Nona Faustine: Racism is . . .

Nona Faustine marches up the steps of the Tweed Courthouse, built on top of what was part of the African Burial Ground, in New York City; this photo is titled Over My Dead Body.

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Racism in the United States is a cancer that has infected every segment of our culture and society for too long. Institutionally and structurally operating on all levels and highly adaptive, you see its devastating effects on a daily basis. To be fully proficient it demands that a large segment of our society denies its existence and denies, at least publicly, that they are indoctrinated, that the disparities and inequalities we see in our society are simply due to some lack of accountability, ambition, and inferiority, in one’s self or group of people that it affects. You wonder if there will ever come a day in this country when racism won’t be so prevalent. What is most distressing is the thought of how one’s life as an African American with Native blood would be different if racism didn’t exist.


Nona Faustine on History, Memory, and Trauma

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The opportunity to explore little known aspects of the role of Africans and Native people in the Revolution, it’s absolutely dynamic! At this time in my creative work explores history and memory and trauma. American History is so much more than what we have been taught in school and that is such a tragedy to me, particularly the contributions and sacrifices of African and Native people whom without there would be no America. We need desperately to change that.

Nona Faustine Confronts History through Portraiture

Self-portraiture allows me to respond to those images of people who were put on display as examples of inferiority, politicized black bodies in the early history of photography. Images made long ago and ideas perpetuated even now.

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I document myself in places where the history becomes tangible. Acting like a conduit or receptor, in both protest and solidarity, with people whose names have been forgotten and whose contributions remain unacknowledged. Conjuring past memories embedded in the land. The resulting images are both historical and anti-historical, as they pose questions to which the answers have been violently denied.

The figurative and literal weight of the black female body, the role it plays in Western society, and the canon of art history, reconstructing a narrative of race, memory, and time that delve into, stereotypes, folklore and anthropology, and family lineage. These are meditative reflections of a history Americans have not come to terms with, challenging the duality of what is both visible and invisible.

Michelle Angela Ortiz on the Power of Community

It has been a horrible week in United States history. Two unarmed black men were murdered by police officers; then snipers (a sniper) killed eleven police officers. Artists do have an opportunity to address such situations and reach people in a way that can help to heal. This is what artist MICHELLE ANGELA ORTIZ sees as her role as a community artist:

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Through my evolution as an artist, I find myself in a place that I can not ignore what is happening around me. I have the capacity to create art that can transform spaces, present different perspectives, and inspire dialogue over the most profound social issues. I have been witness to the changes that happen to communities when they can express their fears, struggles, triumphs through the creative lens. I believe that every artist has the right to speak their truth, my truth is to create art that is both poetic and powerful and that speaks to social issues that I and/ or the communities I work with encounter.

Michelle Angela Ortiz Amplifies Community Voices

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In my art, I am most interested in communicating compelling stories that are often ignored. I strive in both my studio and public art works to create a platform where I can amplify the voices of the community to create awareness and spark a connection and inspire action in the viewer. For example, that connection can help someone look past the statistics of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and really take a moment to hear and empathize with the story of a mother, father, or child through my art.

Michelle Angela Ortiz: Racism is . . .

MICHELLE ANGELA ORTIZ‘S community mural in Philadelphia, Aqui y Alla

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At this moment, the face of racism can be easily tied to Donald Trump and his followers. But racism in the United States is much more than media clips spewing hate, racism in this country is systemic.

In my city alone over 20 schools were shut down in predominately communities of color. Currently, schools and public health centers have been shut down in the colonized Puerto Rico increasing the poverty rate on the island to 45% leaving the island crippled in the hands of vulture funds. In the United States, millions of undocumented immigrants are criminalized and are led into the deportation system feeding money into the prison industrial complex. Communities of color are misrepresented in the media and are unjustly and harshly tried in the court systems. Our traditions and culture are constantly being appropriated, claimed, and used to market for financial gain.

When communities of color are not able to access affordable and high quality education, healthcare, housing, employment, it is clear that racism is intentionally embedded through our social and economic system in this country.

Michelle Angela Ortiz: Artists’ Perspectives

MICHELLE ANGELA ORTIZ  shares why she wants to be a part of Race and Revolution, a public art show. (Shown here guiding an artist who is creating a community mural)

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I decided to participate in the show because I feel that it is necessary to create spaces to present work and inspire dialogue about injustices in this country. The diverse perspectives and interpretations of each artist in the show gives depth to what we experience and how we decide to represent it through our work.

Michelle Angela Ortiz – Community Artist

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.12.54 AMMICHELLE ANGELA ORTIZ is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Through painting, printmaking, and community arts practices, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face. Her work tells stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery to claim and transform “blighted” spaces into a visual affirmation that reveals the strength and spirit of the community.

For over fifteen years, Ortiz continues to be an active educator in using the arts as a tool for communication to bridge communities. As a highly skilled muralist, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally (PA, NJ, MS, NY) and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led community building and art for social change public art projects both independently in Costa Rica and Ecuador and  through the United States Embassy as a Cultural Envoy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Honduras, and Cuba.

Ortiz is a fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts (2011), recipient of the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award (2008) and Art & Change Grant (2012 & 2006.) She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Moore College of Art & Design and a Master’s Degree in Science of Arts and Cultural Management from Rosemont College.