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This weekend, a powerful presentation curated by Mashonda Tifrere entitled "Truth About Me" closes at Urban Zen. Organized by the founder of the artist advocacy organization ArtLeadHer, the show at Donna Karan's exhibition space reveals a selection of work from 19 emerging and established artists who all explore themes of personal identity and human connection. In addition to the group presentation, Tifrere highlights the work of Amani Lewis through a five-work solo presentation entitled "Midnight."
“We are all products of a program that was projected onto us at birth and during childhood, and whether or not our inherent beliefs are formed by nature, nurture, or somewhere in between, it is inevitable that we will all lose some portion of our truth along the way," said Tifrere. “Through intimate portraits and abstract art surveying personal truths of emotional intelligence, the artists examine a journey back to their truest expressions of self, while imploring viewers to turn their gaze inwards to seek the parts of themselves they’ve hidden.”
"Truth About Me" features work from artists in all stages of their careers—from those who have never presented their work to those who present at major museums and galleries around the world—including Lindsay Adams, Yulia Bas, Adrienne Brown, Tawny Chatmon, Penda Diakité, Kameisha Garbadawala, Julia Greyson, Jazmine Hayes, Latoya Hobbs, Monica Ikegwu, Shantell Martin, Alexis McGriggs, Ambrose Murray, Dawn Okoro, Lauren Pearce, REWA, Lanecia Rouse Tinsley, Chantel Walkes, and Jade Yasmeen.
In celebration of the exhibition and ArtLeadHer's fifth anniversary, Whitewall spoke with Tifrere to hear more about "Truth About Me" and why its theme is particularly important today.
WHITEWALL: ArtLeadHer is celebrating five years of providing a platform for emerging women artists to show their work and participate in discussions with art professionals. How has the organization’s mission evolved since its inception?
MASHONDA TIFRERE: We have evolved in so many ways. More supporters, collectors, and institutional partnerships. It’s also been beautiful to witness some of the artists go on to showing across seas and with museums. We are also now in Los Angeles and San Diego and beginning to focus on serving the youth in the inner cities by way of artist-led workshops and other art-focused events. Even prior to this exhibition, I’ve been selling art all of COVID, helping out the artists I work with and others I’ve discovered along the way.
WW: “Truth About Me” explores personal identity and the human condition. Why was this a theme you wanted to explore today?
MT: Human condition and emotional intelligence are two subjects that are constantly intriguing to me. Being that this show was a big moment coming out of lockdown, I wanted the artists to ask themselves, “What did I learn about myself during 2020?” It's a big question that encompasses a lot of introspection and vulnerability. I think we all have a story to tell if we made it out of that year alive.
WW: “Truth About Me” is also joined by a five-work solo presentation by Amani Lewis. Why was she an artist you wanted to highlight?
MT: I've been following Amani's work since 2019. I love her style and her energy. She came up with the concept of "Midnight" and it was refreshing and innovative to me. I loved the idea of a dimmed room with dark, mysterious works of beautiful black people. I felt the series needed its own space to properly tell the story
WW: How did you select the artists in the show? Was there a common denominator?
MT: The common denominator is the first instinct I get about the artist, then it's an awareness of the collective consciousness that I feel from all of the artists. For a group show like "Truth About Me," I realize that the creators have to have a few things in common—they need to feel the same amount of desire, passion and grace for their work for it all to harmoniously exist on the same walls. It starts with a picture of the work. Do I see quality, trajectory, emotions? Is the work honest to their journey? I ask myself all these questions then i get to know the artists. I find most of the artists on Instagram or through residency programs.
WW: Of the exhibition, you said, “We are all products of a program that was projected onto us at birth and during childhood...it is inevitable that we will all lose some portion of our truth along the way.” Do you feel there is a portion of your truth that you’ve lost along the way, but recently found?
MT: Absolutely. Society, family and friends program us from the day we are born. It takes so much unlearning to get back to what our truth is. I consider it the “real work.” The mastering of self. I was able to sit in stillness and alone for most of 2020. I learned so much about myself and who I didn’t want to be anymore It was quite beautiful and devastating all at once. The letting of the old parts is what's challenging,