artists

STORYTELLERS: ALEXIS P. MORGAN

 
 
For the record: I’m feeling really vulnerable about this photo. It shows the weight I’ve gained in my face, my imperfect skin - flaws and all, y’all. This photoshoot was a deeply emotional commitment for me to make and an act of devotion to my own joy and self-love. XO
— Alexis P. Morgan

Alexis having her head wrapped, an act of honor to ancestors and cultural reclamation. For more on the history of the head-tie, see " The History of Headwraps Worn by Women of Color ," and the work of Juliana Kasumu in   From Moussor to Tignon .

Alexis having her head wrapped, an act of honor to ancestors and cultural reclamation. For more on the history of the head-tie, see "The History of Headwraps Worn by Women of Color," and the work of Juliana Kasumu in From Moussor to Tignon.

There are many gems from my recent April photoshoot with Alexis P. Morgan, magic maker and Abbess of the Church of St. Felicia --- catch her interview below --- but I wanted to start with the one featured above, because it's the raw, real, most beautiful human spirit shining through. There was no make-up and none of this trying to fit a visual mold or popular fempraneur internet style. We shot in a tiny, tiny home space (literally a corner) amongst children being their awesome children selves and dear friends working nearby, with the natural light through the kitchen slider as our source, and Nina, Maya, and Audre as our energetic creative team.

 

Going into this session, my intention as photographer and guide was to create + hold the space for transformation and the deep recognition of the self, to help my client see the self as the miracle it really is. I've known Alexis for several years through our divination and energetic-workings communities, and I know how much heart-energy and trust was gathered on Alexis's end to enter into both this act of devotion to the self and this relationship with the camera.

*The notion of sitting for a portrait can often feel quite scary. Having to look at oneself in the company of others and the public can be terrifying. Judgement will want to join you. It doesn't have to.* 

 

Alexis's energy is a mix of fierce warrior, truth-teller and gentle spirit, evident in the sensitivity, compassion and fire of her work and writings on social justice, intersectional feminism, and change-making. Her voice speaks anger and raw truth, but also sincere and heart-felt guidance. She's walked through many a fire, and I wanted to show both the beauty of her energetic scars and the pure light of her spirit in these photographs. I wanted Alexis to leave with a tangible piece of evidence imprinted with the joy, old soul wisdom, natural beauty -- and that laugh! -- that her community feels, sees, hears, and buzzes from.

This is what magic looks like.

 
 
 

 

STORYTELLERS:

A interview series with the women who record and relay the stories of human truth, connection and history through a creative body of work.

Here is Alexis P. Morgan's take on art, responsibility and the power of story in her own words:

 

 

What inspires you? 

This is a really difficult answer for me to articulate in a way that doesn’t feel trite and generic to me. Because the answer - albeit the tl;dr version - really is ‘everything.’ But it’s more complicated than that because I don’t necessarily write or create art about everything, I do have a process, and I do have ethics and commitments I am devoted to. So the full answer is: living life, people’s stories, and how those experiences interface with my devotion to Truth, Justice, and Liberation, and my commitment to always trying to find ways to invite people to experience the world and reflect on ideas in a thought-provoking, embodied, and fresh sort of way.

 

Where are you when you get your best ideas?

Late at night, in bed, dicking off on social media — or on the phone with friends and mentors who know how to ask me the right questions, or be present with me while I ramble through my thoughts.

 

What are you researching in your work right now?

I recently went through a major move (from Denver back to Chicago), a significant surgery (wisdom teeth), and I’m still in my first year of mourning for my mother, who committed suicide last summer. So I’m in a very weird period of my life, with one book of my life closing, and another getting underway. But I’ve been reading, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” by famed Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel and immersing myself in my spiritual practices and community. Just taking in the world as it is, with our very volatile political climate, trying to keep an eye on the seeds of opportunity planted deep in the shit that is the final death throes of kyriarchal, fascistic social norms at the hands of globalization and technology. Trying to tend those seeds through my writing and give people something to hope for, maybe.

 

How does your social identity impact your responsibilities as a researcher, interpreter and artist?

As a woman of color who is, irrespective of my identities, devoted to truth, justice, and liberation - I feel my work should always serve those aims. But as a woman of color, I feel like my responsibility is to my joy and modeling that joy and sharing it with the world. Too many women and girls of color are brutalized out of their joy by our society. I was one of those children. I reserve the right to live as fully as possible, in a way where my joy seeps into my work, and - ultimately - nourishes everyone around me.

 

What would you like to see more of from women artists?

From women of color artists: unapologetic joy. 

From white women: giving up your seats at the elitist tables of the various art worlds, being more inclusive in your consumption of work, and being willing to confront the privilege and barriers intentionally built into many of these professional spaces head on, fiercely, without apology, and without fragility. 

 

Who are the women artists you turn to for education and inspiration?

Audre Lorde. Nina Simone. Nayyirah Waheed. Rupi Kaur. Warsan Shire. McKensie Mack. Beyoncé. Octavia Butler. Solange. Amber Rose. Nicki Minaj. Rihanna. Angela Davis. bell hooks. Sam Irby. Shonda Rhimes. Shenee Howard. Kara Walker. Didi Delgado. This list is off the top of my head and incomplete. But every one of these women is an artist in her own way and brings something to the table that I draw from in terms of my own capacity for artistry and creativity.

 

In one sentence, leave us with a story about what it means to be a woman artist right now.

To have the capacity to expand joy and find freedom. 


"When she's not busy working or serving a good cause or organization, she's a pole-dancing, kickboxing bad example as the democratic socialist, feminist, Pan-Germanic Heathen witch Pat Robertson warned you about. She currently resides in the Windy City (Chicago), where she lives art, writes words, and makes the kyriarchy cry. #staymad" 

      -Alexis P. Morgan, intuitive, writer, artist and activist.

 

-Get informed: through Alexis's writing on Medium

-Be visually stimulated: by Alexis's digital painting.

-Then go: Hex the Patriarchy.

 

In need of portraits for yourself and/or your business that tell the truth of you? Start here.

International Women's Day Inspiration

 
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For International Women's Day I celebrate all the creative sisters (not just cis-ters) who have impacted my life and work. Here is a tribute to just a few of the many many. (from top left across)

 

1. Salt-N-Pepa

One of my very first cd's (Whitney Houston's Bodyguard was my first -- thanks Steven Cohen for letting me keep it.) I think I picked up the Very Necessary album in 3rd or 4th grade. I can still sing you all the lyrics to Shoop and None of Your Business. Thank you for your incredible energy ladies. You help me feel confident in a flash.

 

2. Mariah Carey

I still remember the very first time I saw the video for Dreamlover with Mariah dancing in those wildflower fields, but it was Hero that stole my heart. In the third grade I sang Hero in front of the whole school during our talent show. I was so emotional I cried after singing the song. ☺

 

3. Frida Kahlo

Frida and I crossed paths when I was 15 or 16, when I was struggling with one of my most difficult waves of depression. I was drawn to the bold colors of her work and her use of symbolism. I had no idea what any of it meant, I just knew I loved her. On a trip to Venice, Italy, when I was 16, it just so happened that a gallery in St. Marks Square was holding an exhibition of her work. Our trip guide gave me directions to the gallery, and I walked my independent self through the city to see her work for the very first time. All of her famous works were in front of me! I stood in front of The Two Fridas breathing in Frida's spirit for as long as I could.

 

4. Beth Gibbons

Beth, your voice got me through some really tough high school years. You don't even know. I should write the evening shift Sam Goody music store employee who said, "Have you heard of Portishead?" a love letter. And I seriously love you too. Thank you for making the most beautiful Pluto-Saturn-Scorpio-deepest depths of the soul music for me and Stacey to drive around our neighborhood to.

 

5. Georgia O' Keeffe

Georgia was my high school art teacher's (Mrs. Stanik -- who I also have a special place in my heart for) favorite artist ever. It was Georgia O'Keeffe everyday, 180 days for all four years. And I'm thankful to Mrs. Stanik for it. I have always felt so comforted in O'Keeffe's desert colors and flowers...but now that I'm OLDER, and learning more about HER there is a much deeper connection between our creative souls I am appreciating. Georigia, I can't wait to see your work in Santa Fe this summer!

 

6. Kate Winslet

Winslet's work connects me with the deepest, darkest, most raw parts of the human spirit and soul. Thank you Kate for taking on the projects Revolutionary Road, The Reader and Mildred Pierce. We need more stories, characters, and truths like these in film.

 

7. Lynne Allen

Lynne, you are the best printmaking teacher ever. Thank you for being my mentor in college. Thank you for pushing my art, giving me the opportunity to attend Anderson Ranch, and planting lots of seeds in my heart about honoring Native American heritage. I miss you.

 

8. Julia Hetta

I discovered Hetta's work on Pinterest 1.5 yrs ago, and I was stunned. Her work was everything I wanted to make/be/dream/eat when I imagined myself as a working artist. I can't get enough of the light, the air, the color and the unusual in her photographs. Julia, thank you for coming into my life during a very critical time -- 6 months before the return to a creative practice after a 5 and half year hiatus. Your work is my guiding point on the horizon. I hope we can meet one day.

 

9. Haruka Sakaguchi

Haruka, your work is what sealed the deal for me on attending the Local Milk retreat in Japan during March/April of last year, a retreat and community that has brought so much incredible beauty into my life. Thank you for being my photography mentor this past year. Your work leaves me in awe and always inspires and challenges me to be a better seer and human. Your guidance has been invaluable. I super love you.