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D. DelReverda-Jennings is an artist of many mediums. She moves fluidly through a number of arts disciplines as an arts administrator, facilitator, regional arts editor/journalist, poet, author and visual artist.
"Art is intrinsically integral in the spectrum of my day, and has always been a constant passion and drive throughout my life," says D. "It is compulsory and I must admit that I create the majority of what I do for purely selfish reasons. To please myself and my inner child, bringing my spirit great joy and amazement, then on to share with others, where I acquire yet another marvelous blessing whenever a piece touches someone."
D. has received more than one Invidual Artist Program (IAP) grant, most recently for "HORIZON: Contemporary Indiana Artists of Color" a literary concept created to bring about greater awareness and appreciation for Indiana native or resident artists of African descent practicing visual art disciplines. Here is her story.
Indiana Arts Commission (IAC): Besides the funding, what are the benefits of receiving an IAP Grant?
DelReverda-Jennings: Let me first say that the IAC IAP grant is an invaluable artist resource. I am so very grateful to have received support through the years for a number of projects and each has had a positive definitive impact on my creative life and practice. The awards have encouraged pursuit of professional goals, helped to open doors, provided new direction as well as empowered a greater voice within my work. The IAP grant offers acknowledgement, validation, and recognition of an artist's work by a panel of art professionals. The value of receiving an IAP grant is immeasurable in that it offers a means for further growth, examination of opportunities sometimes outside of our reach, the ability to push boundaries, discover new artistic paths and a shot of monetary nourishment for an artist's creative mind, process and practice. The ongoing availability of the grant says to me that the State of Indiana believes in and supports artists of all disciplines and the marvelous diverse work that we do.
My experience has been wonderful! Being awarded an IAP grant is an absolute blessing and an honor. It has given me gifts of financial support and the time it allows implementation of projects that I might ordinarily not have had the opportunity to execute.
IAC: Why did you initially apply for an IAP grant?
DelReverda-Jennings: Funding in 2012 enabled realization of a concept that I have had in mind for years, bestowing the opportunity to take the work from a shelved, although developmental stage and turn it into a viable publication. It fulfilled my mission in the importance of preserving art heritage, bringing awareness to it and has created on ongoing initiative. I wanted to bring this long-held literary concept of mine to fruition, as a result of many years of research, interaction and writing about little-known and emergent visual artists that I had met, worked with, or showcased in my exhibitions. I found there was a crucial lack of information in regard to contemporary Artists of African descent/African American available, documented or archived in major arts-related institutions in Indiana and wanted to bring information and images forth from my own archives as a journalist/regional arts editor of seventeen years, to the public in a tangible context. The project grant and the resulting creation of the book has positively impacted my credibility as an author and journalistic documentarian, broadened my skills as a writer, helping establish my work to a greater extent in the literary field.
IAC: How long did it take you to apply for the IAP grant?
DelReverda-Jennings: Having researched and previously written about several hundred artists in the last seventeen years, the concept had been a long-held desire in the making. I had time to think beforehand and sort out many of the variables before deciding to apply for an IAC FY12 IAP grant in the literary discipline. Additionally, the ease, accommodation and variety of today's growing self-publishing industry, utilization of print-on-demand services and digital cameras have made the whole process of bringing a book to publication much easier.
I went online to view the application before working on it and began completing my proposal in increments of several hours at a time over a period of about a week. Actual hours to complete the application took perhaps 21 in total. I focused on my proposed project envisioning each step as how to best implement it from the beginning to the final report. I addressed each question on the application, located old publication files, re-read each and then proceeded to lay-out everything. After a number of grammatical and budget checks, narrative revisions, listening to feedback from colleagues, editing and reading over everything several more times, I finally submitted my information online, which by the way was really wonderful! No more paper-clipped, multiple copies to deliver. Love the convenience!
IAC: Tell us a little bit about your work as an artst.
DelReverda-Jennings: My artistic journey is influenced by a kaleidoscope of cultural nuances, personal experiences and observations, I fluidly free-lance in a number of arts disciplines throughout the Midwest as an arts administrator, facilitator, regional arts editor/journalist, poet, author and visual artist.
As a journalist and editor, I have sought out, engaged, researched, cultivated little known or newly discovered artists and artisans, photographed, written about and documented them and their work, as well as created numerous articles, columns and editorials in regard to artist opportunities, dialogue, community culture, arts & cultural news and information for over seventeen years.
An author and poet, I have written several chapbooks of original poetry. Recently published Volume 1 of, "HORIZON: Contemporary Indiana Artists' Of Color," an ongoing series of collective biographies under this title and am currently working on the second volume.
Primarily Self-taught, I am not confined to a single medium and this challenges me as an interdisciplinary artist to go outside of the microcosm of my comfort zone. My signature figurative sculptural work is organic, extremely detailed and texturally complex, resulting in ethereal pieces evocative of ancient entities with some of the techniques relating to ethnic craft archetypal of ancient West Africa. I create welded works, wall relief's, original cast work, printmaking, fetishes, totems, collage, carvings, assemblage and constructions, functional-utilitarian objects d'art, installations, public art works, mixed-media, illustration, photographic works, textiles & fiber, textural abstract compositional works, large decorative~functional "FrameMirror Work" artpieces (my own concept and design) inclusive of hand wrought, incised, highly charged, worked and reworked (chased and repousse`d) surfaces, deeply variant, tactile compositions of metalwork.
I make compelling 2-dimensional narrative paintings as well as sculptural pieces which address my lineal connection to and illuminate the importance of African American, Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean Latina/o and Afro-Latin's in the context of the African-Diaspora culture and the divine feminine/Women's art of the Diaspora. My work celebrates women, depicting females who are in a state of self-discovery, insight and affirmation, while exploring the complexities of bi-racial/multi ethnic/multiracial-cultural identity and referencing from the spiritual and religious histories that have aesthetic traditions based in the African Diaspora. I use identity, women's issues, stereotypical assumptions, indigenous wisdom's-folklore, ancestral memory and nature as material in the construct of my work as well as traditional and original personal symbolism, aesthetic references and reflective imagery pervasive of African, American, Native Alaskan and Taino cultures.
In fashioning my work I utilize a wide spectrum of media and materials integrating vibrant hues, organic patinas, complex surfaces and incised relief's, hand wrought metal treatments and emphasized textures. I have also brought facets of my complex textural work to my exclusive artisan "Statement" design jewelry line "SEVENTH GODDESS JEWELRY DESIGN," (begun in 2010), which feature hand-hammered precious and semi-precious metals, semi-precious stones and mixed-media..that speak in bold character and substantial elements, capturing the spirit of the contemporary woman seeking unique pieces of distinction in wearable artistry that communicate luxury, style and elegance.
My work has been exhibited internationally in Canada and the Caribbean and I am honored to continually receive invitations to create commissioned work, participate in juried exhibitions, invitational shows and compete for awards. A number of pieces were shown in the recent, "SPEAK ! Women Sharing Voices Through Art," a four month long, 2012 presentation of the King Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio. My work was showcased in the recent 2012 presentation of "AMOR2: Hecho en Indiana / Latino Art In Indiana," held at the ARCH @ Chatham Gallery in Indianapolis. I am currently exhibiting work in FLAVA FRESH IX !_ 2012 - 2013, my annual three exhibition, juried group presentation series, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit Michigan's acclaimed showcase of "Visions Of Our 44th President." My work is held in their collections as well. In 2012, I was commissioned to create a large scale public art piece "At The Crossroads__Totemic Column," for the Buckingham building development located on Indiana Avenue as a tribute to the African American community. My work has been selected repeatedly throughout the years as a feature in the annual Indianapolis Marion County Public Libraries (IMCPL) gala exhibition showcase, "Meet The Artists,' including the 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2013. More of my artistry will be seen in a solo exhibition entitled "Caught Between The Sun And Heaven," at the Arts Council of Indianapolis' Gallery 924, in 2013-2014.
IAC: You have received more than one IAP grant, what made you apply often?
DelReverda-Jennings: I am grateful for the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a federal agency, for their generous support and I applaud the State of Indiana for continuing to provide funding for the arts and making the grants possible.
Through many of the publications that I write for and by word-of-mouth, I continue to promote the importance and availability of the annual IAC - IAP grants. I've informed and shared the results and work from my projects with countless others, have written about the accomplishments that I have been able to enact with the support, and how the same results may possibly occur for any eligible Indiana artist that makes the effort to follow the guidelines and apply.
IAC: How long have you been an artist?
DelReverda-Jennings: As far as I can remember I have had some sense of who I was as a creative. I have always loved art and I have always loved color, texture, complexity, pattern, un-conventional materials, tactility, etc., and feel that it was a natural progression for me to go into the visual arts field. As a youngster, I began making what could have been construed as art, although some may have begged to differ. I collected colorful objects, lace doilies, wood, rocks, colorful string and bits of cloth, I favored small shiny scraps of metal as I recall (yes, I still remember things from my early past). I was often told by my Grandparents who raised me that I would work tirelessly..all alone, attempting to make something out of my treasure/findings or would break things up and try to assemble choice pieces into what I construed as a cohesive whole. On one occasion when I was about four, I received an unforgettable and well deserved behavioral adjustment due to a dangerous attempt at making papier mâché bracelets out of tissue paper, then succeeded in climbing up and opening the huge old enameled monster of a gas oven while it was on, to dry my lumpy creations. My Grandparents, God love them, knew that I was an old soul (been here before)..a bit touched, a tad odd, slightly askew....but they reinforced, influenced, enriched and supported my creative nature.
I have been exhibiting artwork in a commercial/professional context since 2000, and have been creating artwork and craft/artisan work for decades. I have been a columnist, journalist/editor/poet for over seventeen years.
IAC: What is your creative process?
DelReverda-Jennings: As a self-taught artist I intrinsically seek out things, people, environments, interactions, experiences that will help me in my desire to grow, evolve and focus while improving my knowledge, technical adeptness, observation and aesthetic skills to convey my perceptions in whatever discipline or medium that I choose to work in. I strive to become more proficient, to continually learn, reinvent and create more unique, striking works, and would like to expand the range of what I do both visually and in writing, taking it as far as I absolutely can.
I prefer to work in complete solitude, quiet, whether it be visual or literary...I also like to work out-of-doors. I may on occasion listen to music. Tending to work on a piece until it is done, I have happily stayed up for days and often work on more than one piece, both sculptural and paintings at a time, which allows breaks in-between to just let the piece be, while I work on another one...then I step back, re-focus and really "look" at the piece as it is being formed. Some of the intricate sculptural pieces demand weeks to complete and I dedicate my time to finish each, working within/around my regular schedule.
In regard to "HORIZONS: Contemporary Indiana Artists' Of Color," I realized many years ago that "documentation," is the key to an artists existence in history and there is a definite need for dissemination of information about this specific under-represented segment of visual artists...for educational purposes, historical documentation as well as to honor a valuable segment of Indiana's population, who have a long, rich creative and cultural heritage.
The basis of the concept and project came from the result of my inquiries and subsequent research during the last seventeen years from Indiana art institutions, libraries, organizations, museums, newspapers and published/archived print materials. Due to a crucial shortage of information from these sources, my research produced less than a dozen documented Indiana artists of African descent, living or deceased, and very little information on the few living contemporary ones.
Process: Research, seek out, am introduced to, get to know an undiscovered, aspiring or emergent artist. I ask questions, check out their work, lives, methods, perceptions, their experience (if any) and artistic/creative practice to come up with an accurate biographical sketch. I encourage them to help expose their artistry to the public and to take on an active role by participating in my annual exhibitions and that of another artist colleague. I also work with them to find additional venues in which to exhibit their work. I have been known to show the artists work for years at a time in venues that I present until their work has considerably developed. I then ask for their participation in an interview as a "Featured Artist," in one of the media publications that I write for. I write about the artist objectively, including images of the art as well as the individual in the piece.
I try to get a sequence of their artistic lives and if needed, construct a combined "Bio/Statement," if they do not have one for the FLAVA FRESH ! exhibition series (a requirement). I also photograph artwork and/or the artist if necessary. I help acquire professional presentation of selected pieces (framing, mounting, etc.), or assist with any other ancillary need pertaining to their being in the exhibition series and am available to answer questions, for advice or to bounce ideas off of relevant to their work or involvement in the arts community.
Aside from creating artworks, I love to share what I do and frequently invite these artists to attend my own exhibitions and art events, as well as that of colleagues. I have repeatedly initiated artist participation in art oriented workshops and in out of state, "Art" day-trips designed to inspire and motivate. I've gone gallery hopping on many a First Friday, or attended "Art" and/or "Cultural" events with any number of these new-found or emerging artists in tow, hoping to help open up and enhance their view of the art-world.
IAC: Are you a full-time artist? If so, how did you get your start as an artist? If not, what else do you do?
DelReverda-Jennings: Full-Time, working in the arts in a number of disciplines: Journalist/regional arts editor/freelance writer/author/poet. Arts administrator/facilitator. Visual artist/independent curator. Art entrepreneur.
Founder of several organizations, groups and exhibition presentations, including the annual six month long, Indianapolis, IN., "FLAVA FRESH ! " juried, art exhibition series. This project is part of my personal/professional mission and initiative to bring about a greater awareness, appreciation, inspiration, exposure and support for visual artists; especially those newly-discovered, under-represented, emerging and Artists’ of Color through a series of commercial, professional art exhibition venues. The diversity in this work consistently challenges me, and I draw great inspiration, motivation and a broadening network from it all.
The path to being a writer began quite a while back. I created little poems or sayings as a young child...if I happened to be angry, I'd write long sentences of admonishment in a fitful cursive tirade. I would secret these literary plums along the margins or white space of favorite books, hoping to keep them with me somehow...forever. As I became older, I fell in love with "Star Trek" and would design and draw new outfits and uniforms, write scenes or often whole episodes for Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, Chief Communications Officer and the crew. It was like a job of sorts, I just didn't get paid. My Grandfather would turn on the big Zenith TV console in the living room (not the parlor 'front room' with the thick, clear custom made plastic covered furniture that would annoyingly make a ruckus whenever you sat down or even more-so when trying to get up..and which always stuck most unlady-like to your bare thighs and legs),...and I would sit right in front of it, glued to the screen..barely a foot away...entranced. As soon as the show was off the air, I would make way to my bedroom and create new scenes or draw. I also wrote a few poems for the Chicago Defender Newspaper and became an official "Pen Pal" writer way back when. I graduated on to penning short stories and from there, a writer was born.
Visually, back in the 70's and early 80's, I began creating things out of a desire to have fashionable furnishings and objects d' art similar to what I saw in high-end, glitzy magazines. My tastes were more along the lines of Architectural Digest, although my pocketbook wouldn't have afforded a Better Homes & Garden lifestyle. At the time, I did not have the money to acquire such luxuries, nor did I want to spend much of it if I did. I'd create my own versions of "fabulous" dramatic and beautiful things by painting dazzling interior wall and/or ceiling abstracts in vivid color, sewed cheap fluffy flokati type throws together into large area rugs, made old leather and pleather coats or ragged oriental rugs into fat designer couch and floor pillows, some with big handmade tassels. I would mosaic ragged pots or large old decorative vases with broken dinner ware and glass bits, then fill with tall sprays of painted "duck tails," branches or large plants that I obtained at no cost to grace my foyer entrance, dining room table, or for the aesthetic that I was after that particular season or occasion. I loved my large sunny kitchen and made wonderful hanging racks for my pots & pans out of discarded metal security windows, created awesome beds in my homes with unwanted pedestals used to display groups of mannequins in the department stores, and I utilized old pallets and 4 x 8 foot plywood boards to make deck type platforms in the back of the house. Tossed or abandoned doors often served as elegant headboards, counters or folding screens.
I was just downright industrious, frugal and my active imagination kept me really, really busy. By revamping, constructing, assembling, re-visioning recycled/reclaimed furnishings or creating original abstract art and items which brought joy and purpose, I developed a reputation as a prolific creative and began to be asked to paint unique interiors, create large abstracts to hang on walls and unusual art pieces....a career as a visual artist was established.
IAC: Anything else you'd like to say?
DelReverda-Jennings: I would like for my work to leave a lasting and meaningful impression in this world. I Thank God for blessing me with the creative gifts that I have and for the IAC - IAP gift in the form of a grant to assist in realizing a long-held dream. I Thank the Artist's as well, the stewards and storytellers of our diverse culture, whose works are the essence of creativity and healing....without them all, my first volume of, "HORIZONS: Contemporary Indiana Artists' Of Color," would have never come to be.
My artwork as well as my authorship/writings reflect inspiration from who and where I come from...what and who I am to become.
To contact D. DelReverda-Jennings, please email her at URBANEDART@aol.com.