“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as great and sudden change.”
-Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Humans adapt. We evolve over generations to fit in with the world in which we live. But when change comes quickly, as it has done in recent decades, our ability to keep up is compromised. This might mean that we lose touch with technology as it races ahead of us or it may mean finding ourselves up against a challenge for which we were unprepared. This sort of change, and our inability to rise to meet it, can stir within us terrible frustration, fear, even an unplaced anger. In a complex age, where nothing remains stationary, it is all too easy to feel as though one is standing alone in the dark while the world moves on. In truth, there is no need to struggle to keep up with every motion of progress. Live more simply, free yourself from the unrealistic obligation of having it all.
Philemona Williamson spoke to us from Montclair, New Jersey where she lives. Her studio is a few towns away in a repurposed factory in East Orange, New Jersey. Williamson has an upcoming show at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. Years ago, Karen Jenkins-Johnson, gallery owner, purchased one of Williamson’s paintings. She recently reached out asking to exhibit the artist’s work. There will be eight or nine recent works in the show. While Williamson typically can take up to a year to complete a work, in 2020 she has had more time, as many of us have, and has found this a prolific period for her work. The subject of her work is told through the vehicle of adolescent figures who play out larger narratives about the world. To hear more from Williamson, including how the silence and isolation of the pandemic have influenced her work, listen to the complete interview.
Tammy Nguyen spoke to us from Harlem where she was with her three month old daughter Penny. Currently, Nguyen is working on a large body of work that is being broken up into several, smaller events and shows. One of these, titled Cave Matter, is up at Hesse Flatow until December 19. This work as well as other upcoming work relate to a work she completed with Ugly Duckling Press titled Phong Nha: The Making of an American Smile. The story is about a girl born without two of her teeth and the journey to fix this birth defect. Interwoven into this are stories about the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese diaspora all related to the allegory of the cave. The work is an exploration of truth and capitalism. Nguyen is now using the text to create visual work. To hear more about this, including Nguyen’s experience visiting the Phong Nha Caves, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
When we can accept that the world moves too quickly for us to keep up with it all, we can begin to see what is necessary and what can be set aside.
Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Philemona Williamson co-created Lubaya’s Quiet Roar with poet Marilyn Nelson. Tammy Nguyen’s Phong Nha: The Making of an American Smile is available through Ugly Duckling Presse.
Jelly Bucket seeks submissions of art work that “captures Black life, Black joy, Black creativity, and/or explores, reflects, reports, ruminates upon, or dialogues with social justice as it relates to the African American experience and Black Lives Matter.” Please visit the website for more information including technical specifications. Deadline for submissions is December 15.