Go Where Your Heart Is: On Stepping Back From My Annual Showcase


showcase collage
photography by @jazzthenoise

I will look back on 2016 and remember that this was the year I made peace with quiet. With open space. With blank canvases and untouched paint brushes. I will remember this as the year I stopped hearing the sound of the treadmill beneath my feet and listened to that of my beating heart instead.

I knew it when I climbed into a hotel bed in Crystal City back in March. Clad in my “See. Speak. Feel.” t-shirt that night after the show, I let my bare legs kiss the sheets and I told myself that something would have to give. I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sure when, but I absolutely knew that something would have to give. As spring melted into summer, I never felt quite right searching for new showcase venues. I let follow up emails from event coordinators grow stale in my inbox as I shied away from scheduling site visits or sharing any details about the budget.

Sometimes your heart offers up answers long before your right mind is willing to accept them.

My heart knew that I needed to take a step back ever since that night at the hotel in Crystal City. My heart knew that after three years of cultivating a cornerstone of my brand, I needed to catch my breath for more than just a season. My heart knew that I could not breathe life into something if doing so another time around would only leave me begging for air.

Choosing not to host “See. Speak. Feel.” in 2017 is both a simple and complicated choice, one that births questions I often times do not have answers for. When I have shared the news with those close to me, the first reaction has always been, “Well, what will you do instead?”

The answer is always, “I don’t know. The Universe will send something my way.”

I’ve learned to believe in the Universe’s timing. I’ve learned to listen to my heart. I’ve learned to make creative decisions unapologetically. I’ve learned that if something ceases to inspire me at any given moment, I am free to step away and savor the silence that remains. I’ve learned that if something is truly mine, it will always come back to me, often times better than how I left it.

“See. Speak. Feel.” will come back to me, more than likely in 2018. I know that this step back will give way to clarity, elevation, renewed energy, and a vision I could not have conjured up by simply remaining on the treadmill. This show sits in the most precious and sacred groove of my spirit, and I want to see it grow leaps and bounds. I trust that this break is only the prelude to that growth.

The biting cold of this upcoming winter will nip at my ankles more than it has in the past three years. I know that one day, sometime in the dead of January, a few sprinkles of sadness will shower me when I think about the call for artists I would have been working on or the opening act I would have been fighting to lock down. But I also know that in place of that work, something else will materialize. A project. A trip. A complete overhaul of my apartment. Whatever. That is how evolution works–it happens when you leave just a few lines on the page blank. It happens when you make the powerful and complex decision to go exactly where your heart is.



Masterpieces From Broken Places


The world does not need any more of our pretty pictures. It does not need the masks we wear or the facades we’ve built from scratch out of sandpaper. The world does not need our lies or grand impressions, our partial truths and twisted versions of life’s events. The world does not need half of our hearts. It does not need our fresh flowers on Sundays or our quaint living room photos. The last thing this world needs is another social media fairy tale.

So, instead, tell me about your broken places. Your ripped threads. Your shattered glass. Tell me about your black holes, your deep craters, your unhappy endings. Tell me about your roaring winds, your pouring rain, your heavy clouds.

Show me all of the ships that have sunk in your heart. Scrub the foundation off of your scars. I want to see you. Beautiful catastrophe. Delicate calamity. Woman who refuses to float on air.  I want to know that underneath all of the rock solid monuments you’ve built, you are still skin and bones, flesh and wreckage, the ink of 100 wayward lovers past.

You’ll have to dig deeply, you’ll have to pull up the roots. You’ll have to look at yourself through life’s smudged and smashed mirrors. You’ll have to cry until the whites of your eyes turn fire engine red.

Then do it again.


Once more.

Peel back the layers until your fingers grow callous. You won’t know your art unless you look behind your rough edges. You won’t know the full extent of your story until you cut it open and let bleed.

But, know that you are most beautiful in raw form. Knock over your glasses, let them shatter and spill. Allow your spirit to pour out deep red wine stains that Resolve won’t fix. Remember that the world has a surplus of insincerity and a scarcity of truth. So, make homes out of your holes and mansions out of your messes. Turn your most broken places into your masterpieces.


WYAO April general promoThis post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 

Feels Like Home [Color Theory Art Show Recap]

I feel like myself here. With the music blasting just enough to make me rock my shoulders, but not so loudly that I can’t hear my thoughts, I feel like myself here. In my hat and my leather jacket and barely brushed hair, I feel like I don’t have to explain who I am or smile too hard. I see familiar faces that warm me up and this place where I’ve never even stepped foot before suddenly feels like home.

That’s how I felt almost two Saturdays ago when I walked upstairs at Pyramid Atlantic and entered the world of Color Theory–a show curated by five local DMV artists. I came into that space and it immediately felt like home.

Because maybe that’s what artists are supposed to do. Broken down to its simplest common denominator, artists create the things that feel like home.

At least that’s what the five visual artists behind Color Theory did. Through their work and–later on during our conversations, their words–they bared parts of themselves and told parts of their stories. And, I saw myself on their canvases. I heard myself in the sentences they spoke. I felt the thumps of my heart in every stroke of their brushes.

Here are five pieces from the Color Theory art show that felt just like home and the short stories my heart told when she saw them.


Shawn Lindsay 16×20 oil on canvas, Wild Style | www.longlivepainta.com 

I want to be this woman all of the time. This woman lives somewhere in between the swirls of the “free” tattoo etched on my side. This woman with her outstretched hips and half-dressed body is somewhere inside of me, but I’ve let the world tame her and shame her enough that she doesn’t get out much anymore. Even when she’s in the house alone, safe in the solitude of her own curves and careabouts, this woman inside of me just doesn’t get out much anymore. Maybe that’s why I haven’t stopped looking at this piece since I left the show almost two weeks ago. Every time I scroll through my iPhone, she catches my eye. I stop for awhile. She seduces me and I convince myself I have got to let this woman out from behind the curtains far more than I now do.

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Michelle Izquierdo,  “A Woman Is Art” | www.michelleizquierdo.com 

I read the name of the piece before I absorbed it. And once I did, I wanted to climb inside Michelle’s mind and get answers to all of those inane questions like “What was your inspiration when you created this?” and “What parts of womanhood do all of the colors represent?” But, then I remembered the same thing I tell myself about writing–once the work leaves the artist, it’s up to the person on the other end to interpret. So, I drew inward. I told myself that the red petals are me on my fiery days and the pink petals are me on my fun-loving days and all of it is me every day–colorful, complex, beautiful, inexplicable in a mysterious, yet inviting way.


Will Watson “Untitled” | www.willwatsonart.com | @will_theartist

Many days we do want titles. We do not want labels. We do not want all of the identities and the gargantuan responsibilities that come along with them. I appreciate that this woman is untitled.  I love that this woman does not have any sort of moniker that I can affix to her in hopes of making sense of who she is or how she came to be. I have a lot of titles on me right now, but as of late, it feels like so many of those titles clash and crash. It feels like I can’t reconcile who I am on one end of the spectrum with who I’m becoming on the other. Some days I want to be untitled. I want to be unable to fit into frames and uncooperative when people attempt to pencil me in on one line of their page.


Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama “Moyo Wangu” | http://cargocollective.com/handirubviwakatama | @handirubvi

Sometimes you fall for the art first, and other times you fall for the artist. So, when I asked Indigo what being an artist means to her and she unflinchingly told me it’s a lifestyle, I believe her. I looked at her, and I listened to her, and I believed this is a woman who gets it. I believed this is a woman who understands her work, worth, roots, and womanhood, and the delicate blend she stirs for all of these things to become her lifestyle. I returned to this piece after the interview and it took on new life and meaning. Sometimes the art helps us understand the artist. Other times the artist helps us understand the art.


Vanessa Smith “Blame Game” | www.vkpaints.com | @vkpaints

They put her in a place at the show called the vault–a smaller, quiet room offset from the buzz of the main show. When I saw her, I knew I wanted to take my time. I wanted to squint. Stare. Read. Digest. Summon the energy not to fight off my triggers like I often times do. When I saw her, I saw myself–inked in all caps, dressed in equal parts passion and pain. Yes, when I saw her, I saw myself–pushing the objects of her affection and angst to the backdrop while still attributing her scarlet letters to each of them. When I saw her, I saw myself, and somewhere in her bewildering maze and mess, she felt just like home.

Congratulations to the artists of Color Theory on an exceptional and resonant show. A huge thanks to Michelle Izquierdo for inviting me into your ever-evolving and amazing journey. Keep doing what you do, and I will keep doing my absolute best to be a part of it. Grateful to have one more dope woman artist who speaks my language and stays on my wavelength.


Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Free Spirit and The Artist

We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.–Nikki Giovanni

GG: The Free Spirit

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve tried to hide my heart for most of my life. It always seemed to beat too loud and break too easily. I remember being a child in church, trying to stay calm while the choir sang. The music created electricity in my veins that made me want to dance up and down the aisles one minute and fall out bawling on the pew the next. I was a quiet ball of intensity, infatuated by the contrasts of joy and pain, trying to be happy, but always questioning.

I imagined myself an old soul, a captivated free spirit, having been here many times before. I knew how to change the mood in a room, to uplift and relieve tension. How to contain storms that were constantly rising and falling inside of me without breaking a sweat. I don’t remember what it felt like to be a light-hearted, uninhibited child. I always had to be careful. My home life was strange and we had secrets. So I learned how to pay attention to make sure we appeared normal. I worried about what would happen to us, to me, if anyone found out.

Read more of GG’s story here.


Kesia: The Artist

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve always been a storyteller. In middle school I came in every Monday with a story to tell my friends as we sat on the windowsill in our homeroom. At the time, my mother was in prison. I was sharing a small room with my younger brother and living with a family that had three daughters, girls who had been my friends for years. I remember once my half-sister came to visit from Florida. She was an only child who lived with my father and her mother. She marveled at the fact that all us kids lived in that small house. If it appeared fun to her, that’s because, most of the time, it was. This is the thing about being one of the “unfortunates”: If you survive, it’s because you learn how to spin gold from the thread life has given you to hang yourself with. That’s what storytelling is.

Read more of Kesia’s story here.

When Art Says What Words Can’t: Spirit Show Recap

Nobody Knows by Vanessa Smith, photo credit Jamé Jackson
Nobody Knows by Vanessa Smith, photo credit Jamé Jackson

The piece was called “Nobody Knows.” I stared at it for two solid and uninterrupted minutes before Jamé even brought the pun in the title to my attention. I wasn’t focused on the woman’s missing nose; instead, I was fixated on the phrase “Nobody Knows,” one that seemed to sum up the current state of my life all too well.

At the beginning of this summer, Michelle Izquierdo invited me to do PR for Spirit, an art show she curated with her close friend and artist Vanessa Smith. I met Michelle earlier this year when she showcased work at See. Speak. Feel. and she seemed like the perfect kind of person to partner with–open with her artistry, but also able to get down to business. It’s not always easy to find those types.

What I didn’t know when Michelle and I started working together back in June was just how much I would need that show on Sept. 12. When I signed on to work Spirit, I added my PR duties to a growing summer to-do list. But, by the time the show rolled around, I was depleted creatively. At my wit’s end. Empty. Lost. Unsure of my next steps on every possible level.

I still am.

Play Me by Vanessa Smith; photo credit Jamé Jackson
Play Me by Vanessa Smith; photo credit Jamé Jackson

But in the hour or so that I got to soak up the art at Spirit, I remembered that even when my inner flame starts to flicker, I am still surrounded by an incredible tribe of creative, vibrant and artistic women. See, this life will ebb and flow. I will rise and I will fall. But, those things never affect this amazing fabric of people I’ve met along the way. Sometimes it is OK to let other people breathe life into you when it feels like you’re fighting for air.

Right now, nobody knows. I have promised myself that I will write through the storm and pen my way past the cyclone, but the truth is nobody will ever know the war I’m waging with myself. Right now. In this moment. As I live and breathe and type these very words. It is a war with fangs and claws and bloody red eyes. It is a war pushing me beyond my comfort zone and rearranging the things I once knew. It is a war that means penning less, planning less and praying more. And on some days, no matter how many promises I make to myself, I can’t dilute the mess into words. So, thank you, Michelle and Vanessa, for saying what words can’t with the work you’ve created.

And, when I say I’m surrounded by an incredible tribe of creative women, I also got to share the day at Spirit with a few of my loves: GG Renee Hill of All The Many Layers, Roconia Price of Ever So Roco and Jamé Jackson of The Blonde Misfit. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from their recaps:

Michelle said she doesn’t know if she wants to paint for a living necessarily, but she knows that she wants a creative career. I talk about creative living a lot here on the blog and with my clients and how this doesn’t necessarily mean you quit your day job and become an artist. It means taking all the different aspects of you and bringing them into everything you do. Creative living is purposely designing your life so you can thrive in environments that inspire you. It’s about actively utilizing who you are, what you believe in and what you’re good at to make a difference in the world. This takes curiosity, self-awareness and of course, courage. –GG, “5 Creative Ideas From the Spirit Art Show

There’s a universal spirit threaded through every element of artistry, whether you wield a paintbrush, push a pen, or strum a ukulele. It looks like you, striding in your purpose. It smells like something all your own: fresh paint, an empty venue, the pages of your newly printed book. It sounds like Michelle telling you that she recalls speaking to you in the bathroom before your performance at See. Speak. Feel., saying she remembers how focused you were in the mirror, saying that she enjoyed your poem. It feels like the lurch in your stomach when you walk into Spirit and smell fresh baked authenticity, served with a side of chilled good vibes. –Roconia, Spirit Art Show: The Recap

Jamé at the Spirit Art Show
Jamé at the Spirit Art Show

In a world where Misfits are always told ‘no’ or artists are not celebrated, it felt good to see artists who proudly walked in their own right and who found a way to monetize on that. Ok, I know some people will probably side eye for saying such, but let me just say that just because we love creating art does NOT mean we don’t still have bills. Hello. –Jamé, TheBlondeMisfit: Recap: ‘Spirit’ & A Reawakened One

Tyece & the ladies of Spirit