Cultivating a Purpose with Black Spirituals’ Asa Jackson

In Asa Jackson’s art, there is a sense of togetherness and harmony that reflects the creator’s innate vision and ability to cultivate something whole out of nothing. The elements in many of his paintings act like puzzle pieces waiting to be perfectly (or imperfectly) aligned…carefully curated to fulfill the prospect of creating a bigger picture…for a bigger purpose.

But Jackson’s holistic approach isn’t limited to just his art. After developing his art career in New York, the artist returned to Virginia to start doing what he does best…cultivating. Gathering his fellow artist peers, Jackson has given life to the blank canvases of Hampton and Newport News with the opening of the 670 Gallery and, newly established, Contemporary Arts Network. Jackson has also served as a member of the Newport News Arts Commission, The Hermitage Education and Public Planning Committee, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, and currently serves as a state commission with the Virginia Arts Commission.

Featured image (Sacred Heart, 2017) courtesy of Asa Jackson

Black Spirituals is officially SOLD OUT…but you can still support by listening to the Black Spirituals album here and the Break Bread podcast. Stay tuned for the Black Spirituals original film…coming soon!


A Colorful Paradox with Black Spirituals’ Hampton Boyer

As I was ushered through the chaotic Slawstrips Kalb this past weekend, it became more and more imminently clear that the high-strung, neurotic environment of sights, sounds, and smells was designed with a purpose in mind. To intently expose the guest with a sensory overload was to give them just a taste of what it’s like to be black in America.

As exaggerative as it was, the alternative dimension of Slawstrips Kalb is the reality of every black American. Hampton Boyer’s art playfully encapsulates that atmosphere to showcase a kaleidoscopic world colored in both suffering and beauty. And that’s the crux of Black Spirituals…there is both significant pain and an inheritable amount of pride and greatness that comes with being black.

Boyer’s vibrant paintings have been featured in galleries and exhibitions such as There’s No Place Like Here at the Virginia MOCA, FADED BY THE SUN at Norfolk’s popblossom, and Primordial Emanations at the Richmond 1708 Gallery. Boyer also serves as the co-founder, curator, advisor, and business developer of The Contemporary Arts Network and member of the avant-garde, hip-hop group the Tunny Crew. You can listen to their newly released concept album, Black Spirituals, here.

Featured image (Catastrophe) is courtesy of Hampton Boyer.

There are still tickets left for the FINAL showing of the Black Spirituals installation, get your tickets here.

The Essence of Reclamation with Black Spirituals’ Nastassja Swift

Reclamation is the essence of artist Nastassja Swift‘s work. Through her trademark wool sculptures, Swift works to honor the body of the black woman—both in the past and present. Historically, the black woman has been seen as a sexual object…existing only (in the world’s eyes) for the gawking gaze of Eurocentric culture. As one of the many products of colonialism, stereotypes drenched in racism, sexism, and misogyny have plagued black women for centuries. From being carted around like a zoo animal (e.g., Saartjie Baartman) to being publicly shamed and blacklisted (e.g., Janet Jackson), black women have dealt the brunt of society’s hand.

And anytime a black woman celebrates who she is and the body she was born with, you can guarantee that there will be backlash because that black woman is establishing autonomy over her body…and that ultimately disrupts the power that the world thinks they have over her.

Swift recognizes this and uses her art to redefine the black woman and her body as is with poignant pieces (e.g., “I Wanted to Give You the Ocean,” “A Party for Sojourner,” and “Passage”), collaborative works (e.g., “Remembering Her Homecoming”), and exhibitions/residencies at national and international institutions (e.g., The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Michigan, The Colored Girls Musuem in Philadelphia, MASS MoCA, and the VCUQATAR Gallery in Doha, Qatar).

Featured image courtesy of Marlon Turner

You can see more of Nastassja Swift’s art at one of the last two showings of Black Spirituals, get your tickets here!

Celebrating Love and Life in Its Most Natural Form with Black Spirituals’ ALXMCHL

If you really think about it, everything we see is a shape. Without a second thought, we go about our lives seeing, analyzing, and accepting shapes as they are in their natural form, taking their very existence for granted. Cubist artist, Alex Michael—better known as ALXMCHL—possesses an acute awareness of this and works to highlight and honor the love and life that lives in every shape we come across.

With compositions like his “MTHRNSON” series, ALXMCHL shows that the love and bond he had, and still has, with his late mother has never been taken for granted. From the Norfolk NEON Arts District to the Virginia Beach ViBe Creative District, the memory and energy of his mother’s love and life is honored in the most organic way he knows how—through shapes.

Get to know the CAN artist a little bit more in our conversation below.

What led you to becoming an artist?

Art had been a passion of mine since I could remember. I would draw and color alongside my mother as she would sketch out and decorate beautiful cakes for her clientele. There was a creative lane we shared love for. Her passing led me to where I am today as an artist.

What medium do you find yourself working with most? Is there a medium that you would like to incorporate more into your future works?

I find myself exploring with oils the most! In the studio, I mix my own medium from stand oil and turps. This comes in handy if I need a little extra flow for details or to loosen up some of the stiffer oils. If I’m building up a painting in layers in the studio, I will use a little glaze medium together with my solvent. I keep it messy for the earlier stages with dried, overused brushes and miscellaneous tools, coming back to flirt with details later on in the painting’s phases.

How does your creative process begin?

I sit in front of a blank canvas that I painted over years ago or a freshly purchased cloth from the day of and hold a conversation with my mother. Normally the conversation plays in my mind vivid memories that stir up a positive push. That emotion normally leads into the shape [the] painting takes minutes later.

“Who” or “What” is inspiring you the most these days?

The “Who” and “What” inspiring me these days is family–my nieces and nephews as of late, to be specific. I have a beautiful and smart niece steadily advancing and discovering herself and interests daily. It’s amazing. Then, arriving later this year is her brother and cousin. New life. New energy. New discovery. New space. New perspective. Growth has been inspiring.

Many of your pieces are continuations of what you have titled, “MTHRNSON” followed by a Roman numeral. Can you explain a little more on what those pieces mean to you?

The MTHRNSON series, followed by the Roman numeral, is a series that finishes this year. I began this series five years ago with the hopes of reaching 10 murals by the ten year anniversary of my mother’s passing date, which is September 2021. During this long mural series, I have had the privileges of travel and new memory created in celebration of our connection. A new light of Mother and son time I can continue to appreciate and polish in my career.

Do you have a favorite set from the installation?

My favorite set from Black Spirituals would have to be “The Funeral” and “The Ghost Bar.”

“The Funeral” holds an array of depth between passionate red artwork executed by the First Patron artists in residence at the CAN and the soulful expressions of emotional performance poured to the public by the Tunny Crew. The work ethic and mentality these individuals birth are unmatchable.

“The Ghost Bar” shares that social atmosphere that I am very familiar with and comfortable in. I do not get to play a role in this set, but if I wasn’t busy walking on stilts as the “gatekeeper” in “The Funeral” room, “The Ghost Bar” is where you could find me taking a sip.

I had fun putting this set together. The fabric wall is a wall of cool-toned textiles stapled together, a process I will introduce this summer through my most recent MTHRNSON works in a two-man show with Hampton Boyer.

What is the biggest thing you hope for viewers to take out of Black Spirituals?

I hope the viewers can recognize, appreciate, and celebrate liberation. Black Spirituals pulls a person into a new or augmented reality through art. It is easily one of the most powerful and beautiful experiences I have been a part of in my artist career. Experiences and energy are endless at the CAN!

Image courtesy of Nalan Smartt

Featured image courtesy of Alex Michael (ALXMCHL)

Black Spirituals tickets are still available for 2/20 and 2/27. Purchase your tickets here before they go for good!

2020 – A Year in Reflection

As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.

What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?

Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between the Dawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.

Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.

Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.

Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).

Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.

What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?

Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 馃檪

Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negr贸n feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negr贸n. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.

Shannon J: Jasmine took care of much of the editing, bless her soul, but one of the few I did was “Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now.” Documenting such a shift on the blog was crucial since so much of our content is dependent on live music and the musicians who play shows.

What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?

Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.

Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”

Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.

Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeover was super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!

Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!

What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?

Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.

Jasmine R: Our growth!!!

Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.

Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!

Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.

Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…

Black Experience Collective – September

This month’s submissions include a poignant poem (“This Ain’t Even A Poem”) and beautiful art piece (“Love is Thicker Than Blood”) by Chesapeake artist, A-Rae.

To submit your experience for next month click here.

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“This Ain’t Even A Poem”

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“Love is Thicker Than Blood”

Black Experience Collective – August

Our Collective of the Black Experience in America starts with this month’s submissions from VA based artists – Cam Murdoch (“Stay Well”) and Lock (“Negus Shit”) along with poem, “I Am Black,” by Popscure writer, Darryan Miller.

To submit your experience for next month click here

Lock | 21 | Virginia Beach, VA

“Negus Shit”

Darryan Miller | 24 | Portsmouth, VA

“I Am Black”

I said I am black
Why do I have to perpetuate a stereotype of what
you think a black girl is, to be considered black?
Black is not whatever the fuck you think it is
because you've seen all the Fridays and had a
black boyfriend once.
Black is not abusive drug dealing boyfriend, strung
out mama, or free before 11.
Black is not a comedic relief
It is not weave, hoops and coochie cutting shorts
Black is not something that you get to spray on to
be a little darker and take off when it no longer
benefits you.
Black is not you saying nigga
Hold on
You want Ebonics?
I ain't got it.
Let me tell you what black is
Black is curvy with hips and breasts for days
Black is Shea Butter Babies, Ari Lennox Fans
Black is natural, relaxed, silk wrapped, finger
coils, twist outs, box braids, locks, lace fronts, 
satin bonnets and scarves.
Black is music, soul and rhythm
It's brush strokes, Jazz notes, blues and poetry
It's bellies, thighs, arms and noses
Is hymns and crystals
Is creativity
Is beautiful
Solange said don't be mad if you can't sing
along, just be glad you got the whole wide world.
I said I'm black
This shit is for me
For you
For us

Cam Murdoch | 30 | Norfolk, VA

“Stay Well”