THANKS TO SANDRA PAYNE for making work even while facing many personal and family challenges–through it all she focused on beauty and some of that became the cover for my poetry collection. I am blessed with brilliant, talented, dedicated friends.
Today started gloomy-as if Spring wanted to show that yes it can get chilly and gray and oh so not fun again. So what to do-well I had an appointment to see work by Sandra Payne. www.sandrapayne.com. I’ve known Sandra since the late 1970s’s/early 1980s and we’ve both seen NYC change in some ways for the good/in some ways for the bad. C’est la vie! One thing we have in common w/ a number of Black American and African Diasporic artists is Just Above Midtown Gallery run by the incomparable Linda Bryant, at one time the only contemporary art space devoted to Blacks and other people of color in Tribeca. David Hammons, Senga Nengundi, Lorraine O’Grady, all manner of later to be famous folk got their first major gallery shows there. There were sightings of DeNiro (never saw him), et al. But mostly there was a powerful committed to conceptualism by Blacks and installation work and stuff that wasn’t seen as “Black” i.e. THE AVANT GARDE. As someone who had been in the East Village from day one of my journey in NYC, I was used to Bohemia, to conceptualism, to installation, performance art–it was simply refreshing to see the artists be pretty much the same color as me!
So back to Sandra–she’s an artist who has been working in a combination of the accretted–elaborate manipulated sculpture pieces made of colored aluminum or collages that explore our fascination w/ luxery items: pearls, jewels in patterns and colors that seem like an explosion of displays from Cartier, Tiffany’s or DeBeers. And then there are the items from the natural world-driftwood and minerals and feathers–what she does with peacock feathers is magical. This in an apartment the size of a NYC EV studio, but one w/ high ceilings (thank God for height) so there are cabinets of wonders–each time she opened a drawer, it was a surprise. And she has collections of mid-century Americana; Black memorabilia; copper utensils; and beautiful boxes with items that will one day find a way to be exhibited in just the way she wants them to be. Years ago, I saw a work of hers which alas could not be reproduced for a book cover, but it was of a circle of black tulle with different hued gems–a kind of storm of desire. Her capacity to organize all of these materials and make a space that is comfortable and full of delight is why she is so very special to we who are her friends and admirers.
My visit was to see work that may (hopefully) adorn the cover of my new and selected which may be called The Perfect Lipstick or The City Proper or At the Fringe of Town–don’t know just yet. So today’s outside gloom was met with explosions of beauty, radiance, commentary on African American history–didn’t talk about her use of Black memoriabilia–and I am so grateful that she is one of the artists that were part of that unruly band that started out at Just Above Midtown. She may not be as known as many of her compadres from back in the day, but she is deeply committed to making work of intense beauty and wit. I am really looking forward to what is on that cover for my White Pine Press volume.