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How Women Of Color Are Leading NYC’s Art Collectives Moment

Culture

Empowering through art

When you visit an art gallery, what do you see? Do you see yourself in the paintings that hang on the wall? What about when you read poetry or hear it spoken out loud? Do those rhythmic lines resonate with your own story?

If you’re white, chances are you can easily find yourself represented in mainstream art—particularly if you're male. Established artistic institutions have long promoted the work of white artists to the exclusion of all others. And while there are efforts being made to change the white-washing of art at the highest levels, it is also possible to find the work of artists of color if you leave those institutions and enter the world of New York's art collectives, where work created by and for women of color and the queer community predominates.

There are numerous collectives throughout the NYC area that represent different ethnicities, races, and identities and they all have one thing in common: They create a space of artistic expression for their own communities.

We got to speak with some of the women leading four of these collectives—Stephanie Aliaga of the Mujeristas Collective; Zulema Tiburcio and Amelia Smalls of Odiosas, Shydeia Caldwell of Black Girl Magik, and Itzel Alejandra Martínez of Colectiva Cósmica—and asked them what made their creative output so unique.

Photo by Mujeristas Collective

The Mujeristas Collective was founded a little over a year ago by Stephanie Aliaga after she took a theology course at St. John’s University in Queens. Inspired by Cuban activist and theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz’s book, Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the 21st Century, Aliaga named the collective “Mujeristas.” The word can be interpreted in many ways, but at its core, it is a way to describe a kind of Latina-based feminism.

The group is made up of four other Latina and Afro-Latinas—creative director Ariana Ortiz, content producer Denisse Jimenez, editor Reza Moreno, and managing editor Yovanna Roa-Reyes. They create zines with submissions from other artists and even host their own zine fests. They also collaborate with other collectives so that they can showcase each other’s work.

Often times, women like Aliaga, who is of Colombian and Peruvian descent, find that they need a way to connect to their cultures. Growing up in the U.S., people of certain ethnicities and races may feel like they need to assimilate in order to be accepted, but that’s not the case with Aliaga and her collective.

Photo by Mujeristas Collective

Aliaga created this collective to provide a space for people like her: women of color who want to talk about their everyday challenges as well as the more complex topics they grapple with. Most importantly, they want to ensure that their stories and their art are not forgotten.

“Mujeristas Collective matters because we are documenting and presenting a diverse collection of unique historical stories from Latinas in a U.S. perspective,” Aliaga says. “Our goal is to expand the narrative about the histories of our communities and our countries of origin, nationally and internationally. We want to make the academic world, our communities, and art institutions take note of us—who we are, our struggles, our dreams, and stories.”

Photos by Odiosas

Similarly, Odiosas—an art collective based in the Bronx—was created in 2016, after founder Zulema Tiburcio realized that there was the need for a space where people in her community could talk about matters that affect them and feel comfortable while doing so.

Tiburcio says that the conversations about feminism and other social issues are usually led by white academics, but what about the people who are also facing these issues that can’t express themselves in the same way? “The lingo is usually not very accessible to people who haven’t completed certain college credits. It felt stuffy, and I didn’t like the environment of those groups that existed,” Tiburcio says. “I felt like I was being judged because I didn’t go to school for education, I went to school for art.”

Photos by Zulema Tiburcio

Tiburcio, who is Afro-Dominican, is a graduate of the Art Institute of New York and the California State University, San Bernardino. She creates her own zines and handles the creative side of the collective. Amelia Smalls’—who is of Puerto Rican and Antiguan descent—role is to curate memes for the group’s Instagram account, which has almost 5,000 followers.

This past October, they hosted an event titled "The Woes of Being a Weirdo of Colour: Emo Nite," in collaboration with another Bronx-based collective, Hydr0Punk. Leading up to the event, they shared videos of followers as they danced to the music of emo idols like Paramore, Taking Back Sunday, and Circa Survive, to name a few.

They also organize workshops where they talk about “hood feminism,” gentrification, and displacement in the Bronx. “We both live in the hood, so we’re seeing what’s going on in our neighborhoods,” Smalls says. “Right across the street from our house, we’re seeing all these developers pop up and a lot of these capital improvements happening—and it’s not for us.”

Smalls explains that by being a “genuine voice” for their community, Odiosas helps empower them to fight for their rights.

Photo by Black Girl Magik

It's clear that these art collectives serve a bigger purpose beyond just bringing art to their communities—and Black Girl Magik is no exception.

Before it became a transnational network for women across the African diaspora and garnered almost 21,000 followers on Instagram alone, Shydeia Caldwell founded the collective in 2015 when she moved to NYC. The South Carolina native always knew she wanted to create a place for black women to feel empowered and appreciated, and the success of her first-ever BGM meetup served as a testament to the need for black women to create a bond that was more than just skin-deep.

After announcing the meet up on Tumblr and sending hundreds of Twitter DMs to women, the event went viral—with dozens of women gathering in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. “We talk about everything, whatever the black woman needs to get off her chest in a BGM meetup,” Caldwell says. “In a BGM meetup, you don’t meet a stranger, you meet a sister.”

Photo by Claire Donoghue

Caldwell, who is the executive director of BGM, says that they began as a business, but later found that being a collective is a more ethical and healthier way of executing their work. Her team is made up of social media director Sierra King, creative director Zainab Aliyu, events director Isabelle Ofume, public relations director Amina Cush, project and operations lead Amina Maureen Nicol, editor Amora Miller and human resources director Brittany Josephina Spell. “Every individual collective member on this team—this was their chance to do their purpose work,” Caldwell says. “Even though we work for the community, we also work on ourselves. BGM is a very intentional business, very holistic, very purposeful.”

Just three months ago, they were awarded the Girlboss Foundation grant, which will give them the financial backing they need to embark on a journey across the U.S. in 2019, where they will create programming and meet creators. She believes that BGM, and all collectives, deserve to have the resources that will help their work thrive.

Photo by Barbara Calderón

Colectiva Cósmica is another group working to elevate work that, more often than not, goes unnoticed. One of the founders, El Paso, Texas native Itzel Alejandra Martínez, says that the idea began out of a desire to not only create art and zines but to showcase the art created by women of color.

“We have a bunch of artist friends, a bunch of beautiful women that make art—and where is it gonna be exhibited?” Martínez says. “These art spaces sometimes are so limited, but we want to express ourselves, so we kind of did it out of necessity.”

Martínez, Barbara Calderón, and Maribel Falcón are the current members of Colectiva Cósmica and have published eight zines as a group. Their work is centered on celebrating the feminine spirit, something that, Martínez says, society has tried to convince us is weak, when in reality it’s anything but.

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martínez

The aesthetic is in the name Colectiva Cósmica itself, which translates to “cosmos,” as they see themselves as a collective that honors the universe. “When thinking about what to call our collective we asked: What unites us as art girls? Sure, we're all Latina, but identity politics is so limiting. What's bigger than colonial identity? The cosmos,” Martínez explains. “And when learning about indigenous stories of creation in the Americas and beyond, you find that stories about the stars exist universally.”

With over 18,000 followers on Instagram, Colectiva Cósmica looks to make connections with other women by using their platform to share past and present work by women of color, and by organizing workshops to teach the next generation of artists. “I think collectives is just one part of a larger network of New York artists, visual makers, and creatives as a whole. I see it as this huge network where we are all kind of collectively doing different things, but we’re all somehow connected,” Martínez says. “That’s what I think is so beautiful about this moment right now in New York, especially for POC and Latinxs collectives.”

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale youtu.be

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

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Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.

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Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images for Topshop Topman

We'll miss you

According to Business Insider, Topshop will close multiple Topshop and Topman locations in a step to avoid bankruptcy, including all 11 of its U.S. stores. In total, 23 stores will be shuttered globally.

This decision follows Topshop's recent filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., and a string of controversies surrounding the chairman of Topshop and Topman, Sir Philip Green. Last year, Green was investigated for sexual assaulting and racially abusing employees. Business Insider notes that though the brand thought it would fare much better in the States, it has not grown as quickly here as it expected. This is likely due to the successes of less expensive U.K.-based online retailers like ASOS.

Topshop stores first arrived here in 2009, and were met with crowds and excitement—for a time. The brand's dwindling success in the U.S. and declining revenue globally has been chalked up to a "challenging retail environment, changing consumer habits, and increased online competition," according to Ian Grabiner, the CEO of Topshop's parent company, Arcadia Group.

Arcadia Group is also submitting a restructuring plan for approval, which would involve negotiating lower rents for its shops and cutting pensions for employees in half. These proposals have not gone into effect yet. Grabiner said that the restructure and closings are a "tough but necessary decision for the business."

If you live in the U.S., you'll still be able to shop from the retailer online and at its wholesalers, such as Nordstrom—but it won't be the same as stepping into its stores.

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