade before any teacher attempted to socialize a “standard of quality art,” which often hinders the creative spirit.
RBH: Art is a catalyst for change. How do you view that perspective, and how can artists and art today bring about positive change in America?
Dia: Again, this goes back to representation for me. Representation in creatives, and creations and experiences inspire and ignite social movements that supersede any of my academic training.
RBH: Does poetry and theology impact your approach to your visual works of art? If so, in what way?
Dia: Absolutely. Poetry and visual art coexist as theological outlets for me. Every drawing is preceded with a writing prompt intended to help me gain a better understanding of self, others, the communities I navigate and negotiate with. Writing is my primary outlet and my area of academic training, and yet I cannot separate the literary from the visual. This body of work was always intended for me. They are my mind maps, holistic outlet, visual journals. For example, Epiphany, which is on display in this collection, was my template for a poem titled shallow words. With deep investigation, the viewer can find the words “what if I was your child” throughout the drawing. This is in reference to the biblical children of Israel, Isaac, one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, and in a contemporary context every Black and Brown child of God killed as a result of power and authority. “What if” is also a reference to a Marvel comics anthology series of alternate reality stories titled What If?
RBH: You noted being a comic book scholar? What does that entail and how did you arrive there?
Dia: I earned a master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte. My thesis project was “Black Images in Comics: An examination of what does 200 years of cartoon images depicting Black people tell us about ourselves.” The images displayed for Constellation CLT are a continuation of this study. While the comics scholar in me values and appreciates the impressive archeology of images that present Black history, this work is a visceral reminder of the barrage of racist depictions intentionally created to oppress us. Currently, I am working on my doctorate with a proposed dissertation topic of theopoetics, an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetics, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. My comic passion was sparked by Milestone Media, a comic company created by three Black men with the intent to provide a diverse spectrum of representation in comics. Comics have always been one of the mediums intended for theological analysis (i.e. God is Disappointed in You, 2013, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler).
RBH: With thoughts of the fantastical and your love for comic books, who are your most celebrated superheroes/sheroes? If you could create one, what attributes would he/she possess?
Dia: I love this question and it is a tough question because there are so many amazing characters to select from. Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was my gateway to superheroes. His Blackness was and is his superpower. I recommend Shaft written by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). Luke Cage (written and drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Misty Knight (Marvel Knights), who deserves her own comic series, are two street-level characters presenting a slice of Black life that is relatable. Two series I recommend are Excellence and Bitter Root both produced by Image Comics, written and drawn by creatives of color. If there was a comic character I would love to write about, it would be Doctor Voodoo (Marvel Comics with art created by artist Wolly McNair and Marcus Kiser, inked by Reco Renzi. This would be a dream project. If I could create a character, the attributes would be resilience, tenacity, creativity, and the superpower would be superspeed. Often, there is never enough time in a day to accomplish all I desire to do.
RBH: Which world or American leaders and artists have most impacted your life and works of art?
• Poet, professor, Jericho Brown (The Tradition) for his narrative transparency.
• Poet, professor, Gary Jackson (Missing You, Metropolis) for his beautiful work that is a hybrid of introspection and comic mythology.
• Poet, educator, and should be the Poet Laureate of Wakanda, Nikki Giovanni for the diversity and scope of her work.
• Artist Brain Stelfreeze for his incredible art and more than that, his compassion and willingness to take time to talk with emerging artists.
• TJ Reddy (August 1945-March 2019) for constantly reminding me that creativity and sleep are acts of defiance.
• My parents, Betty and Charlie Jessup, for providing me with creative outlets for artistic expression, introducing me to the music of Parliament Funkadelic, and affirming Black Boy Joy.
• Growing up I thought Shel Silverstein was Black, so I am going to give him honorable mention.
RBH: What is your preferred art medium and why?
Dia: I love drawing, it is a basic instinct. I have a passion for photography, and it is perhaps the best medium to consistently document our collective narratives. However, writing is in my primal nature. I will always find comfort with writing. It was the first artistic outlet that made me feel at home.
RBH: How do you hope your works of art will impact the viewer?
Dia: I hope viewers see them as a reflection of childhood, joy, and solidarity.
RBH: What’s next for you with respect to art projects, works, inspirations?
Dia: I had work recently published in the anthology 2020: The Year that Changed America edited by Kevin Powell. I am currently working on a chapbook that will be part of my doctoral dissertation, which will include poetry and drawings. I am contributing to a performance titled Codex with performance arts members of the Goodyear Arts Collective. I am also working on a performance inspired by the life and music of Marvin Gaye. This is a collaboration with sound artist Dylan Gilbert.
Studio Visit with Amy Sanders and Ron Philbeck
Delhom Service League
Amy and Ron discuss their individual work, and then discuss their collaboration on a series of work created during the pandemic. While their individual work is very different, their collaborative work has been very popular and a great learning process for them both. If you would like to see more of their work, you can visit their individual websites, amysanderspottery.com and ronphilbeckpottery.com. Both potters are scheduled to be exhibitors at the Delhom’s Potters Market at the Mint on Sept. 25, 2021.
Leah Leitson Ceramics: Then and Now
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Join the Delhom Service League as they Leah Leitson, ceramic artist and educator based in Asheville NC. She discusses her career in ceramics from her first interest as a studio potter to her current role as Professor of Ceramics at Warren Wilson College. For more information about Leah, you can visit her website at www.leahleitson.com.
Delhom Service League Studio Visit with Julie Wiggins
Join the Delhom Service League as they visit potter Julie Wiggins in her studio to hear about her current work, learn about her creative techniques, and hear about some of the challenges facing potters during the pandemic.
On the Daily
24 Hours in the life of Ruben Natal-San Miguel
Ruben Natal-San Miguel was in the North Tower when American Airlines Flight 11 came careening into the side of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Natal-San Miguel survived—but his former lifestyle didn’t. He left his finance job and summers-in-the-Hamptons routine. He ditched the high-rise and moved to Harlem. Then the former photography collector picked up the camera himself, drawn to the people he saw as the city morphed in the wake of the tragedy.
“I’ve walked every street in all five boroughs,” Natal-San Miguel says.
A native of Puerto Rico, Natal-San Miguel came to the U.S. to study architecture in college and graduate school—studies that inform his eye for photography. Now 51, Natal-San Miguel is the artist behind the Mint’s first online exhibition, Expanding the Pantheon: Women R Beautiful. His portrait Mama (Beautiful Skin) in the contemporary galleries of Mint Museum Uptown shows a confident woman in front of a red van. She wears a white T-shirt, with cornrows and skin marked by vitiligo. The image—one of 26 included in Women R Beautiful—speaks to the photographer’s overarching goal: introducing a new range of beauty for our consideration. Here, Natal-San Miguel walked us through his typical day.
I’m diabetic, so the first thing I do is test my blood and feed my cat, Dante. I check my email. If it’s press, I need to respond. If something got published, I immediately go on social media. The base of my collectors is older and on Facebook. So I go do a more personal approach there before reposting on Instagram. Then I go and eat and take my meds.
For breakfast, the first thing is coffee. It’s part of my family and culture. I was born in Puerto Rico, where my grandfather had a coffee and tobacco plantation. I recently made whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with sliced mandarin oranges cooked in slow fire. I’m daydreaming about it.
I’m not exactly a morning person. I hate midday shadows and I love people in natural light. I photograph people exactly how I find them: the hair, the necklace, the shoes. I’m a storyteller. I have a simple, strong connection between me and the subject.
I make a sandwich or buy it at a corner bodega. My go-to sandwich—well, I’m not supposed to have it all the time—it’s chicken parmesan. In New York, I love it.
I take a nap. My cat is next to me. He’s black with green eyes, and sweet. I found him in Harlem on a cold December day and he followed me home. I take time to think. It’s part of my process. Right now, my head is all about a book for Women R Beautiful.
With my photographs, I celebrate a life—a lot of these women may not have a voice. My grandfather wouldn’t allow my mother to look at him when she was talking to him. She had to talk to him with her head down. Even though she was highly educated, she was in the shadow of machismo culture. I was a little kid when I saw that, and I had a visceral, strong reaction. I couldn’t believe a father could treat a daughter like that. It’s what motivated me to do a show like what’s at the Mint.
I live in a brownstone, have a yard. But I’m a creature of the street. It’s good to travel around this time because kids aren’t coming out of school and the subways aren’t crowded. I want to be in place by 3 or 3:30 PM. My encounters with subjects are no longer than five minutes, usually just a few seconds.
Sometimes I have three cameras on me. The lens caps are off. If I have to wait to take a cap off, my subject may be gone. My work is like a subway ride—very strong, very fast.
You’re passing thousands of people and that person catches your eye and you go after them. Most New Yorkers are always in a hurry and they don’t want to talk. I feel like I’m selling Tupperware when I’m trying to get their photo. But I’m lucky. I’ll get nine out of 10. These people in the most marginalized areas of the city—they have such wisdom and can tell if you’re a bullshitter. I love and respect that. They can tell I’m not a bullshitter.
I get their email address, get their Instagram feed, and I send the file later. Sometimes I give them a signed print. I stay in touch and invite them to my shows. I want them to see themselves in museums, in galleries.
By this time, I have my second cup of coffee. Coffee twice a day, that’s part of my culture. Then that moment before it goes dark—I call it the magic moment. It’s only a few seconds, so you better be somewhere that’s important.
In the winter, I’m home by this time. In summer, I’ll be out until 8:30 or 9 PM. Dinner is usually salad and soup. Sometimes I’ll buy a rotisserie chicken and share it with my cat. He’s a Harlem cat and loves his fried chicken and rotisserie chicken. After dinner, I look at pictures I’ve taken.
I do what I call my “YouTube videos and Google research.” I Google neighborhoods and notice the demographics, crime statistics, landmarks. I look at an area’s retail. It’s important for me to understand the culture of an area to reflect it in the photos. I took the photo of the three Muslim girls in Women R Beautiful because I’d seen the subway coming through in a commercial for a local newscaster. I saw it, googled the gym name on the side of a building, and went there. I sat like a fool for 90 minutes on those steps, waiting. I said, “I’m going to sit here until someone comes down who’s amazing.” And the three little Muslim girls came down. That was it.
I do The New York Times crossword. It takes me only a few minutes because I’ve been doing it for years. I like to motivate my brain to think. Then I give myself time to think.
—As told to Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at The Mint Museum
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
A Conversation with Summer Wheat
Summer Wheat, the artist behind Foragers, a monumental tribute to women workers of North Carolina installed at Mint Museum Uptown, sits down with Jen Sudul Edwards, PHD, the Mint’s Chief Curator, to discuss the inspiration and evolution of the piece. Foragers spans four stories and 3,720 square feet in Mint Museum Uptown’s Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium. A myriad of vibrant panels that give the illusion of stained glass fill the atrium’s 96 windows and weave a story of women who labor to build the communities that form the spine of modern society.
The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.
Kevin Cole YAM’s Studio Tour
Young Affiliates of the Mint join Kevin Cole (virtually) for another studio tour. Cole was featured in the Young Affiliates juried show “Coined in the South” in 2019. His work is included in more than 3,600 public, private, and corporate collections throughout the United States and abroad (Michael Jordan owns one of his pieces!). Watch to hear about some of Kevin’s latest work and the inspiration behind some of his best known pieces.