For the final installment of our artists’ diary entry in anticipation of the Strivers Gardens Gallery and Souleo Enterprises, LLC exhibition, “eMegre: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp” we focus on the two artists making their official gallery debuts: Beau McCall and Shirley Nette Williams. Drawing inspiration from the vast button collection of his mother and aunts, McCall crafts art images combining various materials such as mother of pearl, wool and decorative buttons. In Until We’re Free (2012), McCall visually imagines W.E.B. Dubois’ concept of double consciousness in a statement that opens the discourse on race, class and politics in the 21st century. McCall combines decorative buttons with glow in the dark thread to transpose the American flag over the color pattern of the Pan-African flag on four panels of crowns, the latter inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In her U.S. debut, Londoner, Williams pays tribute to iconic and tragic women of song in A Nice Cup of Tears (2012), stitching onto teabags portraits of singers Whitney Houston, Billie Holliday, Tammi Terrell and Florence Ballard. For Williams these four popular singers lived very public lives yet appeared to be lonely, and ultimately suffered tragic ends. Williams’ series poses the question: could it all have been prevented by each woman simply taking time out with real friends to sip tea and pour out their troubles?

The opening reception of the exhibition is Thursday July 12 at 6:00pm at Strivers Gardens Gallery located at 300 West 135th St, New York, NY.

Before then, get to know the journey of each artist in his or her own words.

Beau McCall

I remember how excited I was when I first entered the creative industry. Coming from my home in Philadelphia to Harlem, I wanted to absorb the culture, the life, the excitement and the richness of what goes on in this Black Mecca. I was inspired by this fashion show in Harlem Week. The people at Harlem Fashion Institute were interested in what I was doing at the time with buttons and I did fashion shows non-stop. I got my foot in the door and started to create a name for myself. In doing so I came across various cutthroat industry politics that was less about the art and more about commercialism, money and fame. I got tired of getting a pat on the back when nobody wanted to truly support the work. So little by little I lost focus. I did a few more fashion shows and said I will take a time out and the time out turned into ten years. 

I haven’t created in quite a few years. I’ve been out in the world looking and searching for my spark to rise from the dust. About two years ago I met somebody that’s real special and he inspired me. He gave me the jolt and push that I needed to go forward. Finally I have my spark back.

‘eMerge’ is the perfect opportunity for me to return to doing what I love: creating. I want people to know that I am passionate about my work. I hope that passion will inspire people to open their mind. Sometimes we live in little boxes but you have to come out the box. You have to open your eyes, smell, feel, touch, experience, explore and ultimately, emerge.

Shirley Nette Williams

As an emerging artist my daily challenge is to wake up feeling confident and ready to get my work done. I see myself as on a journey from being an amateur to becoming a professional artist. I know that the negative forces of resistance are constantly working to sabotage me. Resistance is the enemy within that prevents us from doing our work and procrastination is the main symptom. I, like many other artists, don’t have a problem with coming up with ideas or making work. My real challenge is sitting down to make the work because resistance and is fuelled by fear and self-doubt and leads to self-sabotage.

So, I’m constantly learning that feeling fear is an indication that making art is my vocation…I’m doing it because I love it! However to become a professional artist, I need to fully commit to making art and put it out there for public evaluation. When I release my work to real world exposure and validation it’s an empowering act that combats resistance, which in turn propels more work. So far I’ve gone some way to achieving this through blogging. Emerge will however be my first live public showing of work that I’m happy to develop into the future.

Souleo Enterprises, LLC is the umbrella company that creates, produces and curates media content, events, exhibitions and philanthropic projects by founder, Souleo. Presently Souleo Enterprises, LLC is creator/producer of the adult LGBT, financial literacy and arts programming for the New York Public Library taking place summer 2012 seen here.