I’m not 100% sure how to explain Six Degrees of NYC, but I can say that the life of this show is closely tied to my survival in NYC. I focus this curatorial statement with sentiment because Six Degrees of NYC has less to do with the cerebral constructs of art and everything to do with the emotional thread that connects each of these artists and their work.
So, I’m about to get sentimental.
It takes a lot to survive in New York. This city is unforgiving at times and as much as you are surrounded by people you can easily feel isolated. Having a support system is key. When you have family, friends, colleagues, or any other connection in this concrete jungle it makes life a little bit easier. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for my support system I wouldn’t be here. I’ve gone through some tough times since moving here in 2016. I’ve dealt with heartbreak, anxiety, depression, the loss of my father and grandmother and lately the thing that brings us closer together (at a safe distance of course) is the pandemic. I’ve experienced some of the lowest lows of my life since moving to NYC but I’ve also experienced some of my best moments. Whether I’ve been in my dark place or in a more triumphant space, it’s been the people around me that have made my life richer. They’re here when I need them most, for the laughter and the tears.
Every person in this show has had a lasting impact on my life. I met each of them in New York, and they’ve each contributed to my story in a way that I didn’t always realize was so important. We either went to school together or we met through a mutual friend and classmate of mine. Whether they know it or not, they are vital parts of my support system. As a Black woman trying to make it in the art world, having other Black people encourage you, laugh with you, believe in your vision, cry with you, and commune with you is powerful. If it weren’t for these individuals, and others, I would have probably left New York and gone back to Louisville, KY. I wouldn’t be talking to you as I am now. I’m very thankful for these folks.
I’ve often heard the use of sentiment criticized by “serious” artists and art critics as though it has no place in capital “A” art. “Serious” artists have no time for such things. I call bull shit. If I can’t be sentimental in my art practice, when can I? If art is a driving force in our lives then art is truth and vulnerability. Artists, and humans in general, are multifaceted beings who feel very deeply. Sentiment is bound to show up in our honest work, writing, and interactions.
In truth, I’m not really sure what this show is. But it is what it is. I can tell you the story of why, but the life of this show is something all its own. I had an initial idea to feature several Black artists who made powerful and moving art that spoke to the inherent resistance in the existence of Black people in a world so opposed to Blackness. What came together does not fit the original idea the way I expected. Not that that’s a bad thing. Quite the contrary. There should always be room for flexibility. Perhaps there is still a time and place for my original show idea. This show, however, has a life all its own and it should consume the art world before I can get to it.