It had come to my attention that I should be writing more.
This is my first semester as an art history student and to be honest, I’ve never felt more out of place. My first couple art history classes were two survey courses covering the entire history of visual arts through a mostly European perspective. I found it difficult to engage in discussion as I did not have a strong background in European history aside from the basics covered in high school and although I understood the material, I didn’t really care.
I know it’s weird to say that I do not care about the discipline that I’m paying so much for. I do enjoy art, and I am extremely passionate about its history, I just found it rather difficult to relate to or love the works of art I was shown every day. I felt conflicted by this and thought that I was a fraudulent art student and that I didn’t really like art and I was not worthy to be a student in the college. Eventually, I realized my disconnect with the lectures was directly from me not feeling included and not seeing myself reflected in the artwork. I can imagine that my mostly white peers had little difficulty feeling represented through every period of Eurocentric art history. It was not until we reached Modernism did I see a black art artist. Of course, during the earlier periods, we briefly discussed the generic “African” pieces such as fertility objects but that’s about it. With only four months to cover the entire canon of art history, a lot of stuff ( global art) was left out because we simply did not have the time.
In my conceptual art class, we had to come up with a mixtape and I titled mine ” My Look, My Identity” based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem ” Still Do I Keep My Look, My Identity” and my professor did not get it because he did not know who Gwendolyn Brooks was. At that moment I’d finally had enough. Why is it that I am expected to be an expert in knowing every single ” important” white artist, white artwork, and white narratives, but when I mention a black creative or show enthusiasm for black art suddenly everyone else cannot relate? As if blackness is second rate or an elective. AS IF!
So, as I prepare for my career as an art writer, I decided to only write about black art and black artists. I am not writing about white people because I do not have to. I am not writing about other people of color because I do not wish to speak for other groups, benefit from their experiences, and take away from writers from that group. My work will be dedicated to both loving and critiquing the work of artists in the African diaspora and discussing topics that relate to the black experience, especially the black woman, femme, and queer experience. My work on this blog will not be academic. I want for my writing to be as informal and approachable as possible. I want for others to be able to engage in discussion and not have to feel the need to have earned a Ph.D. Art does not need to be that deep.
I am really excited to begin this process, and I hope You as the reader enjoys what I have to say!
– Tyra Mishell