TONDI’s first virtual exhibition Burn Baby Burn will take you into the work of Mark Bradford and Noah Purifoy who were each given large scale retrospectives at the Hammer and LACMA this summer.  The virtual exhibition is anchored by two essays that probe into specific works found in each exhibit.  In Scorched Earth we examine how Mark Bradford uses his artistic process to excavate meaning from the past and how trauma impacts the body (both in physical and political forms).  Noah Purifoy’s Junk Dada at LACMA shares how the Watts Riots became a pivotal moment which altered the career of the artist.

This digital exhibit will also highlight other artists that have used their work to express and convey emotion with a symbolic power that speaks volumes.

Please check out the new site!

New Site! TONDI


My new site is officially up!  I’m excited about trying something new and I invite you all to continue to follow my journey into contemporary art on TONDI.  I truly value all of my followers on WordPress and have learned so much from this first blog.  Cheers to a new beginning!


From Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, Illustrated by Yayoi Kusama

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

`Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

`What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!’

`I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’

`I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.

`I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely.”

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  For the better part of the last 5 years I have been pleasantly challenged by this question.  Facing the enormity of this query is scary in itself, but in reality we pose this existential dilemma to ourselves in other subtle ways:  “What would you do if you won the lottery?”, or “What would you tell your 20-year-old self?”  Whatever the iteration, this form of self-analysis simply boils down to fear (or the absence thereof).


After 21 years in my career I decided to take a sabbatical to ask myself this question.  As a result, my blog went on hiatus too. I didn’t travel the world or sell all of my possessions, but I did pursue some personal goals.  I am happy to say that I love what I’ve accomplished and I truly enjoyed the process.  Taking that first leap into the unknown was the hardest part of it all.  I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me but I know I am on the right path.

I am pleased to announce that I will soon launch a brand new site.  I have loved Culture Shock Art; editing this blog has taught me so much about art, design, writing and social media.  With all that I have learned over the past 5 years with Culture Shock, I decided to take my love for art in a slightly different direction.  My new site is in its “caterpillar” stage and I will be sure to share details on where you can find me once it is launched.  I’m really excited about how this project is turning out!

So…“What would you do if YOU weren’t afraid?”

Finding the answer to this question is not as difficult as you may think, especially if you start by deciding to be happy.

For as long as I’ve been writing Culture Shock Art one of my biggest challenges involves whether I should write about work I have not seen in person.  In order to effectively write a piece about a specific piece of art you have to see it in person, otherwise you cannot bring a reader into the process of experiencing the art.  While this is true, I believe there is power in the second-hand account of a piece of art.  A first hand description of art can influence later interpretations for those that cannot experience the work in the flesh.  This week I saw a photo of “Disremembered”, by Doris Salcedo, a sculpture that illuminates the power of art to expose our blind spots.  Appreciating art involves us confronting those blind spots to find deeper, personal meaning in a piece and within ourselves. “Disremembered” addresses the painful legacy of gun violence and the lingering emotions and isolation felt by family members lost in its wake.  The gauzy, etherial, ghost-like appearance of the garment is a haunting reminder of lives lost and the shells of family members left behind.

Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo “Disremembered, I”, 2014. Photo Credit, Guggenheim, NYC

Seeing images of “Disrememebered” on Wednesday immediately exposed the realities of how gun violence impacted my family recently.  It has been a little over a year since the murder of one of my cousins, Inity Morrow.  When she was a young girl her mother made the difficult decision to have her children raised by their Grandmothers.  My close cousin Will lived with his maternal Grandmother in Northern California and Inity moved to Indianapolis, IN to live with her paternal Grandmother and as a result of this I lost touch with her.  As siblings my cousins Will and Inity became closer in adulthood.  Inity was preparing for a move to Atlanta to seek a new lease on life and amid the excitement and angst of making a major life change, one of her biggest supporters was her brother.  She was so close to that new beginning and realizing new possibilities for her life, but a man with a gun had other plans for the lives of Inity and her grandmother as he killed them in their home.  While the horror of this tragedy was directly suffered by Inity’s family in Indianapolis, the ripples of pain reverberated through her brother and eventually us.  The pain that was most assuredly a part of me was conveniently buried along with my lost cousin and the memory of her life faded into a statistic as another tragic footnote in a politicized national debate over gun control.  Just as my family’s contact with Inity faded many years ago when she moved away, the pain and guilt faded out of focus after her death.  Disremembered exposed my blind spots of not fully grappling with the grief of her loss, how it affected my cousin Will and my guilt in realizing I was not a part of her life; these buried emotions came to surface upon hearing the news of police shootings and the recent massacre in Charleston last month. Despite the numerous conversations I had with people about Charleston South Carolina, I had so many lingering, unprocessed emotions about violence, forgiveness, denial, accountability and the power of symbols in history.  It was difficult to put those feelings into words.  Even though I was physically detached from the Charleston 9, it was impossible for me to be emotionally detached from the pain of their families.  This tragedy illuminated the nation’s collective blind spots concerning racism and access to guns and it connected us to a level of pain that we either cannot process or choose to avoid. When we unpack these emotions, they have must have someplace to go. I think this speaks to the power of art to bring our emotion and empathy to the surface and the power of the written word to express that emotion.  President Obama’s eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinkney was a powerful demonstration of the transformative power of words to allow us to process grief. As he directly exposed our collective blind spots on race and gun violence, he simultaneously provided a catharsis required for us to collectively move forward. “For too long we have been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.”  ~President Barack Obama, Charleston In his call to action, the President encouraged us all to face the uncomfortable realities of prejudice and challenged us to do the hard work that lasting change requires. “It would be a betrayal of everything Pinkney stood for if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.” ~President Barack Obama, Charleston

Detail of

Detail of “Disremembered” by Doris Salcedo. Photo Credit: Doris Salcedo via the NYT

One interesting feature of the etherial garments in “Disremembered” is that they are composed of thin, black sewing needles, a detail that is not immediately apparent in photographs of the piece.  Neither the ghost of a painful memory, nor the legacy of tragedy do not simply fade without the specter of pain (visible and hidden).  Healing occurs when we expose that pain and transform it into something new, positive and constructive.

Doris Salcedo,

Doris Salcedo, “Plegaria Muda”, 2008-2010. Photo Credit: Guggenheim Museum, New York

Another piece from the Salcedo show at the Guggenheim is a memorial named “Plegaria Muda” (Mute Prayer).  The sculptor transformed tables into makeshift graves representing lives lost to gun violence in anonymity.  The inspiration for this memorial came to the artist after she visited women in Los Angeles who lost children to gun violence.  Salcedo, who hails from Columbia was not immune to the tragedies of gun violence and immediately saw parallels between the Los Angeles mothers and mothers in Columbia who lost their loved ones in internal conflict.  This memorial draws an important link between the tragedies of the past and our present realities.  In Friday’s eulogy the President pointed out another blind spot.  In tragic situations our eyes are forced open as we address extreme acts of violence that make media headlines, however there are countless lives lost to gun violence in the is nation that remain faceless and nameless.  Plegaria Muda exposes this notion of “repressed phantom grief” and attempts to re-sensitize viewers to it.

Doris Salcedo,

Doris Salcedo, “Plegaria Muda”, 2008-2010. Photo Credit: Guggenheim Museum, New York

While the work in Salcedo’s exhibit exposes painful tragedies, much like Obama’s eulogy, the blades of grass emerging from Plegaria Muda, give us a glimpse of life, promise, renewal and transformation. In memory of Inity Morrow, Julia Morrow, and the Charleston 9 Dedicated to the families living in the aftermath of gun violence.


Last year I went to a meeting at the CleanTech Incubator near the L.A. river and I was surprised to see how much development has gone into the Arts District.  Over the last few months I’ve been getting acquainted to L.A.’s latest gentrified, “it” neighborhood.  Here’s what I LOVE about it:  The energy is phenomenal (I think that has to do with the fact that there are amazing coffee houses on every corner).  The murals are stunning.  The designers and artists that created this community (and lived here before it was trendy) are still here.

The Arts District is nearing a tipping point. The money has moved in but not the pretentiousness and congestion that plagues other nearby communities (sorry Silverlake and Atwater) and again, the bonus is that the artists are still hanging in.  It is my favorite neighborhood in L.A.

Here are some pics of my favorite spots:


Gifts galore at Poketo

Gifts galore at Poketo

Click here for more pics on Steller.


“I got fed up with hearing all these people, even Negroes, ask, “Why are those people rioting?”  My personal project was to show them why.  You have to know what they go through before you can understand why all the violence takes place…”

~ Gordon Parks

I love to collect art books that feature prominent photographers, so when I spotted a copy of Gordon Park’s “A Harlem Family” at the Art Forum Studio, I scooped it up excited to see this work.  When I cracked it open I was transported into the home and hearts of the Fontenelle family in Harlem.  Gordon Park’s photography and editorial commentary provided an important look into the complicated circumstances that plague our most impoverished cities (unemployment, prison, education, drugs and crime).

As a photographer for LIfe Magazine, Parks has an incredible talent for story telling that was so powerful and relatable; in this series it was an unprecedented piece of photojournalism.  The first half of the book shows plates/photographs of the Fontelelles, a family crippled by the ravishes poverty, deplorable living situations, sub-standard educational resources and unemployment.  The images are both beautiful and heart wrenching in their expressive way of inviting you into the family’s story.

IMG_1107 The second half of the book takes an unexpected turn into the final Life article complete with written copy by Parks along the edited layout of photographs.  The story of the family depicted in this story was soul stirring.

There so many layers to this story and the process of telling it. For starters, it was clear that Parks tore down professional walls as an objective observer recounting facts.  He befriended the family and engaged with them beyond the lens of the camera and he spent time with the family without the shield of a camera lens. In these moments he was able to connect to very personal characteristics of each family member.



Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation c/o the Daily Mail.

The Fontenelle’s story is tragic and complex.  Parks was able to paint a complete picture of poverty and racism that invited readers into the story without being preachy or forcing them to come to a conclusion.

This book was published to accompany a 2012 exhibit by the Studio Museum of Harlem featuring this body of work and the story behind Parks’ creative process.

Of all of the art books sitting on my coffee table this one stands out as an incredible look into the ways journalism once built bridges to understanding instead of polarizing readers.

Photo Credit: Natural Hair Hats, Zazzle

Photo Credit: Natural Hair Hats, Zazzle

In 2015, “Cultural Appropriation” has replaced 2013’s “micro-aggression” as journalistic code for bias and ignorance. Notice I didn’t say racism, because in many cases I don’t think that cultural appropriation is deliberately borne out of racism, but it is certainly symptomatic of it. This week’s lesson in cultural appropriation came to us via Black Twitter and their strong reaction to a post by hair blog Mane Addicts, labeling this summer’s “it” hair style as “Twisted Mini Buns”, when in actuality they are Bantu Knots. To add insult to injury, Mane Addicts, in an attempt to lend fashion street cred to this proclamation, credited Marc Jacob’s Spring 2015 runway show as the originator of the look.  In actuality, Bantu Knots have been beautifully worn for centuries by African and African-American women across the diaspora.

The debate is a heated one that speaks to the cultural filters that we wear.  On one side you have folks that say that black people are too sensitive and feel that we are heaping a burden on everyone to properly credit cultural sources of trends in fashion and beauty, and on the other side we have black folks desperately trying to shed light on the sensitivity of the perverse forms of racism of a society that denigrates, surpresses, and ignore our beauty only to find it co-opted, repackaged and submitted to the masses as their own.

By no means am I saying that white women cannot rock bantu knots.  For me, the only thing Mane Addicts had to do was include a line citing the original source of the hairstyle.  Right or wrong, Black Twitter jumped on Marc Jacobs quicker than they did the originator of the article (and likely the originator of the style’s label).  Surprisingly Marc Jacobs has been conspicuously silent about the whole thing, which makes all of this problematic to me.

Jacobs is no stranger to artistic appropriation.  Art and design are so self referential that most works of art can be distilled to another.  When I think of this I am reminded of Marc Jacob’s 2013 show which featured an homage to Philip Glass.

Ultimately when a piece is inspired by another work of art it should inspire us to learn more about the original piece. (In my case, I sat through Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach, when it was performed in Los Angeles. That was a 5 hour endeavor).

Sadly, as much as I enjoy Marc Jacobs artistry, three years ago I was perplexed by a visit I made to one of his bookstores and this Bantu Knot controversy immediately took me back to this puzzling memory.  I drafted a post about the event and never chose to post it until now. Again, the specter of cultural appropriation, ignorance and the sensitivity of trigger words illuminates the fact that this dynamic manifests itself in many ways.



            “Digitus Infamous”, Photo Credit: High Snobiety

I love bookstores and gift shops, so the idea of a Marc Jacobs inspired book store complete with art/fashion books, unique gifts, and accessories sounded like the perfect match for me.

I went there specifically asking for a photography book by one of my favorite street bloggers.   The sales associate nonchalantly replied that they didn’t carry the book–as if this question was annoyingly stupid and beneath her–after all, I was disturbing her hard at work (reading) and I was the only customer in there.

Despite my disappointment, I decided to browse for something else that might catch my eye.  No less than 30 seconds later I hear over speakers some yelling and the “N” word…twice.

I quickly shut the book and look behind me… the source of the yelling was coming from a mid-day screening of “Shaft” (It could have been”Superfly” or ‘Dolemite”; I’m not up on my 70’s Blaxploitation flicks).

If I’m hanging out in a bookstore, I’m not trying to hear all of this as part of my shopping entertainment-despite my being de-sensitized by an earlier viewing of RZA’s “Man With the Iron Fists” that afternoon.

The whole scenario just turned me off.  I pulled out every move from my heavy arsenal of passive aggressive tricks: slamming the book closed, shaking my head, giving the salesclerk EXTREME side eye while hightailing it outta there with a heavy sigh.

I’m a huge fan of Marc Jacobs and would really hope that he wouldn’t be cool with this (artistic expression or not), and a recent Pharrell book signing doesn’t give you a pass either.  So, I sadly have to give a big “Digitus Infamis” to BookMarc in West Hollywood for shopping experience that was a non-starter.


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