Although the three writers featured in this issue of TAS take on very different subjects, they share an interest in rooting their work in very specific times, places, and cultural contexts. Melba J. Boyd’s poems reflect the historical experience of the complex and embattled city of Detroit. Cultural anthropologist Daryl White’s discussion of color is grounded both in his own perception and in the ritual meaning of color for the Navaho tribe of Native Americans. Finally, cultural critic Philip Auslander looks at the relationship between fashion and ideology in the context of psychedelic rock and the hippie movement of the 1960s.
I am so pleased to present four poems by Melba J. Boyd. Boyd is a distinguished poet who hails from Detroit. She has lived and taught there and seen what has changed and what has remained the same over time. Her poems speak to the place with the lyrical momentum of an artist who embraces the Motor City. Her words create a renewed perception of this American City. For me it is her looking forward with a nod to the past and her ability to speak to these times in a distinctive voice that make her poetry so important. I want to thank Quincy Troupe for introducing Boyd's work to me.
Philip Auslander, cultural critic, is also interested a particular moment in the recent past (1960's) in his article on Countercultural Fashion. He is interested in relationship of the stage wear worn by performers liked Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to the style and ideology of the hippie era. Even though the hippies considered the fashion system to be oppressive and favored personal style, iconic rockers like Joplin and Hendrix were often styled and participated in the fashion system. Auslander's comments on the use of color and repurposing of fabrics not intended for clothing are very current in terms of the dialogue many artists are using in their work.
Daryl White, a cultural anthropologist, writes about Navaho sand painting and its relationship to color in the context of ritual. White shares his persona experience of color as a color-blind person and his explores how a culture’s uses and concepts of color relate to the culture’s belief system. When I saw images of the sand paintings White discusses, I was struck by their beauty and how much the sand paintings are like the abstractions that the Swedish artist Hima af Klint. A major show of this work is now on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (October 12 to April 25, 2019). I find it fascinating that these works share some of the same structures and compositional devices, as well as a particular saturation level of color and tone, with the Navajo sand paintings. There were also similar thought processes behind the works. The Navahos believed sand painting was part of a process to heal a patient by calling upon the spirits to assist. For af Klint. the creation of the works is a calling up of spirits; she and four other artists actually held séances.
My best to you,
The Art Section
Deanna Sirlin is an artist and writer from Brooklyn, New York currently living and working outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
photo: Chuck Trettle