The Movement of Black Visual Art: "She's Gotta Have It"


The creative industry game is the midst of a major upheaval happening particularly in the world of visual art. The resurgence of visual art intermingled within our daily dose of entertainment is seemingly right on trend. Whether in a new TV series, movie, or live festival concert Black visual art is transitioning its position amongst mainstream media to the front lines of exposure to the masses. This shape-shifting journey of Black visual art is so much more than a trend of the present day cool. Each project is simultaneously dissecting race relations by exposing injustices within the industry. Demanding old guard iconic filmmakers to create new narratives with a renewed sense of creative innovation for Black artists are just some of the thick threads of progress created by the fair inclusiveness of highlighting and celebrating Black art in all spaces.  

Spike Lee is one of the most uniquely talented and iconic filmmakers who chooses to continue to inject himself into world’s current culturally charged moment in Black visual art as an opportunity to promote artists that are still underrepresented in mainstream media and the art world at large. Bold decision like those of Lee realign the artistic conversation about Black visual art and how to produce a new world of creativity with a plethora of alternatives inclusive of newcomers to create their artwork both inside and outside the traditional formats. While major institutions are indeed making public efforts to showcase Black art, there are still cracks in the elite picturesque art atmosphere that falls tone deaf to when those same artists highlighted within that institution speaks out against injustice are ignored and iced out. When veteran filmmakers like Spike Lee and the late John Singleton incorporate the work of Black artists within their entertainment it reverberates throughout the industry both legitimizing and stimulating a new avenue for Black artists to showcase their work.


Spike Lee has birthed his signature cinematic style through the history of curating visual and performing art throughout his film career. Both Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, veteran art collectors, have always supported and promoted young talents throughout the entertainment industry as part of there activism within the industry.

By presenting critically acclaimed forces within the Black contemporary art community, the Lees have emphasized the role that artists have within society. Both seasons of Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” Netflix series introduces us to a montage of real life Black artists at various levels in their career all actively pursuing a viable lifestyle just like protagonist Nola Darling.

We’re sounding the on the virtual loudspeaker on these real life visionary artists and their beautiful artwork to add to your personal art collection!

The Artists Behind the Art: "She's Gotta Have It"

Part 1

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Carrie Mae Weems

Contemporary Artist. Art Photographer. Videographer. Activist.

“It's fair to say that black folks operate under a cloud of invisibility - this too is part of the work, is indeed central to [my photographs]... This invisibility - this erasure out of the complex history of our life and time - is the greatest source of my longing.”

-Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems is among the most radically innovative contemporary American artists working today. In a career spanning nearly five decades across the mediums of photography, video, installations and public art campaigns — Weems has unapologetically unveiled the historical biases that guide our own actions and shape our perceptions of others. The continuous motifs in all of her works, from her famous intimate family photographs to series involving archival images of enslaved Africans is what unites her subjects and viewers in a common humanity.

Born on April 20, 1952 in Portland, OR, Weems studied dance with the Postmodern dancer Anna Halprin, eventually receiving her MFA from the University of California San Diego. In 2014, Weems was the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York titled “Three Decades of Photography and Video,” which notably featured her early Kitchen Table Series (1990), a groundbreaking investigation of African American stereotypes becoming the first African-American woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim.

We first encounter Weems in a scene from She’s Gotta Have It, Series in season 1 with her iconic “Kitchen Table” series. For season 2 Weems makes a stunning return appearing as herself on screen, as an established affluent artist, mentor, and educator masterfully re-fueling Nola Darling after a less then stellar portfolio presentation at the Nation Time artists’ retreat that left her feeling doubtful about her work and comparing herself to others. Its Weems authentic charm and grace in the scene with Nola that reawakens her purpose as an evolving artist after feeling defeated that is so powerful and memorable for its audience.

Weems’ work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, among others. The artist lives and works between Syracuse and Brooklyn, NY.

Carrie Mae Weems Artwork

“An artist’s “obligation” is to “make what you want to see in the world.”


Doreen Garner

Sculptor. Performing Artist. Tattoo Artist.

“Take the power back, twist it, and sharpen it. Probe all cavities of the privileged viewer experience. With viscera and bling, a material mush is formulated of beads, Swarovski crystals, silicone, rubber, teeth, condoms, teddy bear stuffing, Vaseline, etc., held together by glass walls or latex membranes.”

-Doreen Garner

Doreen Garner is a Brooklyn-based sculptor and performance artist born in Philadelphia, PA. In her visceral work as a sculptor, Garner interrogates the medical industry’s exploitation of black bodies. Garner’s work is magnificently grotesque and literally carves into the beliefs of sexuality, gender, and race. Her sculptures capture the essence of the body in its most natural state: skin, blood, hair, MUSH stripping the external form of the body that we comfortable knowing. Garner brilliantly uses the body as both the host and catalyst to an infinite amount of perfectly choreographed systems, invoking a mysteriously spiritual awakening. It is Doreen’s talent to capture the essence of the body with selective material genius manifesting each sculpture as a votive to this “thing” we each call home.

Her 2017 show “Purge,” at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, exposed the damage done by the 19th-century doctor J. Marion Sims. Garner’s interests stem from her curiosity of examining the interplay between “pain and power,”. The “Purge” compels its audience as a collective society to face the reality of racism that J. Marion Sims’s legacy as the “Father of Modern Gynecology” was built upon.

I identify, extract, and exploit the tissues that bind the sexual and the grotesque, specifically regarding the black female body. Treated as spectacle and disposable specimen, these women and their stories—Henrietta Lacks, Saartjie Baartman, the victims of Dr. J. Marion Sims—are a driving force. Identifying the voyeur as the subject, an oppositional gaze is directed towards fetish, objectification, and racism.

-Doreen Garner


Doreen’s artwork proves to be such an innovative exception because her bold, bodily sculptures confronts the historical racial trauma of Black women. Garner has held residencies and fellowships at Recess Art, the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Socrates Sculpture Park, Pioneer Works, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She holds a BFA in Glass from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and an MFA in Glass from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is a recipient of the Toby Devan Lewis Award, the Van Lier Fellowship Award, and a Franklin Furnace Grant. Currently, Garner is practicing as a sculptor and inscriber of flesh. She is also a licensed tattoo artist, a practice that extends her acknowledgment of the simultaneous resilience and silencing of African Americans throughout history.

Doreen Garner’s Artwork

“It’s not about creating a gruesome work. It’s about creating subtle nuance where you don’t completely know how to feel. And maybe that’s what stays with you.”


Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Illustrator. Muralist. Painter.

“Directly challenging the xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric now dominating American discourse, subjects of this work assert that they are not going anywhere.”

-Tatyana Fazlalizade

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is a Black/Iranian visual artist from Oklahoma City, OK. With a degree from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, she is a classically trained artist with a background in illustration whose artwork extents in the form of vivid rendered oil paintings, large murals, and black and white wheatpastes that are unmistakably her own. Fazlalizadeh’s audacious spirit and passion for activism has allowed her artwork to expand from the gallery to the streets to tackling issues of violence in public spaces and gender based street harassment to violence against black people.

Tatyana first caught the attention of film director Spike Lee with her “Stop Telling Women to Smile” series via Instagram. In 2014, Lee asked Tatyana to be the Art Consultant for the TV adaptation of his first movie She’s Gotta Have It. Fazlalizadeh’s work was so compelling that her original street art series “Stop Telling Women to Smile”, is echoed in the fictionalized street campaign series “My Name is Not”. Fazlalizadeh is the creator of all of protagonist Nola Darling’s work seen throughout the series.

Her street art series, Stop Telling Women to Smile, can be found on walls across the globe, addressing gender based street harassment through illustration portraiture and storytelling. Tatyana has been profiled by the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, the New Yorker, and listed as one of Brooklyn’s most influential people by Brooklyn Magazine. She is 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. She has lectured at the Brooklyn Museum, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, several universities including Stanford, Brown, USC, and Pratt Institute. Tatyana’s work has been featured on TV networks BET and Oxygen, and Spike Lee’s feature film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. Tatyana's work can currently be seen on Spike Lee's Netflix series, She's Gotta Have It, for which she is also the show's Art Consultant. She is also the current inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights. A year long residency that will present the experiences of racism and sexism from New Yorkers through public art. Tatyana is currently working on her first book, Stop Telling Women to Smile, with Seal Press and she currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

“I think it’s important to address those issues because they’re incredibly significant and important to not just my life because I’m a black woman,” Fazlalizadeh said, “but they’re important to our country and our world and our society in general. I don’t think that those issues that face black and brown people or queer people or women are issues that are isolated and only affect them. They affect everyone.”


Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Artwork

“I wanted to talk about street harassment, so it made the most sense for me to do the work in the street.”


Titus Kaphar

Painter. Sculptor.

“I'm not saying that things now aren't better for black people. Thank God they're definitely better, but some things are still the same. "Better" is not good enough - it's not. Especially when "better" still means my life is at risk.”

-Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar is an artist whose paintings, sculptures, and installations examine the history of representation by transforming its styles and mediums with formal innovations to emphasize the physicality and dimensionality of the canvas and materials themselves. Kaphar is known for appropriating images from American and European art subverting them, cutting them into his canvases to pull back the velvet curtain of history. Through cutting, bending, sculpting, and remixing historic paintings and sculptures, Kaphar often shifts the focus of the narratives to create new works that exist between fiction and quotation. He wields materials like tar, wire, gold leaf and nails to unearth the past’s inconvenient truths, and to shine a restorative light on those residing in the shadows. Open areas become active absences; walls enter into the portraits; stretcher bars are exposed; and structures that are typically invisible underneath, behind, or inside the canvas are laid bare to reveal the interiors of the work. In so doing, Kaphar creates art that nods to history's untold narratives and reveal its unspoken truths of social justice and change in America today that leaving his audience to investigate the power of a rewritten history.

Titus Kaphar was born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and lives and works in New Haven, CT. Kaphar received an MFA from the Yale School of Art and is a distinguished recipient of numerous prizes and awards including a 2014 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship, a 2015 Creative Capital grant, a 2016 Robert R. Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant, a 2018 Art for Justice Fund grant and the 2018 Rappaport Prize. In late 2014, Kaphar created a painting in response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown that was featured in TIME magazine. He gave a TED talk at the annual conference in Vancouver 2017, where he completed a whitewash painting, Shifting the Gaze, onstage. Kaphar’s work has been included in solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, among others. His work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AK; the 21C Museum Collection; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL, amongst others.

Future exhibitions include Suffering from Realness at MASSMoCA, New Bedford, MA opening April 13, 2019-2020.

Titus Kaphar’s Artwork

I want to make paintings…I want to make sculptures that are honest, that wrestle with the struggles of our past but speak to the diversity and the advances of our present.”

Stay tuned for the rest of the artists highlighted season 2 of Spike Lee’s “She Gotta Have It” series next week !

Behind the Brand with Stylist Trisha Dodson

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Hailing from Washington, DC stylist Trisha Dodson shares with us in an intimate interview what inspires her stelections during her creative process. She takes us through her style evolution and the people that have truly influenced her work over the years as a stylist and costume assistant in the entertainment and fashion industry.

Behind the "Master Class" EP with Dannis Winston

When it comes to introducing a talent like Dannis Winston, it begs the question: Where should one begin? The composer, classically trained vocalist, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist has quite a story to tell.

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Growing up in foster care as a young child, the idea of music as a career for Dannis was a dream nowhere in his horizon during his early childhood. As life would have it, a small neighborhood talent show would be the creative pressure cooker to awaken the singer and reveal that his gift was so much more than a hobby displayed around the house during holidays and family functions. Way before founding his roster of bands under his own company DWP (Dannis Winston Presents),  it was Winston's childhood favorites like Prince, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder that formed his musical palette and manifested his current day sound and artistry. Fast forward past the adolescent gospel choirs and bands, Winston took a leap into entrepreneurship at the young age of 22 to create the Winston's Crew Collective. Determined to control his own career path and hone his musical sound, he used his unique performance artistry to make a distinctive name for his band so much so that New York Magazine named his band one of the Top 100 Wedding Bands to have at your wedding. The multi-instrumentalist has managed to merge the worlds of music and art from leading his fleet of bands to music art philanthropy as well as releasing his solo EP "Master Class". Leading up to the exclusive release of his newest EP "Master Class" we spoke to Winston about the development of his musical sound, his personal inspirations, and of course, the impact of today's cultural climate for Black folk and how that has powered his music. 

"I am a master of the art of the class of learning, forever.

Winston's perspectives and tastes in music were cultivated by years of heeding the greats. There are something about those family BBQ's and weddings that blared the classics embedded in the fabric of our DNA catalog of funk melodies and rhythm and blues soul, the entire world still can't get enough of.  We can not deny musically and culturally. Like many artists Winston to lives by a set of personal mantras that have matured his creative vision and seeps throughout his range of music. A true master of any art form is always in that state of evolution for the sacrifice of their gift, but it is that conscious state of mind that propels his gift beyond that of just another good singer. For Winston, that famous Nina Simone quote

"You can help it. An artist's duty as far as I'm concerned is to reflect the times...I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?"

holds true to his music. After coming back from a great performance at Essence magazine's annual summer festival in NOLA Dannis was faced with the news of yet another Black man killed by another police officer.  "I couldn't stop crying about the loss of Black men, said Winston bearing the tormenting truth behind his first single release "4 Black Men" from his new EP "Master Class".  "My skin is Black / And as I roam, I live in fear / Not for myself, an aging man / For murdered boys, before they're men, " are some of the stirring lyrics that to invoke Nina Simone's signature lyrical truth serum. Dannis narrates the riveting stories of youth, poverty, and homosexuality from the souls and voices of Black men within this track. But even more undeniable is that essence of piercing yet relentless pride to overcome and carry on is what continuously echoes throughout the arrangement.  

Dannis is not one for labels, traditions, and rules as his music is a montage of many elements from African rhythms to jazz classics. Between the soft sensual sounds are the grit and funk soul bounce that will get you in the groove. This EP is Dannis' ode to being unafraid to represent different stories of Black men and be a truthful voice on that journey. " I want to use my gift to have a global conversation, but I had to gain my sense of self to do that. I had to practice the inner walk of life to be able to educate through my music and be a voice for Black men, " said Winston whose path to music was challenging with varied experiences. There is something very distinguishing about a man who holds the beautiful compassionate spirit of Nelson Mandela, the unapologetic confidence of Prince, and the fusion of Anderson Paak's artistry as their creative formula. When you are an artist that has practiced the same values and beliefs as the great legends with a different tolerance for ambiguity, it is organically experienced within the culture of the music the evolution happens.

Dannis served up an exclusive performance for his audience at Minton's Harlem last weekend and had this to say about his latest work, " Master Class speaks to my commitment to being a student of the greats everyone from Duke Ellington to Quincy Jones to Harry Belafonte and master of my own sense of class. It is a reflection of my journey as a singer/songwriter, creating a music career managing nine bands and performing music around the globe for crowds from 50 to 500."  The EP was produced by Winston himself, with additional production from Matt "eCussionist" Vorzimer (Robert Glasper) and Joel Gonzalez (Big Daddy Kane). The project was mixed and mastered by Grammy Award winning engineers Bassy Bob Brochmann and Mark Christensen. The five-track EP highlights Dannis’ talent as an arranger, musician, songwriter and vocalist inspired by #BlackLivesMatter movement. It also pays homage to Black men that Dannis has been influenced by both musically and socially.

Check out highlights from his debut of the EP at Minton's Harlem and have a listen to "Master Class on Soundcloud below.


Photo Credit Stephen Smith/Guestofaguest