Artists

HOW TO COMMUNICATE YOUR AUTHENTIC VOICE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Sheree L. Ross @womenfilmofcolr.jpg

by Sheree L. Ross

Nov. 10, 2017

As a creative I find it difficult sometimes to always know how to communicate my authentic voice through social media, and I see other creators struggling with the same thing. There are so many different platforms to post on, not to mention the time I need to dedicate to my own work, and then there is the fact that I don’t want to come across as just trying to sell my wares. The whole social media game can be quite daunting, and yet in this day and age we all have to take the time to figure out how to convey what we create in a way that communicates it to our potential clients or customers. That is, if we want to do what we love to do all day and pay the bills. What we offer on these platforms needs to stay authentic to us as well as tell a story about us. It is no longer just about selling somebody something. It is no longer about just getting on the right or current social media platform, or sending out emails. Today’s artists are entrepreneurs and we need to start thinking about building long-term relationships with our audiences. But how? Who’s got time to create and think of ways to market and brand themselves, particularly since most artists don’t like boxes that are so easily recognized and commodified. But, if we want to create a sustainable career for ourselves, we need to start allowing ourselves to think this way.

One of the first ways to do this is to understand what the larger population is trained to ask – what promise are you making to us as an artist? Consumers (our audience and clients) are programmed to think this way after decades of being marketed to and the smartest way in, sometimes, is to use tools that are easily recognized. Since most of us create in more than one medium it’s okay to let each project speak for itself. Each project is created with its own promise or problem to present or solve. Asking these kinds of questions gives you a way to speak to a larger audience in a clear and focused manner. Use the answers to find communities of like minded people to tell your story. It will also help give you a clearer idea of ways to market your projects in all areas, with intentions of connecting people to your work.

Most creative people I know don’t like to think of themselves as a brand unless they have elevated themselves to the realms of a Beyoncé or Rihanna. But even these creatives craft what we consume of their art and selves. Most creatives are not at that level, many don’t want to be, and for those who do it is a strategic climb to get there. As an creative entrepreneur one must always be true to oneself. Thinking about how much money a project is going to make from the outset will more often than not dilute the impact that it will have. The next step is sometimes the hardest. It is about putting your authentic, vulnerable self out into the world as you create. If you are speaking your truth through your art then you are putting little bits of yourself into the world through your social media and marketing. Social media has made it cheap and easy for anyone around the globe to have access to your work. Being shy about your work, waiting for perfection, or procrastinating will not serve your bank account, or your ability to continue doing what you love with maximum freedom. It takes time to build an audience, so if you haven’t started, if you are not on any social media, or haven’t posted in a month or so, it is time to start, with regularity. If you are a creative just starting out you must build your audiences in real ways that connect you in person as well as build a following on social media. If you are a seasoned creative then it is about giving the audience you already have a place to enjoy your new creations, build a community, as well as provide a place for your followers to get in on the conversation and feel like a part of your larger community (as well as buy your creations).

No matter what, you have to start. Building a following is key. What about you is unique and authentic to you? It is important that creatives utilize these inexpensive platforms to impact the world and get their message out into the world. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself. Start with one platform and do it well. Find the social media platform that will work best for what you create and who you are as a person. Twitter works great for my business of supporting women filmmakers of color (@womenfilmofcolr), but for my personal business of being a filmmaker and writer – creating a Facebook page has worked better for me. Don’t be discouraged, have fun with it, be consistent, and let social media be another part of how you connect and communicate your artistry to the world.

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Black Women as Cultural Deities

A Review of “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85”

When the Combahee River Collective gathered in 1977 for their annual retreat, the Black feminist thinkers, writers, and scholars decided to write a statement of intentionality. The exclusion of women of color from Lesbian Art and Artists, a feminist art journal organized by the Heresies Collective, prompted the response. The collective’s statement explored the erasure of Black women in the Women’s Movement and the Black Liberation Movement. More importantly, the Combahee River Collective pushed for the visibility of Black women.

“We have spent a great deal of energy delving into the cultural and experiential nature of our oppression out of necessity because none of these matters has ever been looked at before,” the collective concluded. “No one before has ever examined the multilayered texture of Black women’s lives.”

Forty years later, Black women are still fighting to be seen. That’s the theme woven throughout “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” an exhibit currently housed in the Brooklyn Museum. It’s one of the final parts of the museum’s “Year of Yes,” a year-long commitment to exploring feminism through art. The exhibit, like Solange transforming lives at the Guggenheim, allows Black women to center ourselves in spaces that pretend we don’t exist. “We Wanted a Revolution” also serves as a course correction. A sign at the entrance of the eight-panel exhibit states that many of the artists included aren’t feminists because of the movement’s exclusion of Black women. The dovetailing of second-wave feminism and the Black Arts Movement merely serves as a historical map of the figures and organizations at the forefront of the exhibit.

Elizabeth Catlett Malcolm X Speaks for Us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a push to make Black women visible. For instance, Emma Amos, the sole female member of Spiral, a Black artists’ collective, is featured at the beginning of the exhibit. Flower Sniffer (1966) is Amos’ self-portrait, which shows her looking at a couple who are in mid-embrace. She’s in the photo, but not of the world it inhabits, a clear indication of how Black women were positioned at the time. We were peripheral, invisible, and overlooked. Invisibility continues to be a theme as the exhibit progresses. Artist Faith Ringgold is prominently featured throughout the eight-panel exhibit. In 1970, she and her daughter, Michele Wallace, forced the Whitney Museum of American Art to include two Black women artists—Betye Saar and Barbara Chase-Riboud—in their Sculpture Annual for the first time.

Now, the Brooklyn Museum is honoring Ringgold’s struggle for equity. Her oil painting For the Woman’s House (1971) shows an array of women at work. Female inmates at Rikers Island used to be able to purchase the painting, though the jail later banned it. Just as she advocated for Saar and Chase-Riboud, Ringgold created the painting to honor Angela Davis, after she was arrested for a crime she was later acquitted for.

“Angela Davis was in jail at the time, and I was very concerned about her,” Ringgold told the New Yorker in 2010. “I thought, One thing’s for sure: I’ll have a captive audience.”

Audre Lorde and James Baldwin Brooklyn Museum

The ways that Black women have historically fought for each other shows up in the exhibit, like the inclusion of Carrie Mae Weems’ photo series Family Pictures and Stories (1978–1984). It depicts Black people in Portland, Oregon, to combat the 1965 Moynihan Report, which suggested that Black women were responsible for the destruction of Black families. Betye Saar’s Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail (1973) is also featured. It places Aunt Jemima imagery on a Molotov cocktail as an illusion to the bottling of Black women’s rage. “We Wanted a Revolution” also includes Saar’s Colored Spade (1971), a painful video that shows tropes of Black people transformed into imagery of Black empowerment.

There’s also a glass case full of classic magazine covers and newspaper clippings, like the iconic conversation between Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, a copy of Toni Morrison’s seminal 1971 New York Times Magazine piece, “What the Black Woman Thinks About Women’s Lib,” and a profile of Shirley Chisholm during her historic presidential run. The entire exhibit positions Black women as cultural deities deserving of recognition and respect. We should no longer be invisible when we’re in museums.

Catherine Morris, senior curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, told TIME that was her goal for the exhibit. “An exhibition like this is years in the making, so over the course of producing the exhibition, the pertinence and necessity of it seems to have only increased. It certainly speaks to the need people have to talk about the contributions Black women have made to our culture.”

Our contributions are innumerable, immeasurable, and, certainly, not to be disregarded.

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” will remain at the Brooklyn Museum until September 17, 2017. It will then move to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles from October 13, 2017 through January 14, 2018; to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York from February 17, 2018 through May 27, 2018; and at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston from June 26, 2018 through September 30, 2018.

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