Chicago was a special stopping point for us because we got to meet up with the third member of our best friend trio (first and last time we're ever calling it that), the infamous Tiffany Ward. Seeing her was particularly special because in a few months time, Tiffany will be moving to Brazil to pursue her dream to curate Afro-Brazilian art.
She's just now launching her blog Cores Brilhantes (coresbrilhantes.com) which spotlights Afro-Brazilian artists and themes. We got to talk to her about her blog and future big move.
You’re originally from San Francisco but haven’t lived there in almost ten years. What colors make you think of that city and why?
Blues and greens and oranges, when I think of the natural colors of the city (the pacific ocean, the greenery, and the orange accents). Black when I think of growing up in SF and the pro-black education I received through my first years of schooling.
What do you think about the city now that you haven’t lived there in such a long time?
Now I feel like I’m half-Californian, half-New Yorker. Having lived in both places, I’ve seen a lot of how gentrification tears places apart — the damage it does to the culture. People escaped the south by going to places like SF and New York and DC and Philly and, with them, they built beautiful, colorful cultures. Now our spaces are being taken away so I do kind of feel like I’m in a no-man’s land. The neighborhood (Bayview/Hunter’s Point) I’m from isn’t even gonna be there any more.
In New York, just being there 7 years, I saw so much change. I lived in Harlem and you’d see this brown place — a brown place where people were forced to live because they weren’t allowed to live in other places. And now they’re being forced out? Oakland, New Orleans — these were brown cities. Now we have nowhere to live. So, yah, when I think of San Francisco, I am heartbroken.
You’re in Chicago now. What colors do you think of when you think of Chicago?
Gray, misty gray. I tend to think of more somber colors here in Chicago. Chicago is a very loaded city for me. I came here to recover, to learn compassion for myself. I came here to get peace of mind. its really easy to get distracted, to get swallowed whole in cities like NY. Because I’m not attached to Chicago, I have more time to be at peace with myself — to see my own color.
But the somber gray comes from the income inequality, the history of housing discrimination here in this city and the poverty that ensued as a result of these policies.
And America as a whole?
The misty gray also represents to me the way in which America will ignore the gray in race relations. Everything is black and white. We’re always told and shown the end of the story, never the beginning (or even the middle). When a young, white kid makes a mistake, you "need to hear the whole story." We talk about shades of gray for some people but not for others.
When you give people the human experience in all its different shades of gray, you’re learning compassion and that’s really important in race relations. That’s important in a racially charged city, in a racially charged country, in a racially charged universe.
There’s a serious lack of compassion here in this country and in this gray windy city.
So why is your focus on Afro-Brazilian art?
As a kid, I didn’t think I was into art at all. Everything I learned was eurocentric so I didn’t see myself in any of it. Later, when I was studying abroad in Brazil, I realized I was into art when I saw a painting of an Afro-indigenous Brazilian man in the field working. It was such a beautiful portrait of African and indigenous history. I wanted to see more.
So you’re moving to Brazil —
I’m moving next year. The move was all about putting myself into an artistic space and I realized, through social media, that there wasn’t really a space for Afro-Brazilian artists specifically. There are things dedicated to the African Diaspora or to Brazil in general but not just Afro-Brazilians.
There’s such a vibrant community of blacks in Brazil that I want to celebrate it and be part of it. It’s important that people have spaces to express creativity and to escape a solely eurocentric lens of art.
And that’s where your blog, Cores Brilhantes, comes in.
It translates to “brilliant colors.” It highlights Afro-Brazilian artists and Afro-Brazilian themes as told through art.
Can you give us an example of one of the artists you feature and how they use color?
Renata Felinto! The magentas she uses! She uses patterns and mixed materials and even glitter (though you can’t even tell it’s glitter). It’s just all so vibrant. When I think about what I want to present to the world, it’s work like Renata’s that inspires me. She IS Cores Brilhantes. She IS brilliant colors. It’s so awesome to see Afro-Brazilian women represented.
What colors make you think of Brazil?
Blues and the greens because of the water. When I think Brazil and the African diaspora, it’s impossible to not think about water. It's how we came to exist in this part of the world.
But also, I think of Pelourinho. It’s the center of the city in Salvador — it’s a historic UNESCO site. It’s emblematic of how I feel about Brazil in general. It’s beautiful and people know it for its beauty but the history is much darker. It was a whipping post. It was the square where slaves were brought to be beaten. And now it’s a tourist site but no one talks about the slaves. It’s beautiful but there’s no question as to how or why.
People also talk about “tan” when they talk about Brazil. But I think black and brown are cool and should be celebrated as well.
Do you think color plays in to the exoticism of black women around the world? Maybe people assume that black women should only be portrayed in bright, vibrant colors?
Yeah! Because there’s this general idea of “wild women.” With the history of the slave trade, people came from colder, grayer areas and went to these warmer places where everything is so green and lush and the color of people’s skin is literally different.
But there's a lot of contemporary art thats on my blog that not just bright paintings. Like the art of Sonia Gomes. Her style is completely different than what people might expect. She uses different materials and a lot more gray or white.
With the diversity of techniques and styles, Cores Brilhantes isn’t the name just for the art itself. It's the name for the history and stories that people tell. There is no one right way to be represented. That’s the whole point.
So what’s your favorite color?
Deep Magenta. I’ve always been fascinated by ruby colors, both in my clothing as well as in home décor. Ruby tones look really great on my skin.
As we already said, we are so, so proud of Tiffany. Normally, the three of us will take any chance to poke fun at each other but, today, Tiffany gets a free pass because she's doing something so beautiful and exciting. This blog post is a landmark moment in our friendship because we're all working together and no one said anything remotely snarky.
lol jk. We're totally gonna make fun of Tiffany. Look at these pictures where she's treating us like we're her personal assistant and back-up dancer:
All the world is Tiffany's stage and we are merely players. Congrats, Tiff.