The Selby

I dig The Selby, which features "interesting people in creative spaces," as much as the next decor junkie. So what if it's a masturbatory celebration of hipster lifestyle? I can't count the number of times I've clicked in and spent way too much time fawning over some fantastic spaces that anyone with a soul would have a really good time in.

But has anyone else noticed that with two questionable exceptions, representations of Black people on The Selby are limited to the inanimate? And that the object d' blackness is always singled out and displayed like some sort of honor badge? Attention, hipsters: Black people actually exist. In fact, some are responsible for some of the music you listen to, much of the art you covet, and just about all the slang you bandy about in your incessant attempts at irony.

I'm not mad. It's Todd Selby's world. And in Todd Selby's world, Todd Selby should do what Todd Selby damn well pleases-- which may include shooting, of all the Black creatives in the world, Kanye. I'm just saying.

Hulbert Waldroup

I'm not as interested in pop artist Hulbert Waldroup's dealings with a now defunct, high-end escort agency-- or his subsequent jail time-- as I am in this necklace he made. I want one. Calling Barneys-- hop on this, please? Photograph taken a couple of summers ago by Altamira.

Medicine for Melancholy

A love story of bikes and one-night stands told through two African-American twenty-somethings dealing with issues of class, identity, and the evolving conundrum of being a minority in rapidly gentrifying San Francisco-a city with the smallest proportional black population of any other major American city.

Writer-director Barry Jenkins' debut film, Medicine for Melancholy, opens today in New York. A post-modern, post-Love Jones, Black love story-- rounded out with bikes and sunshine and identity crises. Sounds like a good time. Although New York Post "critic" V.A. Musetto-- whose review of the film is titled, "Cheerful Indie Easy to Swallow"-- thought that the Before Sunrise-like, "carefree" film was weighed down by fleeting allusions to gentrification. Right. The Invisible Woman conducted a great interview with Jenkins last October-- read it here.

If you're in New York:

IFC Center
323 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10014
A, B, C, D, E, F or V to W 4th

A film by Barry Jenkins NR, USA, 2009, 88 MIN
11:45 | 1:45 | 3:50 | 6:00 | 8:05 | 10:10 | 12:10am
Buy tickets

Ben Jones

Former Studio Museum director Edward Spriggs has organized a major retrospective of New Jersey-based artist Ben Jones at the Jersey City Museum. The 67 year-old artist is little known outside of New Jersey, where he's spent his entire adult life. A professor at New Jersey City University, Jones is as inspired by his Roman Catholic upbringing as he is by his heritage.

The retrospective, which was the museum's largest and most successful opening, includes some of the artist's better known, iconic works like "Black Face and Arm Unit" (1971), his "Blood Series," some trippy female figure studies, and a new, site-specific installation. I discovered yesterday that my local museum, which I've never visited (even though it's across the street from my preferred grocer) has some Ben Jones; I do need to pick up some veggies today. I should stop in. (Snow day.)

If you're in the New York area:

Deliverance: The Art of Ben Jones 1970-2008
September 18, 2008-February 21, 2009
Jersey City Museum
350 Montgomery Street
Jersey City, New Jersey 07302

Alicia Piller

I'm rather late to the party, but this shall not deter me from singing the praises of artist/designer Alicia Piller, whose work is just bananas. Her paintings and drawings-- which bear titles like "Rebirth," "Apparition," and "Lasting Existence"-- are perfectly bizarre and alluring, but I'm particularly drawn to her wall hangings and jewelry, both of which are crafted of suede and beads and crystals and wood and love. Lots of love. Can you feel it? I can.

As if this wasn't enough, Piller, who is as stunning as her work, uses her singular vision to create hand painted apparel-- also bananas, also made with love. View it-- and loads more art and jewelry-- at


Industrial designer extraordinaire Stephen Burks is noted for his seamless integration of classic handcrafts and modern aesthetics. His newly launched Rajboori Collection-- created at the suggestion and with the cooperation of young Indian entrepreneur Mitun Chakrabarti, who approached Burks at a design conference-- features brightly hued, geometrically patterned throws, cushions, and bedding made of luxurious eco-silks.

The artisanal textiles, which boast the resilience of cotton, are produced in by a group of families living a small Indian village that has been engaged in silk weaving for centuries. Learn more on the website of German design magazine, Form. No word on where Rajboori will be sold, but it the collection will be on view to retailers and buyers at the New York International Gift Fair (Jan 25-29).

Photo from the New York Times Magazine

At 39, Burks is already a powerhouse of productivity: his firm, Ready Made Projects, has produced work for B&B Italia, Missoni, Calvin Klein, Triple Five Soul, Tods, David Yurman, and other big names. Burks has been hailed as one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation.

Angelique Price

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nick Cave

I'm looking forward to getting a closer look at artist Nick Cave's "soundsuits"-- wearable, mixed media sculptures of the most fantastical proportions. Constructed of materials like found fabric, metal armatures, plastic bags, twigs, sequins, and hair, the sculptures are a marriage between haute couture and African ceremonial costume. So, Carnaval's more cerebral cousin on very good acid.

Cave's journey to the role of visual artist has been a slightly but admirably circuitous one; a dancer at Alvin Ailey, he previously produced his own clothing line. He currently serves as the chairman of the fashion design department at the Art Institute of Chicago. Interestingly, his first soundsuit-- which had not yet been christened a "soundsuit"-- was created in response to the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed the acquittal of the government sanctioned perpetrators. It wasn't until Cave actually donned the suit, which was intended to stand on its own, that the artist realized it produced sound.

Naturally, "[Cave] is as interested in fashion and cultural, ritualistic and ceremonial concepts as he is in politics, a domain that has always been part of his work as demonstrated by acts of collecting and reconfiguring elements and concealing the identity, race, and gender, of those who wear his suits. Rendering them faceless and anonymous the suits help these individuals transcend the political realm in order to enter the realm of dreams and fantasy" (

Having just spent a couple months in Japan, I could definitely stand to relax, relate, and release. Even if it's just vicariously. Also, the ski mask at the top there? I'd wear that.

If you're in New York:

Recent Soundsuits - Nick Cave 2009
January 8 - February 7
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 W 20th Street
New York, NY 10011

Feeling Good

As I prepare to spend 23+ hours en route from KIX to EWR, I leave you with this hilarious spot by, featuring the lovely and talented filmmaker and catwalker, Allison Caviness (with whom I shared a house about a moon and a half ago during college-- good times). I confess to having watched this at least 45 times in the past half hour. And to the fact that I'll watch it many, many more times.

Don't Get Tickled-- Don't Do It.

The Shipment

[Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee] consciously set herself the uncomfortable task of creating what she calls a “black identity-politics show,” having explored and lampooned the culture of Christian churches and Asian-Americans in her previous works “Church” and “Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven.” (Clearly she likes a challenge.) Combing through the images of African-Americans that dominate the media, Ms. Lee wields sharp, offbeat humor to point up the clichés, distortions and absurdities, turning the wearily familiar — a foul-mouthed stand-up comic, a drug dealer, a would-be rapper — into loopy, arch cartoons.

Please don’t let the social-studies tag “identity-politics” put you off; “The Shipment,” performed by a diversely talented cast of five black actors, will bore or offend only the humorless. Ms. Lee’s method is not to wag a finger but to wink and smile, trusting that you’ll register the point after you’ve had a good laugh.

Both photo and text are from The Times. I'd heard of neither the show nor writer Lee until I stumbled upon the article, which makes several questionable points. But I'll be uncharacteristically reasonable and suspend judgment until I see the thing for myself.

If you're in New York:

The Shipment
A play by Young Jean Lee
January 8-24, 2009
The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Buy tickets

Cedric Smith

I'm known for my occasionally flat affect and preternatural ability to remain perfectly calm even in the most dire circumstances-- and for the inverse, sheer neurosis in the face of things like crooked wall hangings and too-thick ball points. I made progress and broke my mold today, however, when I gasped with excitement upon laying my eyes on the arresting work of artist Cedric Smith via Brooklyn Circus, with whom Smith is set to collaborate. At long last-- a response justified by the stimulus.

As if his work were not enough, Smith's studio is perfection:

Do you spy on that inspiration board the marvelous things that I do? It all reminds me, actually, of a photo I once took: I'd baked a chocolate cheesecake (from this badass Epicurious recipe), dressed it with chocolate ganache, and sat it atop a vintage cake stand, which I juxtaposed next to that issue of Trace with Biggie on the cover.

More images of this lovely studio can be found on

But only a tour would sate me.

Vegan Soul Kitchen

My man will roll his eyes-- and possibly reconsider the viability of our relationship (which is based largely on our shared canivorousness)-- when he catches me with my copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen (Da Capo/Perseus 2009), eco-chef Bryant Terry's latest. But I don't think I'll be able to resist this one-- and the sultry, Blue Note-esque cover has nothing little to do with it. While I am of the opinion that all soul food is "bright, bold, and sexy," I have faith that these recipes will indeed be something special. Especially after I'm done plating them. (Skills.) What's more, Terry himself isn't a vegan-- and he was hesitant to plaster the word "vegan" across his book because "it evokes granola, fake meat." Smart man. He continues, "I like to think that I'm taking African-American staples and coming up with something new."

And he has, it seems: citrus collards with raisins; Caramelized grapefruit, avocado, and watercress salad with grapefruit vinaigrette; Jamaican patties with sweet coconut-ginger creamed corn. Yes, yes, and yes, please. Despite having been born into two separate but equal meat-eating traditions-- I take my pepper soup with gizzards and tripe, and my high school graduation party had not yet officially begun until the roast pig was situated on the banquet table-- I occasionally take a dip in the vegetarian pool. And not as a form of detox, either-- just a way to expand my repertoire. Then again, it's only a matter of weeks before I'm Afrique-bound and have no choice but to try and squeeze into my summer gear. So maybe I'd be wise to adopt a more healthful eating regimen, like, yesterday. Or tomorrow.

Or not, as the VSK release date isn't until March. Mark it on your calendar, and call your local bookseller to reserve your copy.

Happy healthy eating.

Collecting 101

I'll be three days shy of returning stateside, but if you're in New York you should go to The Fine Art of Collecting at the Studio Museum next Wednesday-- perhaps even if you have no immediate intention of starting a collection, as the session will introduce and expound upon the elements of both private and museum collecting, including glimpses into the development of the Studio Museum collection and that of the Swann Galleries-- the only major auction house with a Black art department. I have no immediate intention of starting a collection myself, but in the past month or so, I've encountered a few works (at criminally low price points attainable even to me) that I wouldn't mind owning. Bummed I'll miss this. Not that I need the Studio Museum's permission to get my art buy on. But still.

Give it a go:

The Fine Art of Collecting
Studio Museum Harlem
Wednesday, January 14th from 6-9 pm

Featured speakers will include Naomi Beckwith, Assistant Curator for the Studio Museum in Harlem, Nancy Lane, renowned collector and member of the Studio Museum’s Acquisition Committee, and Nigel Freeman, Director of the African-American Fine Art Department at Swann Galleries. Participants will learn about the evolution of the Studio Museum’s permanent collection, the history of Swann Auction Galleries relationship with African American Fine Art, as well as the fundamentals of beginning and continuing a valuable private collection. Join us at the Studio Museum for this discussion, private viewing and tour.

Pre-registration is required. This session of The Fine Art of Collecting is FREE for members, $20 for the general public and $15 for students and seniors. To register and for more information please call 212.864.4500 x264.

Harlem Toile de Jouy

In the matter of Sheila Bridges' "Harlem Toile de Jouy" (circa 2007), I remain undecided-- after one and a half years of deliberation. Bridges says she designed the print "to tell a somewhat satirical story about African American life as seen through the sometimes distorted lens of the media." I can get with that. For the most part. What's slightly troubling, however, are all the misguided Oos and Ahhs from the blogosphere, and the unintentionally ironic Domino feature. So I hereby recuse myself. But the matter must be settled once and for all. What say ye?

Jnane Tamsna

Meryanne Loum-Martin is living the kind of life many of us ladies dream of leading when we're of a certain age. The French-Senegalese barrister-turned-interior designer, along with her husband, American ethno-botanist Gary Martin, conceptualized, designed, and now operates Jnane Tamsna, a luxury guesthouse in the chic La Palmeraie district of Marrakech. Situated on nine luscious acres, Jnane Tamsna offers 24 ensuite rooms, five swimming pools, private interior patios, an organic (and water-efficient) garden that provides most of the produce used in Jnane cuisine, and world class cooking instruction that has been featured by the likes of Bon Apetit and Gourmet magazines.

Master of cuisine Bahija Lafridi, photographed by Jason Lowe for Gourmet

But Tamsna isn't all; in 2009, the Martins will open Jnane Ylane, a "living, integrated community with 95% of the land devoted to gardens and farmland." The land will be tilled by local farmers, and on-site workshops will be the birthplaces of the pottery and furniture used throughout both properties. Located in the countryside beyond Marrakech, the estate will feature privately owned villas, as well as a cluster of villas that will house 30 hotel rooms. Some of these rooms will feature private rooftop terraces with views over the kasbah to the Atlas Mountains.

Both properties are decorated in Loum-Martin's signature "New Moroccan" style-- a harmonious fusion of Asian, African, and European design elements. I'm dying to see more photos of the interior. Loum-Martin was a contributing editor on New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living, and also owns Ryad Tamsna, a restaurant-gallery-boutique where the talented lovely purveys Moroccan cuisine with a sub-Saharan twist, hand-painted shawls, Senegalese textiles, teas, home furnishings, and other thoughtfully chosen goods. Also credited with ownership of Ryad Tamsna is Syney Loum, a former ambassador to the UK; Meryanne's brother?

Duro Olowu Spring 2009

Initially underwhelmed by Duro Olowu's SS09 show, I decided to take another, more compassionate gander. I remain nonplussed, but I did manage to find a look that I'm actually quite fond of. It's all about the jacket and the necklace, which is one of the designer's many subtle nods to Black Orpheus. Of course, I would hack off at least 12 inches from the bottom of the skirt. But I'm a bit of a sartorial tart. Luckily, my subconscious has a defense mechanism in place: the amount of clothing I wear and the degree to which I assert my seriousness tend to be inversely proportionate. Banish my ego? Never! She's so helpful.

EDIT: For reference, here are a few more looks from the show (from what do you think? Is my distaste misinformed? I agree wholeheartedly with writer Sarah Mower's contention that Olowu plays to "a certain slice of the cultural intellegentsia." Take that as you will.


It's been a while (a year, to be exact) since I was introduced to-- and first thrilled by-- the work of Ghanaian architect Joe Osae-Addo. A proponent of what he calls, "inno-native design," Osae-Addo believes that "interstitial spaces and landscape are what define tropical architecture," and that the elements-- air, light, wind, water, trees-- and all their imperfections are to be embraced.

The images below are from his one-story, 2500 sq ft home in Accra (the one above, from Archiafrika, is unidentified). The absence of hallways allow for the free passage of light and air-- the latter of which is of paramount importance in an equatorial country like Ghana, where the heat often does battle with the humidity. Adobe mud block and timber culled from the countryside were chief among the building materials.

Osae-Addo's company, Constructs LLC, handles all manner of urban planning, landscaping, and architectural projects with an eye to bringing modern architecture and building techniques to Africa in a way that is contextually and culturally appropriate. Constructs has also made room on its full docket to join Brad Pitt and the Make it Right team in their efforts to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Mr. Addo is on the roster for a conference to be held in March in Monrovia that I also plan on attending; I do hope I get to chat with him! Read more about his philosophy and his home (and the darling backstory that catalyzed its construction) in the Dwell article and podcast.

Tony Whitfield

"Socabot" rocking chair, part of designer Tony Whitfield's Red Wing & Chambers LC2000 collection, which features sustainably harvested rainforest materials. Developed at Liana Cane Lab in Georgetown, Guyana. Constructed of steel and liana cane, 28"h x 34"w x 48"d. How nice would it be to lounge on this beauty (with some padding, of course) on the terrace of a tropical modern, boutique hotel in, say, Robertsport?

Carla Williams

I'm still swooning over these haunting, ethereal self-portraits from LA-bred photographer/author/writer Carla Williams, who has done us the very generous favor of making her entire body of work available on her website, Carlagirl Photo. These images are from her Pleasure and Beauty: Self-Portraits from 1985-1990 series, which was developed during her years as a student, and without an eye to making a Statement. Surely this accounts for energetic purity of this work-- which in my opinion amplifies its significance many times over. On a lighter note, I'd love to hang large-scale prints of these heartbreakingly lovely images in a dressing room-- my dressing room. Only there aren't any large-scale prints. And I don't have a dressing room yet.