On View: April 1-April 1, 2022
Across The Table brings together The Kitchen and BOMB Magazine in critical dialogue and creative collaboration at the turning of anniversaries across both dynamic institutions. With The Kitchen celebrating its 50th and BOMB celebrating its 40th, each has built a community that centers artists and their voices first. In a moment where models of care continue to be central to the ways the future of art can be imagined, The Kitchen and BOMB have teamed up to present a series of conversations via Instagram Live that invite two artists with distinct ways of making and thinking to share common ground. Bringing together folks who have never-before been in public conversation with each other, Across The Table gives space to center the creative process as its own site of exploration ripe with mutual points of departure. The series features artist-to-artist conversations between Sadie Barnette and Meriem Bennani (February 11, 4pm); Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Kaneza Schaal (February 18, 4pm); Lex Brown and Miguel Gutierrez (February 25, 2pm); Lafawndah and Qualeasha Wood (April 1, 1pm); and Jeremy O’Harris and Brontez Purnell (April 15, 1pm).
This video features a recording of Lafawndah and Qualeasha Wood on April 1, 2022.
Lafawndah is a pop artist whose influences, approaches, and ideologies intentionally, and self-proclaimedly, defy categorizations of geography and genre. Her first full-length album, "Ancestor Boy," came out in 2019, followed by "The Fifth Season" in 2020.
Qualeasha Wood is a textile artist whose work contemplates realities around black female embodiment that do and might exist. Inspired by a familial relationship to textiles, queer craft, Microsoft Paint and internet avatars Wood's tufted and tapestry pieces mesh traditional craft and contemporary technological materials. Together, Wood navigates both an Internet environment saturated in Black Femme figures and culture, and a political and economic environment holding that embodiment at the margins. Like the vast majority of her age-peers, Wood has operated one mortal and multiple digital avatars since pre-adolescence. For her what are intuitive combinations of analog and cybernetic compositional processes make for a plainly contemporary exploration of Black American Femme ontology. Wood has exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); Hauser and Wirth (New York, NY); Art Basel Miami Beach with Kendra Jayne Patrick (New York, NY); Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, (London, UK); CANADA gallery (New York, NY); the Trout Museum of Art (Appleton, WI); NADA Miami Beach 2020 with Kendra Jayne Patrick (Miami, FL); Kendra Jayne Patrick for Metro Pictures (New York, NY); Cooper Cole (Toronto, ON); New Image Art (Los Angeles, CA); Gaa Gallery (Provincetown, MA).
ABOUT BOMB MAGAZINE
BOMB Magazine has been publishing conversations between artists of all disciplines since 1981. BOMB’s founders—New York City-based artists and writers—created BOMB because they saw a disparity between the way artists talked about their work among themselves and the way critics described it.
Today, BOMB is a multi-media publishing house that creates, disseminates, and preserves artist-generated content from interviews to artists’ essays to new literature. BOMB includes a quarterly print magazine, a daily online publication, and a digital archive of its previously published content from 1981 onward.
Avery: Hi, Isis.
Isis: Sending out the invites. Hmm, oh, no. People are unable to join. Oh, there we go.
Qualeasha Wood: Hi.
QW: How are you?
Isis: I'm good, how are you?
QW: I'm good, I'm stressed about my internet right now, but we're gonna make it work.
Isis: We're gonna make it work. We're gonna make it work. We shall prevail. And Lafawndah.
Isis: Okay, wonderful. Welcome, everyone. I'm just gonna give a quick intro. So welcome or welcome back to Across the Table, an artist conversation series organized by The Kitchen and BOMB Magazine. I'm ISIS, BOMB's digital media coordinator. Across the Table is a critical dialogue and creative collaboration at the turning of anniversaries across both of our dynamic institutions. With The Kitchen celebrating its 50th and BOMB celebrating its 40th, each space has built a community that centers artists and their voices first. For those new to these inspiring institutions, since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen, based in Chelsea, has been a local, national, and international nexus of avant-garde and experimental art. BOMB Magazine is a nonprofit supporting artists in conversation since 1981, quarterly in print and every day online. In a moment where models of care continue to be central to the ways the future of art can be imagined, The Kitchen and BOMB have teamed up to present a series of conversations via Instagram Live.
So now a bit about the two wonderful artists we have here today. Lafawndah is a pop artist whose influences, approaches, and ideologies intentionally, and self-proclaimedly, defy categorizations of geography and genre. Her first full-length album, "Ancestor Boy," came out in 2019, followed by "The Fifth Season" in 2020. Qualeasha Wood is a textile artist whose work contemplates realities around Black female embodiment that do and might exist. Inspired by a familial relationship to textiles, queer craft, Microsoft Paint, and internet avatars, Wood's tufted and tapestry pieces mesh traditional craft and contemporary technological materials. For her, what are intuitive combinations of analog and cybernetic compositional processes make for a plainly contemporary exploration of Black American femme ontology. Welcome, Lafawndah and Qualeasha. I'm gonna let y'all dive right into the conversation.
L: Thank you.
QW: Thank you. Yeah, that was so nice…I'm like, yeah.
L: Yeah. Mm, I was looking at your work today to just get back a little bit into it.
QW: I was listening to your music this morning.
L: Well, first of all how are you? Good. Beautiful. Yeah, how are you? Before anything.
QW: I'm good. I had a lot of technical difficulties last night with livestreaming, so I'm just like, in the back of my mind, I'm like, "Oh, I hope that I don't like randomly disconnect in the middle of this." So I'm a little stressed out about that, but I'm good. How are you?
L: Mm, I'm okay, yeah, yeah. I'm in Paris at the moment. It snowed today, so was a bit of a strange end-of-the-world feeling because it was 25 degrees, It was summer a few days ago, and today it's not. So I don't know. It put me in a very inside mood for the day, but, yeah, I'm good. I'm good. So, yeah, I was, I was looking at your work, and I was thinking about tapestries and what they, I don't know, what it meant for me. But I just wanted to know, I wanted to know why, I just wanted to discuss with you why you chose this medium, because, for me, it does something particular, but before saying what it is, I just wanted to hear it from you.
QW: I appreciate you asking. I started working in tapestries I think 'cause I was working digitally, and I was looking for a physical medium that would live up to like all of my expectations, or like for my work, but also hold my personality and embodiment within like a singular medium, and I think that was really hard to come to. But I remember looking kind of back into how my family, who's always had textiles, and what that relationship looked like, and it was always strange and just non-traditional, the way that which my family would hang rugs up or hang blankets up.
L: Oh, wow.
QW: In the hallway or like as a partition, right? Instead of like a curtain or something similar. And I remember when my little cousin was born, my family got really big into putting baby photos on things for my grandmother, and so that kind of became this introduction to kind of like a woven photograph for me, like, in my own personal experience. I just remember I thought it was like, so I guess it was kind of like a cliche family moment of like, "Oh, yeah, there's a new baby, and now we have to like memorialize this baby at its infancy in these weird familial objects." But I think when I was looking at what I want my work to do and who it's for, I was thinking back to those moments, objects, that make us feel comfort and at home and that those objects don't necessarily always have a place within the art canon, and I was like, “I kind of don't have a place within the art canon either,” if we're going by history and who an art institution is made for. And so since I was working with this kind of non-traditional method of making, and really thinking about what made digital art for me special, I was like, well, If I have to make it physical, how would I do that? And what would I feel comfortable doing? And what would people be able to access? What would my family be able to talk about? What would they feel familiar with? And so, for me, it was kind of all inspired by this moment of wanting to hold myself in that space and have this narrative that kind of could exist as casually as it could in someone's home as it could in like a white cube.
L: That's crazy 'cause I went, like literally, the complete opposite from that, because tapestry, I don't know, for me, it's like castles and like royalty. I don't know. I didn't think about it in this way at all. I was... I don't know, for me, it was like this moment where you have... I mean, obviously, I projected 'cause it's maybe something that I have in mind, with the music in general, but also with visuals, where I'm like, I'm always trying to find the moment where something that has happened a long time ago and something that will happen kind of joins in one same moment. And I don't know, I think I projected on, I projected that onto your tapestries because of your use of the internet and then this like really old reference of something that's also kind of, yeah, in a way elitist, or I don't know, like in like these environments where people looking like you, also or like me, we didn't really exist in those environments. And I don't know, I just thought-
QW: I think that's part of it too, though.
L: That's where it sent me, like this, and then having like these very familiar, I don't know, that's what I think.
QW: I basically felt it too. And I think when I first started making the work, I think I referenced a lot of medieval tapestry works and a lot of, kind of, biblical works. And when I would go to museums, I was kind of looking at those objects and thinking about the history of the tapestry and like who they were with, right? Either in a church or in a royal family or with somebody of wealth. And it was a big signifier of wealth and lineage and kind of storytelling. So I think when I first started making the work, I was very much about those comparisons and kind of understanding that relationship.
I think now that I've kind of gone through that, I think now my focus is more so on this kind of unpacking of digital histories and thinking about my relationship to like the internet through this medium for what it is now, like in a modern sense. But I think at the beginning, and I think, obviously, then in its origins, it's always kind of been like about that kind of relationship to time and how I fit into that timeline and where I don't fit into that timeline. And I think growing up, especially going to museums and other art spaces and being denied the opportunity to see myself in those spaces or anybody that looked like us in these spaces definitely played a huge part in all the references that I really feel in the beginning I relied on maybe a little too heavily. Maybe it was like, I think at first, I think it was so obvious in the work I was making and the symbols I was using that I think over time, I'm kind of now thinking about like, "what does the future look like?" and kind of getting obsessed with the present. But also, the present is always like, everything is like now the past at the same time. So my relationship to time has changed.
L: Yeah. Beautiful. Mm, I don't know. It's interesting when you, 'cause a lot of the time when I'm being asked like why I started making music or like what's kind of at the root of my practice, I feel like it came from doing something that I wanted to see in the world that I didn't see more than like, I don't know, thinking that I was an artist or that I had something incredible to say. It was coming from like a void. And I was like, okay, so since it... I guess my point is I think if I would have seen the thing that I'm doing, maybe I wouldn't have.
QW: Right, maybe you wouldn't have done it.
L: Maybe I wouldn't have done it, and so, I don't know, it sent me to the thing that you said, like when I was like a kid and walking to the museum and not just not having the opportunity to feel this way where you can recognize yourself and... 'Cause it's not only about, it's also not only about recognizing yourself. It's also when you see yourself in these, in like any kind of narrative and paintings and movies. It's also a way of being able to project yourself, whether it's back or, I mean, like in the whole scope of time, right? So like imagine how we were before or I don't know. I'm just like watching this sci-fi thing now, but it's also able to project or whatever the thing is. But I think when that's, in a way, denied, especially at an early age when we're just like, so much of the, I don't know, at least so much of my world was into fantasy, right? That's like kid stuff, like looking at, I don't know, any kind of like magical stories and tales and all that world. When you are removed from, yeah, from those stories, I feel like my practice comes from, is a response to that, but I just feel like I react the same. I heard something like that, that you just said, or I don't know.
QW: Also it makes me wonder, too. I read an article, like an interview you did, I think like WePresent or something, and you were talking about how you joined this band and then from that point on kind of felt like if you weren't making music, that your life would be different or something. Did you feel like before then that something was missing? From...
L: Yeah. Yeah, I think before, I never really made any strong decisions in my life. I just was really lucky. I've had overall a good life. I was just following my path in a quite passive way, I would say. But I would always feel, I don't know, I would be like in a perpetual existential crisis, really. Like, you have the job, everything is ticked on the list, and I was living in New York at the time, and I was making okay money. I could rent my apartment. Everything was okay, but somehow, hm, it felt very empty. I don't know. It didn't really feel good, and couldn't really put a finger on it. It just felt... I think it's... I mean, now I know because I changed my life, but I think when you're beside or just on the side of the thing that you're destined to do in this life, I think, 'cause I believe in this, I believe in, it's just a matter of being able to listen better. But when you really listen to where you have to be, which is very different than where you think you have to be, I think. But when you listen to the place of where you have to be placed in this life, it can change also, of course, but when you start listening, and you start following words telling you to go, and you kind of become more in line with it, I feel like that the sort of, yeah, existential crisis of like why and how and like all of this has been gone since then. Yeah, for sure. What about you?
QW: I think it's the same for me.
L: Or have you always known also? Because some people, they've been on their path since, I mean, I'm not saying this as in like that before I wasn't. I think every step is also taking you towards the thing, but I know people who've had this like clarity since they were born. It wasn't like this for me at all. I don't know about you.
QW: I don't think it was always super clear for me either. I feel like there were always so many signs, right? Similarly, I think I became an artist or even entered on this journey because of something missing and something that I felt was always desperately lacking when I would try to connect with art growing up. I felt like when I was entering these spaces, I couldn't, and it felt very wrong to me that I couldn't access something. I never understood why that bothered me so much initially. I think as a kid, I was interested in art as much as any other kid was. I think a lot of kids love to draw and things like that. And I almost didn't pursue it, but I also didn't know what to do with my life. I was just following what I thought I was supposed to do, which is like, go find a job that would make me a lot of money and then go on and have a house and a family and the kids and, I guess, fulfill kind of this very human, average purpose. And then at the last second, I just felt called to switch into art and change what I was doing. And then it's always been hard for me to explain to people that like, everyone's always asking me how did I do this thing or how is my career where it is now, and I'm just like, "It's just happening," 'cause I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, and I'm walking in my purpose of that and trusting like my instincts in terms of what I do and what I don't do. And I always think back 'cause like, yeah, I feel like I, at first, was kind of resistant to this thing because I was told that it wasn't the most profitable or the most successful or like the most... It was a type of luxury that I couldn't afford, right? To follow kind of like this dream or this destiny.
QW: I didn't have a lot of support.
QW: From a lot of different people, yeah.
L: Me either, me either. And then I also think that it takes, or that, for me anyways, that's how I still feel like this, that it feels a big amount of love of self, for sure, and a lot of confidence to, in the world, that in this world with all the messages that we get, to wake up and think that you're just gonna do these things and that you're gonna be paid for it, and you're gonna be okay, and people are gonna be interested. I mean, it feels crazy. It still feels crazy. But I think the reason why it took so long is because there needed to be, I don't know, sort of like path before that to just be, arrive in front of the wall where you don't... I didn't have any choice. It felt like when I switched, I mean, I switched my entire life at like 28, 29, which it's not later or not late, but, obviously, nowadays with like what's kind of, I guess, I don't know, what's being promoted is always like the new, I mean, the youth thing is like very oppressing. So you think or you would feel that you're late, but it's there's no, when I think about the people who, in fact, moved me the most, whether it's in music or in film, it's actually people who also take their time and to mature to something and arrive later.
But anyways, there's no right or wrong. I'm just saying, it took me, for me, it took me that long to feel like, I guess, confident enough, but also to be at the last, to really be against a wall. That also gave me confidence to know that it wasn't it, but it was definitely not out of any kind of, definitely any kind of support, from the outside world, even within the family or even within the friends. It wasn't a very supportive, I would say, environment. Which is interesting because it means that if you're actually doing the thing, and you're like really pushing through, it's really because you just had to do that. You just had to do it. It's not because anyone opened the door or just like unroll the red carpet and say like, "We've been waiting for you for so long." It's not like that. It's just like , you have to like.
QW: Push through, yeah. Do you feel like people are more supportive of you now that like kind of, yeah.
QW: I think that's a hard thing to deal with.
L: Yes, I still feel, yes. It's a what?
QW: I said I feel like it's always a hard thing for me to deal with, I think, like interacting with the same people.
L: The people become supportive?
QW: Yeah, I think there was just always just so much doubt, I think, that existed and people kind of being like, "this thing you do is cool as a hobby, but not as like your life's work." And then when it became my life's work, they were like, "oh, well, we'll see." And then now that things are, you know, I am making money, and I'm doing opportunities and things like that, I feel like those people kind of act like they've always known that it would go well.
L: Been there, yeah.
QW: They've always been there, and I feel like there's so much disingenuine actions that happen, I feel like now, mm-hmm.
L: I understand. I'm not too bothered. I'm not too bothered, but I understand what you're saying though because at the end, I think the thing that makes me the most secured is that I know that I push through, like sometimes that we're literally so deserted. I was like at a full on desert, like just completely blinded. And I know exactly who on my path gave me, like, in these moments where you start and you kind of, or I felt like so blind. I knew I had to go there, but it wasn't, like, I didn't know anyone who was making music. I didn't know anyone in the music industry. It was when I decided that that's what I wanted to do, I was in the art world before, I was curating shows and writing about art, but when I decided to make music, there wasn't even like a community of, you know, I didn't go to art school, or there wasn't a community of people. And I think in those moments at the beginning when you are kind of like blindly following the intuition, that that's what you have to do and that's where you have to be, it's so important that people on this particular moment of your path, who gave you a little cookie, who gave you a little bit of water, even if it's like a tiny thing, it's like so clear. And I know exactly who was... who was there before they were told or before they were shown or before they were proven that. And there are some people. I hope you had also some.
QW: I did.
L: You probably did. Everyone does.
QW: Yeah, I did, and I think I know who those people are too. Yeah, it's definitely a thing I'm grateful for, like the people who didn't have to be shown or proven anything to that just-
QW: Blind faith. And willing to navigate you, like with you also, sort of in that kind of like blind faith moment.
L: I don't even know if it's blind faith. I think they know, they saw. Sometimes those people see it before you see it, which is also really beautiful.
L: Some people on your path were like, "You go do that," and you're like, "Me?" and they're like, "Yes, you, you go."
QW: That is a really-
L: It's all right, mm-hmm.
QW: Yeah… I'm like, "It's time already?"
L: It's time? Newly appeared.
Isis: I know it's going by so quickly.
L: It was really fast.
Isis: I just wanna step on and let people know that if they have any questions, now's the time to ask them, either in the comments or in the question box. But y'all are free to keep chatting at as well. I mean, I also have questions, but it's up to you both.
QW: I'm like, I have like so many questions.
L: No, yeah, go ahead.
QW: But you can ask your questions first, Isis.
L: Yeah, go ahead.
Isis: Well, there's so much great stuff in this conversation already, and what's really resonating with me right now is this talk of aligning with your destiny and sort of taking a leap of faith. And I'm thinking about like having to almost surrender. I think sometimes we think we're in a lot more control than we actually are, and we're... like, life is really in control. And so I hear both of you talking about sort of lack of support and like those few kernels of support that you had. I'm wondering if either of you could speak to the inner support that it took for you both to take those steps of faith and make those transitions and finally decide like, "Oh, this is my path. This is where I have to step in and align with."
L: You start.
QW: I think for me, it kind of came down to this, for me, it was like the decision to go pursue something educationally one way or the other as were expectations of me. And I think for me, it felt like not a do-or-die moment, but it literally was like military, business school, and that was the only two options I had. And like all these alarms, I feel like, were just always constantly going off in my head about like, "This is not where I'm supposed to be." Like, "I cannot live this life. I cannot imagine 30 years from now even being alive in either one of these situations." But I didn't didn't know what that even meant. And I remember something so, so small made me swap my entire high school schedule around, and I ended up taking the first art class I had taken in like four years or something. And I'm not saying I was like breaking the mold and like I was Picasso, but I just felt like so called to it. I feel like it was then that I knew that I had to go, and I had to figure out how I was gonna get there, how I was gonna convince my parents to let me go, how I was gonna like make it when I got there. There was so much resistance, not from my parents, but institutionally when I got to school, and then surviving through that.
I think the motivating factor for me became the point that I knew that it was something that I was meant to do, and I knew at some point there was gonna be something that I did that only I could do well, because I felt like what I had to contribute, even at that time when I didn't know what it was per se, I was like, "whatever I have to contribute is so valuable and so unlike what someone else has to offer," and I felt like that had to be true just because of so many people who tried to stop me, I feel like, along the way, and kind of like, I had a lot of people who very much tried to destroy my spirit and told me that I flat out couldn't do something or I would never make it or I wouldn't be able to succeed for even another year. I felt like all that resistance had to come from some place, from some reason, right? I was like, people don't just pick people to hate on for no reason, you know? People see something and they're threatened by it, 'cause you can tell when someone's being genuine, right? And sitting you down and being like, "Hey, this isn't for you." And also even when that happens, it's like, who is someone to tell you what's for you and what's not for you? But I felt like I just, at a certain point, was like, "Okay, I have to prove people wrong, but I have to prove to myself that I'm right about this thing." So it's just about like manifesting the reality of it all.
L: Yup, yeah. Well, I'm sorry that happened to you. That's very aggressively mean. I don't think-
QW: It's okay now though. I'm like, now everything's fine.
L: Yeah, sure. Yes. But I'm also not romanticizing the, you know, the path. I'm sure that there's also other way that we could exist in the world than like the struggle or like the meanness. It's like, we also would have been fine if people were like, "You're amazing and beautiful and you're gonna make it." So I'm still sorry that happened.
QW: I appreciate that.
L: For me, yeah, for me, I mean, it's like similar conclusions, but I was living in Mexico at the time, and I had a job in a gallery, and I had like a big moral crisis at my job because, let's say, the things that we were promoting and the way that we were acting, let's say, were not- (Cuts out).
QW: Uh oh.
Isis: Uh oh, Instagram, see, Instagram be playing games.
QW: Forever playing games. I think on the internet, they just don't wanna see us all get together and have a good conversation.
Isis: This is not the first time I've seen this happen.
QW: This literally happened to me last night when I was previewing a presentation.
Isis: Oh, yeah, I saw you were on Live. Oh, no!
QW: Oh, no.
(Isis) I'm gonna see if we can get Lafawndah back.
QW: Maybe her phone died.
Isis: Maybe. But I also wanna be cognizant of your time 'cause I know we're-
QW: I'm chilling. I'm chilling for now. I gotta go probably like soon, but I have to take my mom out to lunch, but.
Isis: All right, I'm gonna see what's... if we can get Lafawndah back, at least, so I can say thank you to you all.
QW: Yeah. I really wanted to hear her answers though.
Isis: I know. Instagram will always cut someone off right when they're getting into the good stuff.
QW: It's literally oppression from Mark Zuckerberg. Well, you know what's funny? My screen's frozen, so maybe it is Instagram.
Isis: Oh, it's saying they're unable to join, although that's what it was saying before when I invited you both, so. So let's see. Avery, you've been clear this entire time. And then there were two. Oh, man.
QW: Now that Instagram kicked me out.
Isis: Oh, no. All right, I'm gonna try one last time with Lafawndah, but give it like a few seconds. All of you here, thank you so much for being part of this conversation.
QW: This was so fun. That was the fastest half hour I've ever experienced in time.
Isis: Yeah, definitely.
QW: Yeah, no, thank you guys for the opportunity.
Isis: Yes, of course.
QW: I'm sad it's ending with technical issues.
Isis: I know! It's saying Lafawndah's unable to join, so I think this is where we're gonna have to end it. But thank you so much, Avery and Qualeasha. It's been so great to see your journey, Qualeasha. I think I first found out about you during like the Clubhouse era of time.
QW: Oh, my gosh! That was a time…
Isis: It was a time. Yeah, I try to forget, but- It's been great to just see all the growth and the amazing things that have been going on for you, so I'm really happy
QW: Thank you.
Isis: that we were able to have you on as part of the series.
QW: Thank you, yeah, no, thank you for having me. Thank you for rocking with me even throughout the mess that was Clubhouse.
Isis: Yes, for sure. And then for those of you watching, this Live will be saved to BOMB Magazine's Instagram account and also The Kitchen's Instagram account, and that should be up either this weekend or next week. So if you wanna rewatch, you can find it there. Thank you.
QW: All right, thanks.