I am Artist: D. DelReverda-Jennings



Why are you an artist?
As far as I can remember I have had some sense of who I was as a creative. I have always loved color, texture, pattern, materials, etc., and feel that it was a natural progression for me to go into the visual arts field. As a small child, even before cognitively realizing/understanding what I was actually doing, I made what could have been construed as art, although some may have begged to differ. Art is intrinsically integral to the total spectrum of my day, and has always been a constant drive and passion throughout my life. Art for me is compulsory and I must admit that I create the majority of what I do for purely selfish reasons…to please myself..my inner child, bringing to my spirit great joy and wonder…then on to share with others, where I acquire yet another marvelous feeling whenever a piece touches someone..I truly enjoy their reaction to it.

 A native of Alaska, I relocated as a youth with my grandparents to Chicago, where I was raised until moving on to Indiana. Memories of being creative are many, on one occasion when I was about four, I received an unforgettable and well deserved behavioral adjustment, due to a dangerous attempt at making paper mâché bracelets out of toilet paper, water, flour and a bit of school glue, then turning on and opening the huge old monster of a gas oven to dry my lumpy creations. My grandparents, God love them, knew that I was an old soul (been here before)..a bit touched, a tad odd, slightly askew…but they reinforced, motivated, enriched and supported my creative and highly kinetic nature.

 My artistic journey is influenced by the kaleidoscope of cultural nuances, personal experiences and observations and I consider the diverse Visual Arts field to be an invaluable and sacred profession. I fluidly free-lance in a number of arts disciplines throughout the Midwest as an arts administrator, facilitator, regional arts editor/journalist/author/poet. I am blessed and honored to continually receive invitations to create commissioned work, participate in juried exhibitions, invitational shows and present group art presentations.

Primarily Self-taught, I am not confined to a single medium and this challenges me as an interdisciplinary artist to go outside of the microcosm of my comfort zone. I work from a diverse repertoire, this lends to my being a prolific visual artist that has been a practicing creative for over two decades…I absolutely relish the whole of the experience and I guess that you could say that I am obsessed, due to the fact that basically everything that I do, the fields that I work in, the people that I am surrounded by, associate or hang out with and the constant desire to acquire new interests and skill are all in some area of the arts or connected in some manner. I am in love with the act of conceiving a piece of artwork, creating interesting narrative, provocative interplay and tension among the elements.

 My signature figurative sculptural work is organic, extremely detailed and texturally complex, resulting in ethereal pieces evocative of ancient entities with some of the techniques relating to ethnic craft archetypal of ancient West Africa.I prefer to work in solitude while creating welded works, wall relief’s, original cast work, printmaking, fetishes, totems, collage, carvings, assemblage and constructions, functional-utilitarian objets d’art, installations, public art works, clay work, mixed-media, illustration, photographic works, textiles & fiber, textural abstract compositional works, large decorative~functional “FrameMirror Work” artpieces (my own concept and design) inclusive of hand wrought, incised, highly charged, worked and reworked (chased and repousse`d) surfaces, deeply variant, tactile compositions of metalwork and often hand-tooled leather. I make compelling 2 -Dimensional narrative paintings as well as sculptural pieces which address my lineal connection to and illuminate the importance of African American, Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean Latina/o and Afro-Latin’s in the context of the African-Diaspora culture and the divine feminine/Women’s art of the Diaspora. I celebrate women and depict females who are in a state of self-discovery, insight and affirmation, while exploring the complexities of bi-racial/multi ethnic/multiracial-cultural identity and referencing from the spiritual and religious histories that have aesthetic traditions based in the African Diaspora.

I use identity, women’s issues, stereotypical assumptions, indigenous wisdom’s-folklore, ancestral memory and nature as material in the construct of my work as well as traditional and original personal symbolism, aesthetic references and reflective imagery pervasive of African, American, Native Alaskan and Taino cultures. I fashion my work utilizing a wide spectrum of media and materials (“Steel to Stone/Paint to Paper), integrating vibrant hues, organic patinas, complex surfaces and incised reliefs, hand wrought treatments and emphasized textures. I have also brought facets of my complex textural work to my exclusive artisan “Statement” design jewelry line “SEVENTH GODDESS JEWELRY DESIGN,” (begun in 2010), which feature hand-hammered precious and semi-precious metals, semi-precious stones and mixed-media..that speak in bold character and substantial elements, capturing the spirit of the contemporary woman seeking unique pieces of distinction in wearable artistry that communicates luxury, style and elegance.

 As Founder, Independent Curator/Administrator/Artist Consultant for the annual “FLAVA FRESH ! ” juried, Art exhibition presentation series, I present the six month long, annual Indianapolis, IN., events project as part of my mission and initiative to bring about a greater awareness, appreciation, inspiration, support and exposure for visual artists; especially those undiscovered, under-represented, emerging and Artists’ of Color through a series of commercial, professional art exhibition venues. The multiple exhibition series creates a context for the artist’s to develop, contributes to their creative process and offers the public an opportunity to become aware of and create interest and appreciation for artist’s that they would not ordinarily have access to or knowledge of. I am blessed to have received numerous awards and honors and my work has been exhibited internationally in Canada and the Caribbean. I am honored that I have been able to become a practicing artist, to share my work with so many, and happy that I have been able to push the envelope to help others along the way as well as to be a part of the committed creatives which have assisted in helping the Indianapolis (Indy) arts & cultural scene to grow and improve.

Tell us about your exhibition “TRANSCENDENCE”? What was your vision and was it fulfilled?
 “TRANSCENDENCE” was presented under the auspices/consensus of FLAVA FRESH !, a six month long series of a three exhibition venue, multicultural celebration of visual artists who create diverse works, The exhibitions and events are presented in the Indianapolis community by Urbane D’Art Inc. and yours truly partnered with major arts and related entities, in this specific instance_the Arts Council of Indianapolis. FLAVA FRESH ! is held each year as part of my mission and initiative to bring about greater awareness, appreciation, inspiration, support and exposure for visual artists; especially those undiscovered, under-represented, emerging, and Artists’ of Color through a season of commercial, professional art exhibition venues.

 My vision of “TRANSCENDENCE” was conceived out of a belief that is most likely held by nearly all of humanity in that most people have contemplated through their own dreams, interpretations, hope or imaginings a vision/theory of what lies beyond the ordinary range of human perception. I chose the theme as a concept which addressed reflective investigation/expression of the human vessel_the body as a spiritual entity that possesses the potential to transcend/surpass/exceed its physical being going beyond, above and independent of the material universe and/or through the exploration of the philosophical, psychological consciousness..myth, ritual, ceremony and magic…the sensual, spiritual and the sacred…symbolism and emotional realms.

 The works of over two dozen artists in the exhibition made pointed observations and posed questions concerning the complexity of human existence and our relationship with the unknown universe. The whole of the exhibition illustrated the artists’ enthusiasm in response to the theme, their chosen mediums, featured in work never before exhibited which offered inspiration and an educational focus in a variety of art disciplines, genres, styles and techniques to the public-at-large and invited the onlooker to decipher or perceive their own idea or an examination of what the work meant in relation to the topic. Guests traveled from as far away as Florida, as well as Illinois and Kentucky to attend the packed Artists’ Reception of the second presentation, which was held at the relatively new Gallery 924 on the First Friday Art Tour of August 2011.

 Two vehicles full of diversely creative, beautiful women artist colleagues from Columbus, Ohio came over for the day, an Indiana State Representative and his friends were also among the well heeled attendees that were on hand to make up the over 380+ individuals that visited the gallery. We are honored to have had supportive Sponsors and gratefully appreciate and acknowledge their interest and benevolence in the advancement of the visual arts culture in Indianapolis. My vision was successful in the sense that the diverse, well executed artworks were very well received by the public and press, the exhibition was big, beautiful and bold, and the opening was marvelous and one of the better attended exhibitions at the gallery. The down side is that certain human elements detracted from the spirit of the freedom of art and the nature of an artist to be an artist.



Tell us your philosophy of Art? 

As a self-taught artist I intrinsically seek out things, people, environments, experiences that will help me in my desire to evolve, grow and focus on improving my knowledge, technical adeptness, observation and aesthetic skills and to convey my perceptions in whatever discipline or medium that I choose to work in. Creating art pieces are to me the gestation, enduring pregnancy and finally the celebratory birthing release of a secret/sacred part of my inner self…what I consider to be my child. It hurts deeply when I have to part with one of my sculptural pieces. My artwork is made specifically from my love and passion of creating and I feel that I am blessed with a gift that is capable of impacting many. I do not however, believe that it is critical that everyone have a formal education, technical training or the credibility of a degree in fine art in order to become a successful artist..but in today’s world, an aspiring, unknown and/or emergent artist is much better off with all of the assistance and/or training that they possibly can obtain. There are thousands, if not millions of visual artists in the world, which can make for an arduous foray into the vast field, that is why I believe that the more expertise an artist has, the better off they will be in their pursuit of success. For either a formal or self-taught artist, any type of education, especially ‘business expertise’, in addition to artistic skills and/or types of trade skills are an asset regardless of the direction that an artist takes. What should be most important personally, is what you have to express creatively.

  What is the art scene like in Indy?

INDY is an embryo within the first stage of gestation, forming itself into becoming a burgeoning creative infant in the rather reticent Midwestern arts community…it is JUST beginning to configure vital organs, becoming cognizant that with the aid of the creative class, in the near future, it will be capable of crawling. There are issues; the State is overflowing with gifted artists who are at the mercy of the traditional old guard. Sure, a chosen few make it, but for the majority of the rest…we work really hard, trying to get our work/selves out there..tryin’ to make a name…just tryin’ to survive and prosper artistically at what we do best in a city that is hell-bent on wanting to be the sports capital of the region/world…non-apologetically supporting the principles and the players at all costs, no matter the downturn in the economy. Which speaks to the need to begin a maturation process, to look in-depth at and utilize the artistic wealth in Indiana’s own backyard and become a more diverse, inviting artistic and cultural environment. It would also appear that the consensus of the creative community would be exceptionally more progressive and inclusive, but I have often found the opposite and am sometimes shocked as to how non-inclusive Indiana can be culturally, artistically..even when participating (attempting to) in exhibitions or presenting independent exhibitions and art events.

 There’s also the typical school of thought by individuals on project selection committees that tend to believe that an artists’ art/product from anywhere else other than Indiana are more worthy of exhibiting, gleefully doling out exorbitant sums of cash to out of state artists for commissions. There’s the separate camps, elitist-insular cliques, constant ‘talking down’ to ‘the native’ artists syndrome which runs rampant through the arts world no matter where art exists, and Indy is no different, it can be hard to break through the glass/class ceiling and can truly be a difficult road on which to travel. Indiana Women artist’s and Artists’ of Color still struggle to be a part of the arts mainstream and the face of a sometimes backward and regressive segment of the populace often rears its ugly head to make a huge stink, (to illustrate an example,) ‘ranting and insisting that artworks like Julian Opie’s modern digital dancing woman figure installed along the Indianapolis’, Mass Avenue Arts District looks like a beckoning prostitute???’

 Really now people, it’s a graphic stick figure in motion…apparently someone has way too much time on their hands, female issues and are a fry and a half short of a happy meal. Let me NOT forget to mention the big, NEW Indianapolis initiative to create and install on public property, a substantial sculpture of a ragged/downtrodden, barefoot and disheveled, submissive imaged “slave” sculpture, “E Pluribus Unum,” in broken shackles (taken out of the context of an existing monument, and the only existing sculpture of a Black individual in the city), to supposedly recreate/re-contextualize an empowered “21st Century African American,” on the new cash cow, “the Cultural Trail,” against the wishes of the majority of the cities constituents while merrily handing over three hundred thousand dollars+ to a New York artist who will not lay a finger on the medium in the phase of it’s physical creation, and who has retained a commercial marble foundry to sculpt (by CNC machine) the piece out of stone. I happen to like some of Fred Wilson’s work and acknowledge his accomplishments and contributions to the world of art, but this really has little to do with the artist, it is an altogether different endeavor, and to what end?

 There are undoubtedly a number of ways to honor a culture by means other than showcasing a historically oppressed and disenfranchised characterization. There is nothing positive, uplifting or empowering about slavery. What is amazing is that the organizers, (an organization of moneyed folks) continue to push for the half-naked, polarizing monument to be created and installed on this downtown, public pathway along with contemporary stylized and artistically tame pieces, in total disregard to the communities desires. What would drive someone to think that such an agenda would ‘honor’ African Americans? Slavery is NOT a cultural idiom__for members of academia, literate and progressive society, ‘culture’ does not include “slavery.” The term is not of a cultural definitive nature, (*”a captive. A human being who is owned as property by another”) it is history, (*an account of what has happened in the life of a people, country, etc.” **Webster’s New World Dictionary.) It is a part of not only of our history, but of others…an evil, malevolent atrocity and tragic injustice, “that is/was placed upon a people.” The term “slave” should not even be referred to in a cultural context. Force feeding such a permanent and disparaging art piece down the throat of a community is certainly not the way to open up a dialogue about history. What is both logical and preferable would be to start anew by commissioning an Indiana or Midwestern artist to create a contemporary memorial, a positive representation, (one exemplary example being the, ‘Triumph of the Human Spirit,’ created by Dr. Lorenzo Pace of Chicago, IL.) and have it made out of Indiana Limestone….Art is about progress, not taking giant leaps backwards. Indy arts culture definitely has its drawbacks, it is a rare occasion to receive a review in Indy, or to get a ‘mention’ of your work or art event in print media or online.

 Even more rare is to see an actual arts reviewer taking in an exhibit, although I have observed one writer Dan Grossman (NUVO), a number of times out and about on First Friday Art Tours and I have received a really nice mention several years back (Dreamtime: Universal Archetypes), and a pretty decent exhibition review on the recent presentation of “TRANSCENDENCE.” Indy creatives are quite verbal about the fact that reputable/professional art expertise is lacking..but the towns arts crowd/arts powers that be need to realize that reviewing artwork in a city that has as the number of galleries/arts venues as we have involves a considerable amount of effort..art critics/writers must also be well compensated, they need to pay bills also! As far as a real platform in the community for the discussion of art..expert knowledge, mentors, critical review, sincere opinion, insight, narrative and writing..there are few…each of these factors are necessary ingredients for a viable arts & cultural community, and reviews are also a necessary component (support material) in a professional artists portfolio. If Indianapolis wants to ever become the greatly desired/touted, “Arts & Cultural Destination,” that it purports itself to be…then it truly has to work on ridding itself of the factors that detract from obtaining that sort of national perspective Still, the Arts & Cultural scene in Indiana is slowly beginning to gain popularity with numerous brick and mortar galleries, art fairs and fests, open studio’s, exhibits and annual exhibitions, First Friday’s, a taste of underground and grassroots efforts, and special art events. Impermanent, pop-up/mobile gallery type of arts venues are becoming popular in Indiana, although many of these venues come and go. There’s a thriving performance art scene, a long held, steadfast music and literary following, growing film and fashion scenes, collaborations between the disciplines and a number of great art spaces_ traditional and alternative as well as many art museums and arts centers for the enjoyment and engagement of audiences of just about any age or economic demographic. If you don’t scratch too deeply beneath the surface, an interesting opportunity awaits those who enjoy diverse culture, fine art, artisan craft, historical connection to the arts, interaction with art creatives and those who are looking for something creatively refreshing. I remain optimistic…I LOVE Indy artists, I love what Indy is trying to become culturally…you couldn’t find a better, more talented bunch anywhere. I also travel quite a bit and view a lot of art and Indy has some of the best! Indianapolis could possibly make the pipedream of becoming an Arts & Cultural destination a reality one day…quite literally all roads lead to Indy..four interstate’s run right through the Midwest’s third largest city of Indianapolis, entitled the, “Crossroads of America.” BUT, we need a game changer to even begin to make that dream tangible, we need to cut out a lot of the crap that goes on….There’s always room for improvement.

  Who are your artistic ancestors?
 My Grandparents__ who although not visual artists, were both creative, ingenious and inspiring. They exposed me to many creative/artistic/cultural outlets and associations and I am grateful to have acquired so much from them as they reinforced, influenced, enriched and supported my creative nature. Culture__ I draw from the triad and shared history of my immediate heritage and birthplace. I have no singular favorite artist in particular that I focus on, but touch upon dedicated “Creative Women” of all types, beliefs, cultures, ethnicity’s, experiences…vision, all the way back to the women who painted with ochre and ash on the walls of the caves where they dwelled. I have found the community of women who create to be inspiring, empowering, filled with experiences which can offer a common spirit, provocation’s, role models, expectation..liberation and conclusions with which to broaden my interests and/or quench my always ravenous curiosity.

  Check out these two articles http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/arts/design/11ants.html?pagewanted=all and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kriston-capps/jesse-helms-the-intimidat_b_112874.html

 a. Do feel the US government has the right to censor art? No. Artistic freedom should be the right of each an every citizen of this nation. The First Amendment of the Constitution gives Americans the right to free speech, if the government was to have eminence over censorship, what barometer, evaluation and/or consensus would they/we agree on and subsequently utilize to go about implementing such actions? A pervasive/expansive government that tells its population how to live/conduct their lives, are hell bent on taking those rights away from them. Would every piece of artwork in the nations public domain have to be ‘rated’? Our ‘rights’ in America, what is considered to be the land of the ‘free’ would soon be eased swiftly out from under us. Albeit lies a contradiction; the only restriction that I feel that would be absolutely necessary for this country’s government and it’s constituents/populus to oversee, would be inclusive of any type of child pornography and related explicit or violent materials, due to the deplorable, insidious, ‘morally’ depraved nature relevant to obtaining such work.

 b. Do you feel art has a moral purpose? Art is integral to the nucleus of culture, a purposeful human artifact. Throughout history Art has aesthetically been used as a depiction of morality, it can certainly be uplifting or empowering to a society, as well as conceivably being reproachful or harmful. Artists of all disciplines have expressed their perceptions, conceptions of morality through their artistry and they have definitely made us think throughout the ages. I believe Art and morality to be two uniquely different exponents. Morality should not be pushed at the expense of artistic freedom and one should not be measured in terms of the other.

 What is the role of the artist in our society?
 Artists’ document the period, people, politics, society, lives, environment, style in which they exist. They delight..offer insight, educate and enlighten…we challenge and celebrate concepts, beliefs, state of being, tradition and more. Artists’ transport us..reflect, reproduce, recreate reality..preserving and archiving periods of time visually for present and future generations. We as artists’ inspire, empower, motivate, mentor and are monsters, misanthropes and muses…many of us expound, interpret, advocate and represent. Art is a natural part of developmental growth, even more significant is that it is the basis for all cultures and the barometer by which civilizations are measured historically. Every child should be exposed to and immersed in the arts. The arts have intangible benefits which compliment and build on the skills and cognition of children and I believe that it is critically necessary as it is an innate part of our makeup as human beings. But in today’s world numerous facets of the arts are tragically becoming endangered, the lack of arts curriculum in schools in the United States are causing scholastic scores to go down as well as overall performance in classes. The only way to effect change in this matter is by affecting public policy, before we look up and find that the arts in schools are totally nonexistent. The slashing of funding for the arts has not only impacted children creatively, but a large majority of artists and arts related or cultural workers as well. It has cut significantly into my own survival as an arts facilitator and as a working artist due to there being consumer shrinkage in the marketplace. People are spending more on items of necessity and comfort, being much more frugal in the selection of luxury and entertainment choices. Visual art is the last thing on the shopping lists, if noted at all, of the poor and now unsurprisingly the middle-class.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years? 
 Surviving and prospering financially as a flourishing, self-sustaining artist. Acquiring the benefit of national/international representation. Laboring creatively in a huge sun filled, open space studio/workshop which will accommodate all fazes of my work and exhibiting said work and the work of others in a terrific commercial gallery space of my own. I would like to continue to prolifically create substantial 2 and 3 dimensional art pieces in series…I have so many concepts that I would like to bring to fruition, but unfortunately lack the necessary workspace or large storage space that is needed, nor do I have the unlimited expense account to acquire the desired space, materials, media, tools and machinery that I would love to experiment and create with. There are mediums, specifically bronze that I would love to create large sculptural figurative pieces in—but the cost for works of size are prohibitive at this stage. As an interdisciplinary artist and regional arts editor/journalist/author…throughout the last sixteen years I have written about artist’s of all disciplines, their work, lives as creatives and have featured them in numerous publications. With the blessing and support of a recent Indiana Arts Commission/NEA_ Individual Artist Program Grant in Literature, I have just published the first volume of an ongoing series of collective biographies, “Horizon: Indiana Artists’ of Color,” which will be available in 2012 at the Central, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library’s, Annual February Gala presentation of the “Meet The Artists XXIV” Exhibition. I hope to develop this enterprise and have several other literary pieces in the works for publication in the oncoming years. I want to see all that has transpired within the last twelve years with my FLAVA FRESH ! exhibition presentation series initiative (formerly; Celebration Of Spirit, 1-3.), diversified into a larger, more prominent venue. Another goal is to attend/participate in several artist residencies and fulfill several fellowships that I aspire to obtain. I have always been drawn to printmaking and would love to cross over into the discipline making it a more significant part of my art making. I create some of my work utilizing printing techniques in a self-taught, limited capacity, but greatly desire to learn a number of skills/techniques, learn from and interact with printmaking masters and immerse myself in the disciplines sheer magnitude. I plan on being very successful, staying true to myself, my work and my passion! I intend to continue to challenge myself, push boundaries, develop, enhance and reinvent myself and my ongoing/new work. Just putting it all out there, ya’ never know what blessed abundance that the universe will bring.

What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
 Personally, I would like for my work to leave a lasting and meaningful impression in this world. Being recognized globally and reaching that point before becoming to frail to thoroughly enjoy the well earned fruits of my creative labor. I would like to expand the work within the disciplines that I create in and take them as far as I absolutely can. I would LOVE to get paid handsomely for those aforementioned fruits and definitely enjoy all of my responses to question #*8

 What does art mean to you?
 Given the expansive possibilities of art itself, it is enmeshed in each of our lives the world over, all day, in every way…we eat, sleep, live and dream art 24/7, 365 days a year. Art is ingrained in the total spectrum of contemporary society. It is absolutely amazing to me that in today’s society, Artists are so undervalued, when just about everything other than nature, that is used by or surrounds us has been touched in some way by an artist of one kind or another. For me personally, art is a way of life..it is intuitive, exploratory, free spirit..invocation, meditation, mimesis, enjoyment, experimentation, breath, passion…devotion. Art provides perspective and communicates emotion, memory, actions..history, beliefs, environment, culture, commentary, aesthetics, issues, commonality, situation, sociological standpoint and/or sensibilities….art is in my spirit and reflects what makes my energies vibrate. It is my way of visual communicative, interpretative expression of my journey…my being, experiences, identity, celebration and dreams in tangible form, which I fashion out of a multitude of emotions, materials and media. Art is metaphor..a representation, a portrait_beautiful, sensuous, ugly, unique, evil, loving, healing…it is in addition a complex melange of all sorts of bits and pieces of me….It is ancestral, sacred, myth, magic, folklore..reality. I Thank God for blessing me with the creative gifts that I have. Art as they say, speaks to me..in love of process, creation and sharing. My artwork reflects inspiration from who and where I come from…what and who I am to become. I believe in Art, I surrender to Art..Because of Art…I am Fulfilled.

Websites:
http://www.ddelreverdajennings.wordpress.com ( A Work In Progress )

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