Artist layers ancestral wisdom and social commentary in multidisciplinary works at Studio@620

Above is an image from the film Oyeku, offers an exciting, mystical view of the concept of transformation, beginnings, and endings

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — When discussing her creative work, artist Saudade Toxosi speaks of the “meditative process” that guides her hand. A multidisciplinary artist and image curator who works in painting, charcoal drawings, photography, mixed media, sound design, and assemblage, several of Toxosi’s works are now on display at Studio@620 through the end of the month.

Ori Jah Jah Me

Viewers can experience some of the magical, mystical feelings of Toxosi’s works up close and personal this Saturday, July 10, at the monthly Art Walk from 5-9 p.m.

The exhibition at Studio@620 displays more than 12 paintings and photographs, as well as her film Oyeku, a visually arresting experience that premiered in the Netherlands in 2018 as part of filmmaker Kahlil Joseph’s “New Suns” exhibit.

Toxosi’s paintings are bold and evocative – hovering beyond representational and not entirely abstract. Faces send messages that illicit immediate reactions; bodies feel like birds or spirits lifting off their surfaces to head somewhere else.

While her paintings seethe with colorful, energetic lines, her photographs of young men are being caught within shadowy worlds of grays, blacks, and browns.

Her mixed media creations investigate themes of spiritual ills versus well-being, social dilemmas, and responsibility through assemblage, even incorporating technology (such as a QR code that you can hold your phone to and hear author and filmmaker Darius James deliver Frederick Douglass’ poem, “A Parody” from “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.”

Toxosi shared that her curated media projects “explore and articulate my thoughts about the new indigenous African experience in the United States — as well as all people of color around the world.”

A visit to her website, announced by the tagline “art inspired by ancestral wisdom and inner strength,” reveals further explorations of curated images and their importance to her creative process.

Iyaami

The series “MONOCHROME” opens the site with densely populated images in black and white.

“All color is in these black and white moments; within it is a vastness which I feel does promote more expression and feeling; it tells the mind and the emotions that they have to work.”

This demand to apply “work” to viewing black and white images is in opposition, said the artist, to using color, which gives one a “lackadaisical” viewing approach – an assumption that one already knows what is there.

The images in “MASK COMPLIANCE” come from a conceptual partnership between Toxosi (photographer) and artist and academic Cara Judea Alhadeff, Ph.D. (model), and offer a meditation on masking in the age of COVID.

Trap 808. False Binaries + Deep Sight

The film Oyeku offers an exciting, mystical view of the concept of transformation, beginnings, and endings. Composed of 273 images, the website provides a diagram of the original staging of the film, presented in a room with black mirrors, in which viewers became part of the installation, or “conjure.”

Toxosi was born in Inglewood in Los Angeles and started drawing at the age of five with her mother before moving to Georgia in her teens. She’s recently relocated to St. Petersburg, where 620’s artistic director Bob Devin Jones immediately welcomed her to be part of the recent PRIDE show, which has been extended until Aug 1.

“Bob is great. He called me up and said, ‘If you’re thinking about being a part of the community, well come on, you know, this is what we’re planning to do.’”

Toxosi was thrilled because she had already been in the space and had “loved the energy.” Knowing that African drummers and dancers from Dundu Dole had christened the studio early on cemented her desire to show at the space.

“That really vibrated with me energetically and with the works that I desired to do. The works are always about my ancestors. They’re always about me in relationship to my community.”

Her inspiration comes from the American South and Black people. “Black Americans create the culture of the world — or at least carry the highest influence upon everything in the known universe. Our arts and sciences are phenomenal and unmatched.”

She speaks of “African Vernacular Art” as a practice of catharsis, meditation, found objects, and ancestral memory – as found in the works of Bill Traylor, Nellie Mae Rowe, Thornton Dial, and the Women of Gees Bend – who wove works of “dynamic legacy” and beauty with simple tools and discarded objects.

Most importantly, said Toxosi, “It is the resilience of these artists that illuminate truth, ownership, and community that encouraged me to continue in the arts.”

The multidisciplinary creator shared that she has also been inspired by the writings of Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara, and Henry Dumas. “These three poets, writers, and teachers sculpted words for their community and students, with hopes of expanding the Black imagination,” noted Toxosi.

This ‘expanding of imagination, she added, “gives one a great power to triumph in all areas, in love, and joy, regardless of their present circumstances.”

Currently, Toxosi is part of the Friends of Salt Creek Friday Writing at the Creek project, supported by the Tampa Bay Estuary Grant.

You can follow Saudade Toxosi on Instagram and view her ongoing curatorial images project EQUINOX 1600 here.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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