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No Filter: My Thoughts on the Indie Art Film The Triptych


Don’t call this a film review. It’s more about how I internally processed this product of emulsion of blood, sweat, and tears.

The Triptych (dir. Terence Nance, 2012) highlights the work of artists Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu and Barron Claiborne.  It was screened at the Studio Museum of Harlem on August 9, 2013 for Uptown Fridays: No Filter.

I missed the first artist. I was having a drink, on a friend. It had a sprig of thyme in it. However, read on because there is still something to be gleaned from what I did see, and how it affected/challenged me.


wangenchiWagenchi Mutu

Her work is pensive and multi textural /”multi species”, as she somewhat put it. What I do appreciate is that she uses the female image quite often. The only subject  I ever used in my college art class was the nude black female body, so I could identify with that.

Being an artist myself (writer/singer), but not an art intellectual, (Cooper Union was the bedrock of Wagenchi’s art school knowledge), I have to say the work was…profound. So profound that I just didn’t get it. Maybe I was too base (chakra), too horny to understand what it all meant.

I like the scenes best where she was filmed at the studio and at school, I feel she was freer there. I enjoyed hearing her speak about her life. It was more relatable to me.

She spoke of wanting to have a crush on everything. Not wanting to know what’s going to happen next. That typifies my life, or what’s left of it. I don’t know I’m not really in the BEST place right now. I’m a point where I’ve just had to give it all up and just wait for the chips to fall where they may. So excuse my rawness. But for some reason I’m struggling to know why it’s important to me, why her work matters and why I’m even writing notes on her. I guess I’m “trying too hard” to get it. As Wagenchi said, “loving art is letting go.” Hmm, synchronicity.  ‘Cause that is exactly where I am in my life. There aren’t really any more fucks to give.


barronBarron Claiborne

I remember him. He actually took test shots of me last summer for a project he was supposed to do, back when I was going hard trying to be a nude model. He never got back to me, and for many a month that day had slipped from my memory.

He’s more vocal, his speech is clear and theatrical. Wagenchi was poetic, ethereal, and harder to follow.

He’s cool.  When I was there, at his home studio, he served me tea.  How can you not like someone who serves you tea?

The crowd thoroughly enjoyed his rant on the music industry and the difference in treatment of Whites and Blacks. “Race” seemed to be a theme in his segment of the film, understandably considering his work.

Watching him take pictures there, I remembered his process…I remember the background and how he never seemed to stop talking while he worked. With his words, he teaches, through stories. He’s kind of like a griot. But yet, there was stillness. Maybe I was nervous, so maybe I was quiet. And I’m never quiet.

“No one’s life is this miserable,” he says of characters in books like “Black Boy,” as the pages of all the typical books on black life we are made to read in school slowly curl into flames. Yes, some genius (and I do NOT mean that sarcastically) decided to blasphemously burn black classics (evil grin), and Barron’s voice is the soundtrack to that. Ironically, the crowd kind of roared with laughter. I always thought we humans were sick. (Yet somehow, innocent.)

As he paints his skin white, Barron tells that the NY Times never gave him assignments based on race until they realized he was Black, then they only gave him Black people to shoot.  “Because they don’t see you as a Universal person.”

His work is so moving.  It made my pussy wet. He shoots Black men in a way in which he wants them to look beautiful, their “true essence.”

The film ended with him swinging around his wand like he would a wand was the last scene.

It’s mass appeal balanced the first part of the film.

Oh shit. He’s fucking here.

I nervously stood and asked the first question to what felt like the Rat Pack of independent art films. “What ever happened to the piece I did a test shoot for?”

Barron’s response, “I’ve been taking pictures since I was ten, so sometimes I take pictures over a period of 2 to even 25 years.”

It’s important to note that in my question I slipped in there that I am a journalist and I still wanna be a nude model.  I heard gasps. I wanted to repeat myself.

Someone on the panel said that Barron’s work is the most influential in terms of normalizing Black skin; someone else added that he subtly adds cliché notions of black skin in his work.  “It is about color,” Barron frankly responds, adding, “I always admired artists who made their own kind of world and people still get it.” We got you, Barron. In more ways than you might even imagine.