Monday, October 20, 2014

year ago today, I landed in Ghana, West Africa for the very first time.  But perhaps, what's even more significant, a year ago today, I became an international artist.  Exploring the correlation between identifying as an artist and how it ties with visiting a new place has officially consumed me this afternoon.  I began examining the parallels of this dynamic while reflecting on The Art of Voyage: 1 Year Ghana Anniversary As An International Artist and here's what I came up with thus far...

Declaration and Absence of Hesitation 

Declaring the thing without hesitation is a powerful way to use our very handy function of speech.  With confidence gathering on the tip of the tongue, there's simply no room for doubt.  Despite the lack of a plane ticket, the mandatory yellow fever shot, malaria medication, hotel reservations, or solidified travel itinerary several weeks before departure--my conversations with those in my presence had a theme:  "I am an international artist and I am travelling to Ghana, West Africa for my very first International Participatory Public Art Project."      

BOOM!  I even changed my email signature to "Jolyn Going to Ghana Gardner."  I wanted the Universe to be sure that I was completely clear on who I was (international artist), where I was going (Ghana, West Africa) and what I would be doing once I arrived (art, duh!).

A New Identity Requires Visualization

If talk is cheap, then visualization is even cheaper.  It doesn't take much to sit down, close your eyes and conjure up images of what we say we would like to experience.  Every day I would envision how people would receive me once stepping off the plane, the art presentations I would give in an international setting, and even how I would introduce myself to others.  (If I had thought of it back then, I would have made an international artist identification card just to add a layer of extra corny which the Universe absolutely just loves, FYI.) 

Manifestation is in the details and visualizing the series of steps it would take to land in Ghana was also an every day exercise.  Accordingly, I visualized how the sun would greet me with that equatorial heat and even how excited I would be once the plane ticket was purchased.  Once I did finally purchase the ticket, I printed it off and framed it so that I could look at it every day.  It reminded me that a major step had been accomplished and that there were other steps to take.  Defining what it meant to be an international artist through visualization helped to make my new identity real.  

Division Has No Destination

The biggest confirmation of my new identity was a conversation I had with world renowned artist, Ablade Glover a few days after arriving in Ghana.  (Yes, I actually got to meet Ablade Glover and yes he is super amazing in person!)  He told me that over here (meaning the non-western part of the world) artists are not divided up into stages like emerging, mid-year and established.  He said, once you identify as an artist, your work speaks for itself.  If I only went to Ghana to hear this one truth, it would be more than enough.  What Ablade said, (yes, he said I can call him by his first name) opened up a new window of my identity that felt like the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


International Artist, Jolyn Gardner Campbell Smiles While Sitting in front of a Hand Painted Ghana Flag on a Concrete Wall.

  Shout out to 3 Artists who have helped shaped my international mindset as an artist! +Shurvon Haynes +Charles Bibbs +Larry Poncho Brown 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

You'd be amazed at what you can learn from an internet cat lady.  While the traditional "cat lady" conjures up an image of a little old lady with frizzy hair, lovingly pouring milk into porcelain bowls, dressed in a floral moo-moo, and surrounded by 50 cats climbing all over the kitchen counters with their pissy-paws...the internet cat lady loves cats just as much minus the ever so hard to remove feline fragrance that's more like a stench that slaps you in the face from a block away.  

Far, far, far away from that stigma, the internet cat lady just happens to passionately post cat videos and cat pictures all over social media 24/7.  

I don't hate all blacks cats...I have one black internet cat lady friend.  (Sorry!  I couldn't resist.)  Seriously, my friend posts cat videos and pictures every other post it seems.  

I hadn't noticed that was a problem until another friend hosted a GNI (Girls' Night In).  A little aside: GNIs are what the grown and sexy do that prefer to ditch the heels for a not so quiet evening of dinner, drinks and laughter at home.  No cover. No last call.  No drama.

The only thing remotely close to drama if one can even call it that was the surprise intervention that even I wasn't in on.  To this day I am thankful I skipped the red wine and opted for that can of Sprite.  Otherwise, there would have been a permanent Merlot reminder of what took place that night...

[Enter the Interventionists stage left.  ABC's Shark Tank is softly playing in the background.  Cat Lady is minding her own business when the Interventionists make an announcement.]

INTERVENTIONISTS: (In an ominous tone) There's a reason why we've called you all here tonight.  (Laser sharp focus on the Cat Lady) This is your intervention.

[Complete silence covers the room except for the immediate outbursts of Cat Lady]

CAT LADY: What?  Me?  What did I do?  IS THIS ABOUT MY CAT VIDEOS?!

[All erupt into laughter including the trying-hard-to-keep-a-straight-face Interventionists.]


When I say I could not stop laughing -- I am telling the truth -- TEARS!  I did however learn 3 surprising lessons about passion that can be applied to our dreams, goals and even blogging ventures.

  • COMMIT TO DO THE RESEARCH ON YOUR TOPIC.  Cat Lady is always in the know about the latest internet fur ball to hit the scene.  I am not sure if there is some sort of list-serv but home girl is ON IT.  When you really care about something you can't get enough of it.
  • POST WITH NO F**** GIVEN.  You think Cat Lady cares if someone stumbles across her post or is tired of seeing felines blowing up their newsfeed?!  No.  She posts what brings her joy, makes her laugh and makes her say "Dawwww wook at the widdle kitty."  Of course you want someone to "buy what you're selling" but for every one person who doesn't "get you" there is someone else who will.  If you don't post, show up, and/or share your gifts and talents with the world they will never find you.  Cat Lady is essentially saying, "I think this cat playing with string will make you feel the same way I did."
  • POST CONSISTENTLY AND YOU WILL BE BRANDED AS THE EXPERT.  If I ever want to know or need to know what is going on with Grumpy Cat, who do you think I am going to?  Right.  Whatever consistent internet offers we bestow via updates, pictures, videos etc., if there is a readily ascertainable theme, we become associated with that particular topic.  This can be both a good and a bad thing.  I have a Facebook friend who seems to always be looking for sympathy with her constant woe is me posts.  If I ever need to feel better about my situation, I just troll her page and instantly feel better.  Why not be associated or branded with something you are truly passionate about?  Who knows you just might become recognized as the next cat lady expert, in your field. 

Did you enjoy this true story with a message?  Share it with your cat lady friend!  Be sure to tell me in the comments any surprising lessons you've learned recently too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

hat is Afro Jazz?! So glad you asked.  As an artist-attorney I would like to paint a picture of the facts, if you will.  Here are 31 AMAZING FACTS ALL ABOUT AFRO JAZZ just for you. It's in a completely random order (sorta) to spice things up and keep you on your toes.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

rt. What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.  Art is healing.  Art is revolutionary.  Art is therapeutic.  Art is game changing.  Art is educational.  Because art is all of these things and more, it is the perfect medium for social change.  But with so many uses where does one start when it comes to using art to create change and establish justice for all?  

Figuring this all out is exactly what I have been up to since last month - social justice planning, sitting on panels for social justice, attending community meetings, participating in social justice for art teacher training, having social justice conversations, talking to teens to see how they feel about what's been going on, talking with other artists about the role their art can play in change, talking to my white friends about race and equity, reading books, and volunteering for a friend's documentary project.  I have been priming the wheels of social justice all over Seattle.   

A few weeks ago, I tweeted a quote I came across regarding social justice:

Art is definitely something you do but is it something you think about too.  Lately, I have been thinking about what I can do with my art to bring about social change.  I even designed a social justice art camp for teens around this very topic.

Currently, I am reformatting this concept as a workshop that will arm our youth with the power of creative expression for social change.  Just in case your brain was packed with political pondering too, here are 7 WAYS TO IGNITE YOUR INNER SOCIAL JUSTICE ART ACTIVIST in no particular order.  

#1 Meet Beverly Naidus (randomly) at an art walk

Last weekend, my art ace and I purchased a vendor booth for the Rainier Beach Art Walk on what felt like the hottest day ever for September.  Luckily for me, having my mouth wide open like a golden retriever trying to stay cool masked my utter shock and awe as Beverly Naidus strolled up to our art booth.  

In case you've locked yourself in an dusty art studio somewhere and haven't managed to keep in the know, Beverly Naidus is a BOSS when it comes to implementing art for change.  Her book, Arts for Change: Teaching Outside the Frame is an excellent reference for stirring up things for the better.  If you don't have the patience to set up booths all over Seattle art walks hoping to run into Naidus, buying her book is the next best thing for some social justice inspiration.
You know I had to take a picture with her.  She even said she liked my Afro Jazz art, you guys!  I was just so happy to be in the right place at the right time.  My art ace actually took classes with Naidus at the University of Washington, Tacoma.  So they know each other.  I would love to take a class just for fun.  I am NOT trying to go back to school any time soon, okay?!  BUT, for a professor like Naidus...
Me, Beverly Naidus and my art ace, Shurvon Haynes.

 #2 Explore Constructions of Cultural Identity through Art

This is a fun one.  Dissect all of the labels society has given you: male/female; black/white; rich/poor etc..., and then create an artistic narrative of who you really are.  Of course this list is way longer, but you get my point.  Who or what do you identify as?  How does this differ from how the media portrays your particular "labels"?  

Sometimes, I identify as the color blue.  What do I mean by that?  I associate the color blue with sadness and deep contemplation.  Lately, all of the political shenanigans have given me the blues.  If I were to paint a self portrait it would be a wave crashing against some jagged rocks...similar to the ones I saw in Cape Coast, Ghana near the slave castles dungeons.  My ancestors are those crashing waves.

In my latest work called Afro Jazz, I am exploring and seeking to contribute to the narrative that black lives matter. By mixing photography, graphic design, African textile, ink and paper, I have created a mixed media collage technique that pieces together my personal take on the beauty contained in "blackness" or being "black." 

#3 Go to a Pecha Kucha near you

Sounds like a funny name but it is AWESOME.  Pecha Kucha is a Japanese word for "chit-chat."  I actually have to practice the pronunciation in my head before saying it out loud.  It is a presentation format that takes place in a community where you get 20 slides that appear for 20 seconds each for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  

I went to my first Pecha Kucha in Seattle hosted by the Seattle People of Color Salon (SPoCS) at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) a few weeks ago to hear a dear friend and brilliant journalist, Nourisha Korrine Wells, present on the history leading up to Ferguson.  I had no idea her hometown was so close to Ferguson, Missouri.

There were many other brilliant presenters as well.  I left that night feeling inspired to act.  BONUS: Join me, as I follow the presenters listed below on Twitter to keep up to date on all of their latest efforts to change the world:  

Check out the slideshow highlights.


Find out more about Pecha Kucha.  The topics vary depending on what's going on in the community and/or the world.  It is a great place to interact with the thinkers in your community or those who have something to contribute to the conversation.  Go to a session first and then perhaps, you will be the one presenting! 

#4 Buy a ticket to London of all places...

I don't know about you but London is NOT a city that immediately comes to mind when thinking of inspiration for social justice.  But that is exactly what should come to mind, at least for the Disobedient Objects Art Exhibition currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  This exhibition examines the role objects play in protest from makeshift gas masks constructed from discarded plastic bottles to inflatable cobblestones to hinder the police!  Click the link in the tweet to see the exhibit highlights.   

#5 Write some Poetic Justice (as opposed to just watching the movie)

Marcus Leslie, a fellow artist friend led a poetry for justice workshop at my social justice art camp last month.  He helped us ease into the poetry writing process by having us start with a favorite line from a song that best described who we were.  After several different exercises we all wrote poems on the topic of white privilege, the school to prison pipeline, and stereotypes.  I have included my poem below.  Keep in mind that I do NOT identify as a poet so be kind (lol).


They said they had all the privilege and I had none.
So I wrote my own permission slip.
Now, I have some.

They said they wanted all the privilege but I could have a little.
So I went straight to the Source – I cut out the middle.

They said they needed all the privilege…
But I interrupted before they could finish:
I know who I AM and guess what?


The Black Arts Movement which spanned about a decade included poetry as one of its main forms to support the movement's self defined narrative of what it meant to be black and "Black Power."  Here is a short guide to the Black Arts Movement that may spark your poetic flow.  To see an outline of significant happenings during that time check out this Black Arts Movement Timeline.

#6 Watch a documentary

Better yet produce your own social justice documentary but NOT for the money.  There is no money from what I've heard.  I suppose you could write grants and raise the money online but your first focus should be the "why."  Why produce a documentary?

I've found that the best reason is to amplify the voices of those who society has silenced.  Find a topic that you're passionate about or one you think more people should know about and break out that video camera.  

Nowadays, our phone game is so sick, that a camera phone can capture good enough footage to get the point across.  A few weeks ago I agreed to film my friend speak about disabilities and diversity at a college.  She handed me her iphone and I hit record.  It will suffice for clips to add to her overall project.

There are so many issues that need to penetrate the mainstream and interrupt the daily routine of consumerism and selfies.  My friend chose a topic that is personal to her and what she experiences everyday as one living with Tourette's Syndrome (TS).  The biggest thing I have learned from my friend is that no two symptoms of TS are alike.  The typical cussing one thinks of when one thinks of TS is not that common.  TS can manifest in all different kinds of ways.  You will have to watch her documentary when it comes out for more info.  It will open your eyes... 

For the love all things meaningful, get out there and start filming.  Start interviewing.  Who cares if aspiring filmmakers make 80 jillion docs a year?!  There's room for more.  Yours could be that one that changes the game and flips the script.  While I'm talking, I should get started on one of my own...

#7 Get your life internet together

Stay up to date with what's going on in the world.  One of my favorite sites to peruse the latest happenings via topic/category is Alltop.  Check out this great picture slide I came across on various examples of art for social change.

Do you have an idea for a documentary?  Have you been thinking about what you can do to contribute to social change for the better?  What issues really get you fired up?  

Tell me all about it in the comments.  Hit the "SUBSCRIBE" button up top for art related updates, art discounts and event invitations both virtual and live.  At the very least I hope you are inspired to share this post with a friend or 5, who might be in the middle of changing the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

We can only give what we have, right?  If you give a lot, you must have a lot.  The Art of Contribution is also about the Law of Reciprocity.  What we do in service to others is returned to us often times ten fold.  So the next time you think you are doing someone a favor, you are really activating a favor sequence that is supervised by the Universe.  What we do in service to others is really done in service to ourselves...

These days my art life is all about contribution.  As the campaign manager for two time national best selling author, Debrena Jackson Gandy's The Love Lies National Book Tour on Indiegogo, my thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc., are all focused on contribution.  

This will be Debrena's third book!  For those of you who don't know, Debrena is my friend, client and mentor all in one!  We have a multi-layered relationship that is just magical!  She even included me in the "Acknowledgements."  You know I cried when I saw my name.  It was totally unexpected.  Here's a little about The Love Lies:  

What is the BIG LOVE LIE that has ruined lives, destroyed families, wrecked homes, broken hearts and even resulted in homicides? In Debrena Jackson Gandy's new book, The Love Lies, with foreword by Actress Kim Coles, she reveals this BIG FAT LOVE RELATIONSHIPS LIE along with nine others that have wreaked havoc in our love relationships and marriages.
 This message in The Love Lies is so important and so transformational that it must be shared.  IT'S THAT REVOLUTIONARY. It's been 15 years since her last best-selling book and folks all around the country are waiting with baited breath for her new book and national book tour.     Over the past three years, Debrena has been sharing these mind blowing teachings and principles in her Love Academy intensives and Men-tality Seminars (for men only) around the country – teachings that are challenging our relationship status quo and upsetting our current, flawed relationships “apple cart.
So far, the two live fundraising events we have hosted have exceeded our funding goal by 100% or more!  This would not be the case if we had never contributed to others in the past in various capacities, situations and opportunities.  

With only hours left of the online campaign, you still have time to practice The Art of Contribution by GIVING HERE.  The book is set to be released on September 15th but you can pre-order your copy using the link below.  

hat's your definition of FLAWLESS? Beyonce, has hers but what's yours?  The first step in realizing the art of being flawless as an artist is self definition.  You define for yourself who you are as an artist before anyone else has a chance to convince you otherwise.  

Mixed media African textile mosaic collage Afro figures

An exercise in self definition

It's not hard to find a starting part.  A simple Google search produced the following definition:

adjectivewithout any blemishes or imperfections; perfect.
"her brown flawless skin"
 without any mistakes or shortcomings. 
"he greeted her in almost flawless English"
My journey started as an undergrad.  Before I even sat down to apply to law school, my professor asked me what I would do/be if I didn't get in.  This was not simply a question about a plan b.  It was an exercise in self definition.  Without hesitation, I told her I would be an artist.  Now mind you, I hadn't taken not one single art class in college but I knew the art piece was in me.  

I am so thankful she asked me that simple yet profound question.  It was like a touch point firmly embedded in my memory bank for a time when solely practicing law would not be enough.  A time that arrived sooner than I thought it would.  

LET THE RECORD REFLECT, before an LSAT score, a law school letter, a legal job offer, and a bar exam had the chance to define and design the contents, scope and limits of what I could see possible for me, I DID.  It's a good thing too because that rejection letter from Harvard Law, as gracious as it was, hurt just a little bit (sniff, sniff).  

Being flawless as an artist is not about being conceited, arrogant or possessing a ridiculous sense of entitlement.  It is about looking at the art you create as worthy simply because YOU created it.  

Please don't get it twisted.  This knowledge does not take away from any notion of humbleness or grace and is NOT mutually exclusive.  You can be flawless, know you are flawless and still be humble all at the same time.  It took me some time before I truly got this down.  

Part of this awakening of sorts started back in 2012, when I wrote a piece on The Art of Greatness.  Ever since then, I have been coming into this knowledge of self more and more.  Another part of this awakening involves identifying as both an artist AND an attorney and not splitting the two.  Most would think they are complete opposites and cannot work.  I make it work everyday.  It is who I am.  I am both.  I guess you can say I am legally creative (whomp, whomp).  Or you could say I'm corny.  Either way, I'm flawless.  Ha!  

A case of identity theft

In speaking with "emerging" artists about submitting their work to MODUS DOPERANDI: THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION, (a call for art where only dope artists need apply), I discovered that there was this hesitation to identify as a dope artist.  Even when the artist was the sole authority on their level of dopeness.  

I was starting to get nervous for a minute and thought that perhaps, I had made too bold of a request.  I was trippin' you guys.  I did find three dope artists who were unapologetic about their dopeness and was so thrilled.  Their work (including some of mine) is currently featured in the exhibition.  You can check it out at Gallery 31.  

But as for some of the other artists, I realized that this was deeper than an issue of confidence.  The artists that I spoke with had confidence.  I mean we were talking at the opening night of an exhibition where they all had their work prominently displayed and a large group of people came just to see their art.  So, I don't think confidence was an issue.  It was more like an issue of identity.  Not knowing you are inherently flawless as an artist is like having your identity stolen.  The question is, who are you allowing to defraud you out of your own identity??

If we are not careful and if we fail to do the inner work of self love as an artist, we can easily fall prey to the critics, comparison, rejection, doubters, naysayers, parade pissers and bubble busters.  

If you have let any of the above hi-jack your highest artsy self, then it is time to take back your identity and firmly plant it in the garden of flawlessness.  Remember, when Dororthy fell asleep in the field of poppies in The Wizard of Oz?  When she woke up, she was confused.  I am not even sure if she knew who or where she was in that moment.     

Apparently, Beyonce does not have that problem.  Bless Beyonce, for telling the whole world that "[She] woke up like this.  [She] woke up like this.  Flawless."  Breath stankin', hair all over the place, no makeup, no lashes, crust occupying all of her eye corners and she still knows she's flawless.  That is awesome.  

Can you imagine?  You're in an interview about your latest art series and the interviewer is asking you about your creative process and you tell them that your art just woke up like this.  It woke up like this.  Flawless.  

"Gawt damn. Gawt damn."-Yonce

If you are flawless, share this post with other flawless ones.  What does/did/will your exercise in self definition look like?  How do you maintain your beliefs in an art world that runs on reviews and constant critiques?  Share your flawless thoughts in the comments.  Oh, and be sure to visit our flawless virtual exhibition at Gallery 31.  


Monday, August 4, 2014

ove. It's just so splendid. When you love yourself and then out of that self love you decide to love's like magic. You get that feeling of unstoppable-ness. You just float around life on cotton candy flavored clouds. Weightless. Limitless. FREE. Wouldn't you agree?

Every year and probably every day, countless love struck couples come armed with their own decorated lock or purchase a lock from the street vendor conveniently set up right in the middle of the bridge, to add their lock of love on Paris' Pont des Arts. A bridge littered with what seemed like literally thousands of locks.  I found the concept to be quite interesting. 
Pont des Arts Love Lock Bridge in Paris, France Overlooking the Seine River.

Are we saying that love can be so elusive that we actually feel the need to lock it down? Our language surely reflects this concept when relationship ultimatums are given or the question is asked, 
So when do you plan to lock things down?  

And isn't interesting that it's not the presence of love that is heavy but rather our perceived absence of it?  If you've ever been heartbroken, you know that what I mean.  

One spot on the bridge became so burdened with this universal love that a whole panel of the bridge collapsed and was replaced by a wooden board.  The wooden board then became fair game for those seeking to tag their love a la graffiti style, only requiring a Sharpee.
I suppose the old adage applies here.  When in Rome Paris do as the Romans Parisians do...only I am not so sure how many of those love locks belong to locals.  In any case, I decided to participate in this love ritual of sorts but with the following understanding:

  • The lock I used was actually one that was purchased before a trip to Panama and carried a lot of great memories.  No need to spend an obscene amount of Euros on a dollar store lock.
  • It was a simple lock to reflect the simplicity and ease of the love I experience daily.
  • Adding the lock to the bridge was not about locking up love but rather anchoring it temporarily until such a time in the future when I could return to it and reflect on any changes like if my capacity to give and receive love increased any, since the last visit.  
With all of these understandings in place, I was ready to lock the lock on the bridge and throw away the key.

A closer view of the locks on Pont des Arts Love Lock Bridge in Paris, France.

I chose a spot on the Pont des Arts that had much more room for love.


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