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We Started to See Each Other in a Different Way: Alicia Keys Talks Art and Activism in the Time of COVID – Vanity Fair09.17.20

We all have to be aware of each other, and I think that is what has happened as a result of COVID, says 15-time Grammy winner, singer-songwriter-musician Alicia Keys, who adds, We had to see the issues with clear eyesthe wrongdoing, the injustices, police brutalityand we have to connect and talk to each other. Keys, who releases her seventh studio album, Alicia, this week, has been a powerful voice for racial justice: She performed Perfect Way to Die (her song about the murders of young Black men and women by police) at the BET Awards in June, shes worked with Breonna Taylors mother to amplify womens voices, and last week, she sang Lift Every Voice and Sing at the NFL kickoff after the league committed to donating money to a fund shes started to help Black-owned businesses. In her two-decade career, Keys has sold over 65 million albums, performed in dozens of countries, written a best-selling memoir (More Myself), and has roughly 90 million followers on social media. Here, she talks with Lisa Robinson about life during COVID, the fight for racial justice, and the pressures on women.

Lisa Robinson: Whats your life been like during this pandemic?

Alicia Keys: Its been a very surreal experience on so many levels. I was doing the video for my song So Done with Khalid in March, when we heard that everything was going to shut down. And we were like, Is this real? It was around the time Tom Hanks announced he had the virus, and even though we didnt have that many people on the set, we thought, Should we be working? Then I went home and that was it. There was such a feeling of concern, fear, anxiety, and not really knowing what was happening. Wanting your family to be safe and not wanting to go outside. All of us experienced it simultaneously.

What did you do at first?

I was going to be in New York for a week, and my kids were going to meet me for their spring break. When we heard that airports were going to shut down, I said, Im not going to leave them, theyre coming with me. Then my husband [musician-producer-entrepreneur Swizz Beatz] said, No, youre not going anywhere, were staying put.Now, I think weve come to a place where we understand each other a lot more because weve all had to go through a crisis at the same time.

You debuted Good Job, your song that acknowledges the accomplishments of essential workers, during COVID. But you said you wrote it a year ago?

Yes. I actually wrote it a year ago about people who sacrifice so muchlike my mother, my best friend whos a single mother, people who just give until they have no more to give and never get a thank-you. They dont even feel like theyre doing a good job. It was a powerful sentiment for me to say you may not get the accolades, but youre doing a good job. But who would have ever thought that a year later we would be in a place where there is so much humanitywhere the people doing the simplest things: working at a drugstore, delivering the mail, being a nurse, a doctorit was so profound. [They were] the reason we were able to go forward, and the earth still turned because of them.I knew the song was going to be part of this album, but I didnt know it was imperative to release it [early]. I also think a lot of us didnt realize the amount of Black and brown people who put their lives on the line every day and how much of a big deal it was. We started to see each other in a different way. Then I realized exactly why it was written.

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Vermonting: Welcoming Autumn With Art and Apples in St. Johnsbury – Seven Days09.17.20

As I rolled down Route 5 last week, hints of fall color were beginning to show on the trees. It was shoulder season, those few weeks caught between summer and fall, and the day was warm with a hazy sky. I wondered if I could spin the in-between timing of the trip into an extended metaphor for the place I was on my way to visit: St. Johnsbury, a remote and historically rich town working to shake a run-down reputation and emerge into a new season.

Even as Vermont gradually opens up from the pandemic shutdown, Gov. Phil Scott still encourages residents to stay home as much as possible. And so this summer is a good time to explore our home state. Its diminutive size makes a multitude of short trips accessible, whether for a few hours, an overnight or a longer getaway.

This series, running weekly through mid-October, presents curated excursions in every corner of Vermont, based on the experiences of Seven Days reporters. The idea is to patronize the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures after all, we want them to still be there when the pandemic is finally over. Happy traveling, and stay safe.

There were two problems with that idea. First, it was so clichd that I questioned its accuracy; second, a variation on my tale of St. Johnsbury as a land of contrasts had already been written. In 2014, Vermont Life magazine ran a story called "Remote Possibility: Art connections drive hope in gritty St. Johnsbury." The story opens with a moody black-and-white street shot and the line "By most any measure, St. Johnsbury is an unlikely cultural hub." The writer goes on to note the town's relatively low household income, the decline of local industry and the reputation for drug problems.

But then, the article continues surprise! St. Johnsbury is also home to respected cultural institutions, some more than a century old. Switching to color photos, the article shows the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium and Catamount Arts, along with an obligatory portrait of the town's most famous current resident, musician Neko Case.

I learned about the Vermont Life story from Bob Joly, director of the athenaeum, which was the first stop on my town tour. Like anyone loyal to a particular place, Joly was happy to point out how St. Johnsbury is actually on the rise, while also getting a chuckle out of others' attempts to characterize that change.

Joly serves a unique role, because the 1871 St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is three institutions rolled into one building. It's a public library where locals can pick up the latest mystery novel, and it's home to an art gallery with a sizable collection of primarily 19th-century paintings and sculptures. The building has also served as a lecture hall that has hosted speeches by two U.S. presidents.

The athenaeum is one of many reminders of St. Johnsbury's main benefactors: the Fairbanks family, who made their fortune selling scales in the 19th century. Erastus Fairbanks (who was, as Joly pointed out, a dead ringer for "Schitt's Creek" actor Eugene Levy) founded the St. Johnsbury Academy, the town's private high school, with his brothers. Erastus' sons, Horace and Franklin, founded the athenaeum and the Fairbanks Museum, respectively.

Horace and Franklin, Joly said, "got to spend a lot of money, because the previous generation made a lot of money."

The whole building is stunning. I was particularly enchanted by the ornate spiral staircases that lead to narrow balconies throughout the main rooms, so library staff can access shelves that reach all the way to the ceiling. The space has that hallowed library feel, almost like a church.

But the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum's indisputable focal point is a massive painting that takes up the entire back wall of the gallery. Albert Bierstadt's "The Domes of the Yosemite" (1867) offers a somewhat condensed view of California's Yosemite Valley, with subtle, misty lighting and a waterfall that practically glows. This effect, called luminism, was a hallmark of painters who studied with New York's Hudson River School. In 2017, the athenaeum spent $84,000 to restore the painting.

The athenaeum is home to about 120 paintings in total, including other Hudson River School landscapes, depictions of farm animals and pastoral motifs, and copies of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Joly's tour of the space included several murals in the children's room, country scenes funded through Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration federal art project during the Great Depression.

While such cultural institutions make St. Johnsbury a destination, until recently, Joly said, the town didn't have many food and beverage choices to serve hungry travelers.

The past three or four years have altered that situation, he noted. "It does seem like there is sustaining change here which, 10 years ago, I would have said, 'I don't know,'" Joly said. "Right here in downtown St. Johnsbury, there is a craft brewery, a craft distillery, a bunch of good restaurants."

Among the town's current food offerings are St. Johnsbury Distillery, the locavore Kingdom Taproom and Table, Central Caf, and Salt Bistro and Vermont Catering Company.

I headed for one of those new food ventures for lunch to go. George Sales opened Pica-Pica Filipino Cuisine, possibly the only Filipino restaurant in Vermont, in 2017. I had no experience with Filipino food beyond having seen it described as an amalgamation of influences from India, China, Spain and other cultures. I ordered what I knew to be a classic dish, chicken adobo, and took it for an impromptu picnic on the lawn of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

The food was excellent: A salty, vinegary broth poured over rice and crunchy bites of carrot and cabbage, peppered with bay leaves and star anise, accompanied two marinated pieces of chicken that practically leapt from the bone. I went in with my fingers, pandemic and table manners be damned. Such are the perks of outdoor dining.

Afterward, despite my love for the Fairbanks Museum and its wild array of taxidermied species, I wanted to stay outdoors. So I headed to Dog Mountain, a classic Vermont destination just outside town. It's home to a gallery of work by the late Vermont artist Stephen Huneck, a pristine white chapel dedicated to dearly departed dogs, and 150 acres of hillside where walkers and their canine companions are free to roam.

The gallery shop is packed to the brim with irreverent prints and carvings a rottweiler with antlers, for instance, hangs on the wall like a deer mount. Much of Huneck's work features a black Lab modeled on his dog Sally, but plenty of other breeds are represented.

I bought a greeting card from the gallery's creative director, Amanda McDermott, while she played guess-the-breed on a low-slung hound that had wandered into the shop. (His owner declared him pure beagle, but McDermott was convinced he had a little basset hound in him.) What Huneck and his wife, Gwen, aimed to do in creating Dog Mountain, McDermott said, was to increase the quality of life for dogs.

"A place like this, they really get to test their lead," she said of the canine visitors. "They know from all the smells that it's a place for them."

The Hunecks' story ended in tragedy; both Stephen and Gwen died by suicide, three years apart. Now under the management of the nonprofit Friends of Dog Mountain, the chapel and grounds remain free to the public and open daily from dawn to dusk. Signs encourage supporting the place by donating or shopping at the gallery.

I wandered around the grassy mountain and then into the cool shade of the chapel, which is adorned with hand-carved pews and stained-glass windows depicting dogs. But those accoutrements are overshadowed by the visitor contributions: layers of notes and photos, several inches thick, pinned to a wall dedicated to the memories of beloved dogs.

Huneck thought people would need closure after the deaths of their pets, McDermott said: "There was a need for it, and it's so obvious now."

After spending a few minutes perusing the messages of grief and love, I headed out, thinking fondly of the little brown dog waiting for me at home in Burlington. But there was one more stop I'd been anticipating, just up the dirt road from Dog Mountain.

At Sweet Seasons Farm & Artisan Confections, I parked at the top of a long driveway, where I was greeted by yet another dog, an excitable scrap of white fur named Lollipop. She and a nearly identical but much shyer pup, Ella, patrol the hillside.

I learned this from Sue Haynie, the farmer and chocolatier, who emerged from the farmstand eager to tell the story of her farm. She and her husband have been working the property since 2006. In the past few years, they've transformed it into a business, offering pick-your-own blueberries, raspberries and apples and selling fruity, chocolaty treats.

After sampling a chocolate-covered blueberry bar with a hint of lime, I bought a homemade peppermint patty and some apples for the road. Haynie gave me a primer on the apple varieties she had for sale. Mantets have a tougher skin but a subtle vanilla flavor, Burgundys taste of cherry like a Jolly Rancher, and Norlands are tasty but oxidize quickly.

Haynie also offers Gravensteins, a 17th-century Danish cooking apple; they're ready to harvest every single year on August 16 or 17, she noted, as if the tree had a calendar.

All this newfound apple knowledge made it that much harder to choose, but I eventually settled on a few Burgundys and waved goodbye to Haynie, heading back to Burlington.

There's more to see around St. Johnsbury if you're looking to extend your trip. The town is home to one end of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, a 93-mile bike path across northern Vermont. In nearby Danville, visitors to the Great Vermont Corn Maze find their way through 24 acres of rustling green stalks; this year, tickets must be reserved in advance.

I didn't taste one of the apples I'd bought until later, at home. The bright red pigment of the skin had tie-dyed the edges of the flesh, and when I bit into a slice, it tasted exactly like a crisp September day. I'll be doing everything I can to grab and hold that shoulder-season feeling while it lasts.

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Feel the Burn – Eugene Weekly09.17.20

When Stewart Harvey attended his first Burning Man in 1989, the event was still in its infancy. It was a private party on Baker Beach in San Francisco, attended by a few dozen people. They were mostly friends of Stewarts brother Larry, along with assorted curiosity seekers whod gathered informally to celebrate the summer solstice, and ah, yes to light a 30-foot wooden effigy on fire.

The following year Larry Harvey moved the gathering to northern Nevada over Labor Day, teaming with members of the Cacophony Society to create a DIY temporary autonomous zone in the desert. Black Rock City rose from the playa, word spread and the rest was history.

The annual festival grew larger every year. 2019s Burning Man attracted more than 78,000 people. (2020s event was officially moved online due to pandemic concerns.)

For those not fortunate enough to attend Burning Man in the early years, the next best thing is at Emerald Art Center, where Stewart Harveys Photographs From Thirty Years Of Burning Man is on display through Sept. 25 in the upstairs gallery.

Harvey has plenty of pictures to choose from. Hes attended nearly every Burn since 1989, shooting prolifically at each festival to build a vast personal archive. Some have been featured in Wired and Life magazines, as well as in Harveys own book of Burning Man photos, 2017s Playa Fire. The EAC show features 25 personal favorites.

Fresh off the stair landing, gallery-goers are greeted with a 1991 photo of Larry Harvey himself, smiling proudly in his trademark Stetson hat as the wooden figure behind him begins to catch fire. To its immediate right is a picture (Burn Ignition, 2009) hinting at the future. In this frame the effigy is a minor structure in the corner, stretching its hands over a surging cloud of flames. This pairing is the perfect entre to the rest of the show, serving as metaphorical bookends. Larry Harvey is the origin, and the statues conflagration is every festivals culmination.

Befitting the Burning Man ethos, the sequence of photos is random. Theres a solid selection from the early 90s my personal favorites documenting sparse crowds and wide-open possibilities. But the years dont stop there. Harvey samples a wide range up through 2016. Shown non-chronologically, the pictures eschew any timeline in favor of individual scenes and people.

We see some of the bewildering art forms created in situ, the playas colorfully costumed denizens and the physical challenges of harsh desert conditions. A photo of lamplighters raising their torches in the midst of a sandstorm is no walk in the park. Nor is a scene depicting a woman being blown by a gale, caught between tattered flags and a pitch-black storm cloud. Just another day in gritty paradise.

In the hands of other photographers, extremes of weather or behavior might dominate. But in Harveys world theyre just another visual element, adding flavor to scenes already caught on the border of human experience. Harvey stretches the boundaries further, literally, through the occasional use of a swing lens panoramic camera. Although most of his photos are straight monochrome, he occasionally mixes in infrared, darkening skies, bleaching skin and wreaking havoc on reality.

In short, Harvey is less concerned with reportage than the experimental spirit of Burners and their provocative constructions. When I approach Burning Man, explains his brief show statement, I dont think of it so much as documenting an event, but rather as trying to capture revealing moments between people at the nexus of art and community.

Stewart Harvey: Thirty Years of Burning Man (sponsored by Photography At Oregon) runs through Sept. 25 at Emerald Art Center, 500 Main Street, Springfield. Hours 11 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Saturday. A closing reception will be held 5 to 7 pm Friday, Sept. 25. Masks and social distancing required.

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Meet Lebanon mover and shaker Judy Williams Henry – LebTown09.17.20

5 min read573 views and 90 shares Posted September 17, 2020

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.

Utilitarian movement is called transportation. Planned and directed movement is called choreography. Self-expressive, creative movement is called dance.

Judy Williams Henry has made a career out of understanding and defining the elements of movement. Shes made an impact on Lebanon County and the world by refining and promoting movement.

Its called Movement Laboratory. Its located at 720 Cumberland Street in downtown Lebanon, but it lives passionately at the intersection of art and science.

Its about how people move and why they move, said Henry. Movement is what we all do. We can all wave our hands, and its either hi or bye. Dance expresses a feeling. Feelings can be evoked by music or body rhythms. Its telling a story. We can walk down the street and we can think of it as movement. But theres an intent to get to another place. The design to get to that place can be choreographed.

Theres a science to everything, continued Henry. Art and science can be like one. The movement of dance is the language everyone speaks. What goes up, must come down. There are all kinds of lessons that can be taught through dance. Its more than putting on a costume and going up on stage and being vain. Its about who you can be.

Movement Laboratory has been a Lebanon treasure for 41 years. But its something that was established in 1969, and something Henry brought with her when she relocated here.

A native of Connecticut and a classically trained dancer, Henrys early career was influenced by her progressive parents, the turbulent times in which she grew up and the Boston and New York artistic scenes. She met her husband Doug Henry, a Lebanon-area businessman, at Boston University, and through the International Year of the Child program was assigned to the Lebanon school district.

I feel like Movement Laboratory is a resource in the community, said Henry. Thats important to me. Its important for me to stay downtown. I believe in Lebanon. I feel like the people in Lebanon have a poor self image, but we need to come together and pull together. We have one of the most beautiful main streets.

I am from a very interesting family, added Henry. They were avid readers. They were doers. They were active people. My parents did things to make us responsible. They always told us we had a purpose and that every job had dignity. They taught us to see the greater good in everyone. First and foremost, my family members were teachers.

Movement Laboratory offers students mainly school-aged children guidance and instruction in the dance disciplines of jazz, tap, ethnic, modern, musical theater, and of course, ballet. Henrys aspiring protgs have gone on to become stars on Broadway, performers for international dance companies, Rockettes, producers, choreographers and teaching artists.

But perhaps Movement Laboratorys ultimate goal is to instill self-confidence and help dancers discover their true selves.

I think movement teaches us the essence of humanity, said Henry, a resident of Schaefferstown. Every day and it doesnt matter what your skin color is youre in that dance class and everyone is trying to be the best they can be. Everybodys got hips. Everybodys got arms. Everybodys got legs. The only competition is the one within yourself. Its about learning about yourself and making sure you stay true to your goals. There are certain lifestyles you can and cant participate in. Its a 24/7 commitment.

All of my girls, they do well, Henry continued. I dont let them loose until theyre ready to be let loose. I think they know I have the power of the word no. I will certainly let them know. It causes them to think about who they are and what they can be. After theyre gone, I hear from them and the fabulous things theyre doing. Parents can only guide so far. The joyous thing is they all remember me as Miss Judy.

In keeping with its mission of promoting goodwill through dance, Movement Laboratory has, over the years, sponsored dozens of international and domestic performances and cultural exchanges in places like Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Finland, as well as destinations within the United States. The efforts have served to break down barriers, while teaching and learning about cultures that are similar to and different from ours.

Weve done concerts to raise money for boys and girls clubs, said Henry. Weve danced to raise money for refugees in France, or weve exchanged with other schools. During one of our performances, someone rushed on stage and yelled You are the children of hope. You are the children of peace.

I think its just the course of what youre supposed to do, Henry added. I dont talk about my resume. I try to live what Ive experienced. I dont try to live my life through my students. Im not a teacher. Im a guide, and I hope they absorb things.

A choreographer, director, actor and mentor, Henry has also served as a professional choreographer at Gretna Theatre for 31 years, been an adjunct member of the faculties at Lebanon Valley and Elizabethtown Colleges and consulted for local high school theater productions. In 2014, she was inducted into the local womens hall-of-fame.

But all of the things shes ever done have reflected who Henry is as a person. She is always passionate, humble and empathetic.

Im just a kid from Connecticut, who loves to learn, said Henry. Who loves to show what shes learned. I know who I am. Im grounded in who I am. Im perceptive. I see movement in everything. Im an artist. Its just me. Im just trying to figure it out like everybody else. Im a compilation of that and all those experiences.

Its about being able to wake up in the morning and have your feet on the ground, continued Henry. What surprises are going to happen today? How are you going to handle it? Ive been blessed with a dance talent. I couldnt ask for more than that. I was a happy child. I was loved. With my parents, each child was an individual. Thats what makes me whole.

Henry doesnt know what the future holds for her, shes not sure how long she can continue to do the things she loves. What she does know is how to live each moment like its her last.

Im old enough to remember a few things and have experiences, said Henry. Im almost a vintage wine. Im going to keep doing it until God says I cant. Hopefully Ill be blessed with good health and be able to do it for a few more years. Youve got to live each day. Who knows?

Movement can be the story and background of your life, concluded Henry. Movement Lab is a goodwill gesture for the community. I am a unique person, maybe a person whos needed in the community. Someone who is subtly outspoken. I just believe all people have a right to be, and they have a purpose. They have to be strong in who they are. We are all Gods children. Theres not one person in the world who isnt important.

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Why the West Coast’s orange sky was so unsettling, according to color theory – Fast Company09.17.20

On September 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a postapocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings, and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.

The scientific explanation for what people were seeing was pretty straightforward. On a clear day, the sky owes its blue color to smaller atmospheric particles scattering the relatively short wavelengths of blue light waves from the sun. An atmosphere filled with larger particles, like woodsmoke, scatters even more of the color spectrum, but not as uniformly, leaving orangish-red colors for the eye to see.

But most city dwellers werent seeing the science. Instead, the burnt-orange world they were witnessing was eerily reminiscent of scenes from sci-fi films like Blade Runner: 2049and Dune.

The uncanny images evoked sci-fi movies for a reason. Over the past decade, filmmakers have increasingly adopted a palette rich with hues of two colors, orange and teal, which complement one another in ways that can have a powerful effect on viewers.

When we dissect movies in my design classes, I remind my students that everything on the screen is there for a reason. Sound, light, wardrobe, peopleand, yes, the colors.

Actor, writer, and director Jon Fusco has suggested writing color as an entire character in your script, since colors can subtly change the way a scene can resonate emotionally.

Set and costume designers can influence color schemes by sticking to certain palettes. But art directors can also imbue scenes with certain hues via color grading, in which they use software to shift colors around in the frame.

In her short film Color Psychology, video editor Lilly Mtz-Seara assembles a montage from more than 50 films to show the emotional impact intentional color grading can lend to movies. She explains how different palettes are used to emphasize different sentiments, whether its pale pink to reflect innocence, red to capture passion, or a sickly yellow to denote madness.

So why orange and teal?

In the 17th century, Isaac Newton created his color wheel. The circle of colors represents the full visible light spectrum, and people who work in color will use it to assemble palettes, or color schemes.

A monochromatic palette involves tints from a single huelighter and darker shades of blue, for example. A tertiary palette divides the wheel with three evenly spaced spokes: bright reds, greens, and blues.

Among the most striking combinations are two hues 180 degrees apart on the color wheel. Due to a phenomenon called simultaneous contrast, the presence of a single color is intensified when paired with its complement. Green and purple complement one another, as do yellow and blue. But, according to German scientist, poet, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the strongest of the complementary pairings exist in the ranges ofyou guessed itorange and teal.

For moviemakers, this color palette can be a powerful tool. Human skin matches a relatively narrow swath of the orange section of the color wheel, from very light to very dark. A filmmaker who wants to make a human within a scene pop can easily do so by setting the orange-ish human against a teal background.

Filmmakers can also switch between the two depending on the emotional needs of the scene, with the oscillation adding drama. Orange evokes heat and creates tension while teal connotes its oppositecoolness and languid moodiness. For example, the orange and pink people in many of the chase scenes in Mad Max: Fury Road stand out against the complementary sky-blue background.

Oranges and teals are not the sole province of sci-fi movies. David Finchers thriller Zodiac is tinged with blues, while countless horror movies deploy a reddish-orange palette. Theres even been some backlash to orange and teal, with one filmmaker, Todd Miro, calling their overuse madness and a virus.

Nonetheless, given the frequency with which sci-fi films wish to subtly unsettle viewers, the palette continues to find frequent application in the genre. As for West Coast residents unnerved by the murky air and bizarre landscapes, theyre probably wishing their lives felt a lot less like a movie.

Johndan Johnson-Eilola is a professor of communication and media at Clarkson University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the West Coast's orange sky was so unsettling, according to color theory - Fast Company

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Meet the women behind your favourite surreal Instagram filters – i-D09.17.20

Photos courtesy of Nahir Esper and Johanna Jaskowska.

Over the past six months, the world has passed the time largely at a distance from one another, and despite a beckoning summer and warm weather, in some form of isolation. Many have turned to more introspective pursuits, be it taking up activism-themed embroidery, dusting off an old pair of roller skates, adding a 16th step to skincare routines. Others have spent their days building surreal Instagram filters that play with ideas of modern beauty.

Its no surprise that social media platforms like Instagram have seen an increase in use as people look for ways to stay connected with friends, find some entertainment and even a bit of the glamor and fashion of the real world, online. Instagrams filters and effects have been around for a while now, but access to Spark AR, Instagrams tool for making those effects you see everywhere from head-tilt games to beautification filters and more has made these custom works of tech-meets-art more popular than ever. Uniquely, while the world of tech is still largely dominated by men, the majority of creators, the people who make your favourite Instagram effects, are young women.

We spoke to some of the women who make up this diverse community of designers, artists and creators, to learn more about how theyre bridging the online and physical worlds, opening up a new medium of self-expression and expanding ideas of what beauty, aesthetics and immersive art experiences can be in the process.

Ommy Akhe

Your work centres luxury aesthetics and beauty, sometimes in a tongue-in-cheek or subversive way. What inspires you to blend these elements to create Instagram filters?Life imitates art springs to mind. I find myself developing programs in the areas in which I have a personal interest, which most of the time revolves around fashion and beauty as an extension of that. Im a huge fan of logos I find commercialism fascinating, and like to play around with that too. A lot of my work is based on target tracking, or image recognition taking something thats instantly recognisable, such as a luxury item, and turning that on its head or making it mine is a lot of fun for me.

What is unique about Instagram filters as a medium does it serve as a unique palette or more of a universal one?I see developing filters as almost like building tools for people, so Id lean more towards calling it a universal base. Its fun to think of filters, as it really is mind-blowing to see peoples interpretation of what you have built. What you had in mind for a filter may be the complete opposite of how it ends up being used widely. It enables interaction in such a vast way which, to me, makes it so unique.

What does AR offer to you as an artist and creator? How does it help you connect to your audience?AR offers clarity for me as a creator. Its so refreshing to be able to envision something in your head and have an as-close-to-tangible product that is accessible and visible to so many people all at once. It offers a conversation my audience can adopt and then interact with my work. I often find myself building upon, refining and updating work after it has been released, after seeing how users engage with it.

How do you view AR, or AR arts relationship with beauty, and how we envision ourselves? How does your work push these boundaries between art, beauty, fashion and technology?To me AR is about autonomy (hence the username @autonommy!) its about having control over oneself, and one's vision of themselves. People are becoming more self-aware and curating themselves a lot more, and AR in many cases provides so many opportunities for self-exploration. Its never been so easy to experiment with a new look for yourself, without having to make the actual commitment. Were a generation of shape-shifters, and due to AR, its become that much more easy to reinvent yourself.

Technology opened up new opportunities for art-making. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?Having a background in computer science and security, technology is something Ive always known. Ive never considered myself an artist! I think for someone starting out, authenticity and consistency is very important when learning a new skill or program. Id recommend immersing yourself in a community of like-minded individuals who you can learn from. Build the things that you would like to see in the world.

Johanna Jaskowska

Your work combines the organic and the futuristic in a harmonious way; what motivates you to blend these two elements to create Instagram filters?With AR, I like to invent things that can't exist in real life. I don't think I necessarily have to create things that replicate the whole world; the fun part for me is that I can create something new. My work is hybrid; I like to mix a futuristic vision in a very minimal way, so it feels almost natural. My main focus with AR on Instagram though, is the user: their face, their body and the world that surrounds them become my canvas to tell a different fragment of stories.

I'm fascinated by the future and how it changes our society. I think humanity already predicted most of the things that are happening today and what might happen tomorrow. But I also believe that we can contribute and inspire the future as well, by seeding ideas through this type of work and concepts that trigger discussions.

What is unique about Instagram filters as a medium with which to create does it serve as a unique palette or more of a universal one, since anyone can use it?I think the uniqueness of Instagram filters is that the final output isn't something just contemplative and passive like a painting could be, but it is a real collaboration with the users. In a way, it's like creating a new genre of art performance/experience where the user performs and becomes the central focus, not the effect. Without them, nothing exists anymore.

AR is such a new medium for experimentation and self-expression for artists and audiences alike. What does AR offer to you as an artist and creator? How does it help you connect to your audience?One sure thing that I've never expected before making AR is that it enabled me to see the world through the users; when people from everywhere in the world are using your work, you realise how rich different cultures and subcultures are out there. Everyone is using effects in different ways, sometimes in ways you've never expected, it opened my mind and I've learned a lot about how people's behaviour changes from one culture to another.

How do you view AR, or AR art's relationship with beauty, and how we envision ourselves? How does your work push these boundaries between art, beauty, fashion and technology?Art has always been pushed forward by new technologies and mediums; I think that we are experiencing a similar pattern today with social media and augmented reality. It is a new genre of performing arts, where image, style and beauty merge with technologies; it's pretty hybrid. What happens when makeup, fashion, direction and photography merge with technology and reality-bending? I think this is just the beginning of something way more significant.

For young artists, particularly women, how has technology opened up new opportunities for art-making? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?My advice would be the following: do whatever you want to do and what feels right for you. There is no correct way to do, no proper way to learn and no accurate way to create. The right way is to develop your method. You can get inspired by anything and anybody.

Nahir Esper

Your work centres organic styles, painterly aesthetics and beauty, what motivates you to blend these elements to create Instagram filters?My biggest motivation when it comes to mixing elements is the challenge that this implies and the result.

In terms of aesthetics, working as a photographer allows me to identify what I like and what I don't like. For example, I like warm tones, nature, the texture of an analog photograph. Spending time in Spark AR looking for how to mix all the elements, what external or internal tools to use and what the end result will look like is a huge challenge for me, and I must confess that I love challenges. As for the word "result", Im not only talking about the finished filter, but also about how people interact with it. Although the filters I create are mostly based on my own tastes, I develop effects that make people feel good. A beautiful community was created that takes every job I do and redefines it, making it their own.

What is unique about Instagram filters as a medium with which to create -- does it serve as a unique palette or more of a universal one?I would definitely say that creating an Instagram filter grants both qualities. Its universal since anyone can use filters and anyone can create their own effects. Spark AR is very easy to get started with and it has educational tools that allow you to create without having to know a specific topic. And its unique because once the filter is developed, each user brings their personal touch, generating a new type of content.

How do you view AR, or AR arts relationship with beauty, and how we envision ourselves? How does your work push these boundaries between art, beauty, fashion and technology?The fusion between AR and beauty has given us unexpected shortcuts. It is no longer necessary to spend hours in front of a mirror putting on make-up, you have an endless range of filters that emulate make-up in real life. You can take a selfie and look made up in seconds and without any effort. Sometimes (I include myself because it usually happens to me too) we are so used to taking photos with filters, ranging from skin-tanning to completely changing the face, that when we open the front camera, inadvertently, we spend a few minutes thinking: my face really looks this way? However, never forget that (at least in my case) all my filters are created in order to entertain by providing a positive experience and that we have to love ourselves as we are.

Art, beauty, fashion and technology are words that definitely go hand in hand, they integrate perfectly. I feel that the user is the one who manages to cross these barriers, I am only giving them a tool to do it (a filter). Most of my masks are as customisable as possible so that the user can adapt their appearance to their own preference, and thus make them feel connected to their "virtual self". And that is where the user puts so much commitment into taking a "stylised self-portrait" that it breaks the barrier of "fashion" or "beauty" to become "art.

For young artists, particularly women, how has technology opened up new opportunities for art-making? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?The most important thing that technology gave us is the space for us to express ourselves and that space provided was the door to new opportunities. New technologies and the Internet have provided artists with an infinite audience with which to share their ideas and creations. These incredible changes have made it possible for anyone to participate in art. Thanks to technology and social media, artists can expose their work to a global audience simply by clicking "share" on any social media platform, thus transcending cultural, geographic and social boundaries.

The main advice I can give someone who is just starting out is: don't give up. If something doesn't come out, don't worry, take your time and find a way to fix it.

Alexis Zerafa

AR is such a new medium for experimentation and self-expression for artists and audiences alike. What does AR offer to you as an artist and creator?The recent surge in AR integration on social platforms has made the medium and knowledge of it much more commonplace, which I think is wonderful. I also love that by utilising a live camera feed, AR doesnt pull the user out of their environment or box them in, it unveils a new layer of the world that they live in and are present in, and intermingles with what they see every day. I think this makes AR unique, because several people can experience a work completely differently when they bring it into their own space (on top of how different art interpretation already is on the individual level).

How do you view AR, or AR arts relationship with beauty, and how we envision ourselves? How does your work push these boundaries between art, beauty, fashion and technology?Make-up can be a powerful tool for self-expression, and an art form in itself, but the industry as a whole also promotes toxic ideals that lead some people to think that if they leave the house with a visible pimple or less than lengthy lashes theyll be struck down by lightning and ridiculed. It took me a long time to be comfortable just existing in my own skin (still have work to do), so the last thing I want to do is create work that leads others to think that they arent valid no matter how they look.

AR on social is tough in that sense, skin-smoothing, face deformations that slightly shrink the nose and slightly enlarge the lips, are extremely common. This beauty motif being widely used insinuates that these adjustments are desirable, when in reality the human form is extremely varied and amazing, and beauty standards are constantly shifting and completely made up to begin with.

For young artists, particularly women, how has technology opened up new opportunities for art-making? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?Technology has definitely opened many doors, but unfortunately the doors themselves still aren't as accessible as they need to be for the population at large. I think tech as an industry and a space still has a lot of work to do in terms of inclusivity. Be it gender inequality, class or race, the tech space is still full of barriers that deter people from working within it. I graduated with an engineering degree, and even though my field of study was a mix of the artistic and the technical, my classes were still very much white and male-dominated.

Id say the best advice I can give is that bad work is good work. Its intimidating to see people creating these beautiful mind-bending experiences, and thinking to yourself that youll never be able to do that. No one starts out immediately creating impeccable things. Imperfections can lead to inspiration and youll never improve if you dont start! Learning materials for most digital mediums are plentiful (and a lot of them are free!), which I think is the great thing about digital fabrication. Creation software can be expensive, and that's a barrier to entry as well, but lots of free alternatives exist and are just as good if not better than the paid tools!

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Some New Orleans-area senior citizens get their hands on the latest technology – NOLA.com09.17.20

A couple of community events caught my eye recently because they feature senior citizens embracing the latest in technology. National news organizations, from Bloomberg to PBS to The New York Times, have written about this coronavirus-shutdown trend that is helping older people avoid isolation and depression.

The locals I spoke with didnt seem isolated although others in their groups could be but they embraced technology as a way to stay in touch and to keep their minds agile.

The Class of 1964 at Riverdale High School, in Jefferson, was part of the first generation to grow up with color TV. Now theyre among the older generation honing their skills with the screen thats become ubiquitous for communication during the pandemic.

Class members, now in their mid-70s, recently held their 56-year reunion via Zoom, the popular platform for virtual visits.

Members of a LaPlace Knights of Columbus Council went to work Sept. 5 doing what theyre widely known for doing best in the wake of a disaster

Ages are more varied among participants in the People Program, nonprofit classes held prepandemic in-person at two New Orleans locations, offering about 150 topics to choose from per semester. The program is for those 50 and over, but the age of participants goes up into the 90s, said Steve Lenahan, executive director.

Its classes, too, are now conducted via Zoom.

Riverdale reunion publicity chairman Stephanie Toups, of Metairie, a legal secretary for 40 years, has long worked with computers, so her learning curve for the software was less steep than some of her classmates, she said. Her biggest problem was the age of her computer she had to use an unfamiliar one because hers didnt have a camera.

Marie Mushmeche, 77, who takes People Program classes, doesnt have much computer experience she told me that previously she barely knew how to sign on. In my prior life, I worked for a law firm where we did everything with a copious amount of onion skin (paper). Do you remember onion skin?

But she had a secret weapon: Her 26-year-old grandson set her up with Zoom.

At the People Program, Lenahan was prepared for the learning curve among members.

When kids ages 6 months through 5 years arrive for their twice-a-year wellness visits at DePaul Community Health Centers, they get a checkup,

Because the private nonprofits mission is to serve those who might be lonely, depressed or need an outlet for learning, the program offered training and motivation for signing up.

We tried to offer as much support and testimonial from other people. We sent out YouTube videos to explain the steps, he told me.

Once classes began, There was some hand-holding the first week. There was staff in every class in addition to the teachers to be sure no one was missing out.

The virtual format didnt have an effect on the list of classes offered, but Lenahan acknowledged some classes, such as art and music, are a little harder to teach via computer.

Mushmeche had reservations about learning Zoom, but said the technology turned out to be less frightening than I thought I would be. She typically took classes at the West Bank People Program location near her home, but said the new experience offered at least one advantage: I got to see several friends whove always been in the class, and I got to meet people from the east bank also taking it.

Toups also noted that the virtual format allowed her to catch up with out-of-town classmates at the reunion. We talked to people who had never attended any of our reunions because they lived so far out of town, she said.

Mushmeche began taking classes five years ago after her husband passed away. For the fall session, she is signed up for six of them. The very most before was four classes, she said, adding that she probably wouldnt have done that many if they hadnt been virtual.

Shes adamant about continuing to learn but acknowledges that the classes are about socializing, too. Its getting together with other people our own age. (Zoom is) not the same but its OK. I feel like Im doing something.

Back at the reunion, 15 to 20 people took part in the Riverdale session; about 80 typically turned out previously for their annual face-to-face luncheons.

Some of us do it (Zoom) with our grandchildren who live in different states. For some, it was new. A few didnt have a computer set up to do such a thing, Toups said, or some just didnt have the patience to do it.

She also credited class members Cheryl Ruck Schaneville, Michal Lutes Blanchard, Carol Palmgren Staiano and Janis Ross Meyer with taking the group from "Boomers to Zoomers."

The die-hard group did it in a big way, though. There were multiple chat rooms for connecting in smaller groups, and attendees could go from room to room.

Toups noted that technology isnt the first big change the Riverdale class has weathered. Toups and her peers were the first class to graduate from Riverdale High, which was built in 1962. Before that, most had attended East Jefferson High. With Riverdales completion, however, girls were sent to Riverdale and EJ became all boys.

It was a huge change, Toups said. Back then, they had different ideas. It was an entirely new concept.

And those new concepts just keep on coming.

WHAT: Fall classes have begun for active adults 50 and older, but call for details. Courses range from wine to genealogy, short fiction to Ukranian Easter egg design, and from learning about the local theater scene to current events.

COST: $130, for as many classes as you like.

INFO: Call (504) 284-7678

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The Gifts That Best Friends Sydnee Washington and Marie Faustin Want to Give Each Other – New York Magazine09.17.20

Photo: Photo: JW Photography, Courtesy of Sydnee Washington and Marie Faustin

Sydnee likes to call us soul mates, which is very aggressive, but it was basically love at first sight, says Marie Faustin of Sydnee Washington, her best friend and co-host of the Unofficial Expert podcast. The two comedians met six years ago at an all-womens open mic and have been inseparable ever since. Were both very vain, and were just like, Oh my God. She looks good in photos, well get so many likes. And then it just so happened that she was a good person and she was funny, so it worked out, Sydnee says. Below, the two told us what theyd buy for each other as gifts, and their selections run the gamut from a photo shoot with Dario Calmese (says Marie: If money is not an issue, let me just pull out all the stops for my home girl) to Bomba Curls (says Sydnee: My friend needs a little assistance in growing her hair out, and I think this would really help. She could have 28 inches by December).

Marie has a beautiful apartment, and there is a lot of a lot of sunlight, and she has a lot of walls shes doing well and I think that this would just go perfect in her apartment. I have something from that collection in my living room, and when she came over shes like, Oh, this is really nice. I like that, and I was like, Well, if she likes it for me, its got to be good for her. Its not the same exact thing that I have, but its from the same place, and she deserves the best.

This candle smells so good, it lasts for a good amount of time, and its strong. The size that I have is a smaller size and it still fills the room, but Id give Marie the biggest size possible because shes got a big home. I mean she has an estate, pretty much. [Editors note: Marie told us that she actually lives in a small one bedroom.] I would say its kind of like an amberish, orange smell, and it smells like a sophisticated woman thats also in her late 20s.

Weak edges are Black womens kryptonite, so were always working on them, and trying something to make them grow or make them as strong as our souls to make them pop. Marie had the big chop last year, and Marie is one of those people who can literally wear any haircut, but shes growing it out. So my friend wants a little assistance in growing her hair out, and I think this would really help. This was recommended to me by somebody whose edges are very moisturized and thriving I mean, the baby hairs have their own Zip Code. Ive been using this oil for two or three months now, and I swear to you, my hair is growing. Its crazy how long its grown since the pandemic. Marie could have 28 inches by December.

After this freaking year, who doesnt need therapy? Weve gone through so much. Me and Marie have talked almost every day, this whole year, for no cost, but I think that everybody especially Black women during this time, they deserve someone who is listening to them for an hour, every week, and helping them assess whatever issues or traumas that theyre internalizing. Im not saying that thats whats going on with my friend, but if it is, I would like to provide that for her with my own money. If I had money, I just dont.

[Editors note: The Unofficial Expert runs ads for Better Help during their podcast.]

I, famously, can skate. My friend, she does it all but a few things she cant do is bike or skate. Shes a very active person, so another way for her to be active is skating. I dont want her to bust her ass, so I think she would need lessons and skates at the same time.

My friend was looking for an air fryer, but they were all goofy and just take up so much space. My friend is wealthy and has beautiful skin and is talented, but she doesnt have counter space, so she needs a little cute air fryer thatll fit that wont look too goofy on her beautiful kitchen countertops, and I think this would be the one.

First of all, both of us have really great skin, but my friend is a smooth-skin beauty queen. Sydnee doesnt drink as much water as she should, but you know, its not really whats on the inside that counts, its whats on the outside. When I think of celebrities who have good skin, I think of people like Beyonc or Gabrielle Union, and they both use this serum. I mean, its very expensive, but Im guessing that its worth it because I read all the reviews. I just want my friend to have something that makes her feel good, something that makes her look good, and something that gives her a little bit of that Beyonc Giselle Knowles-Carter energy, and if we could do that with a little bottle of oil, then why would I not give that to Sydnee.

Sydnee is famously a lesbian, and we both love plants. Sydnees apartment is very cool, but its also very sexy, so I think if we can add to the space, and we have something that is a dual function, then why not get some sexy booty planters? Theyre kind of like art. Im sure Sydnee has a million places in her bedroom where she would put them.

I dont really like cats, but Sydnee has two. When I think about cats, I think about big cat furniture that takes up a lot of space, like a cat castle and a litter box. Sydnee has cats that like to lounge, so why not add something to her already cool apartment, like this sexy-ass cat bed? Shes got all this awesome lighting we call it sex lighting so I think that this little cat bed would match the fly of the rest of the apartment. It goes a little bit better than whats in there right now, friend.

Last year famously I took an eat, pray, hoe trip through Europe. I ate, and I prayed I wouldnt get kidnapped, and I was a hoe, allegedly. Sydnee got me therapy, but I think that theres something beyond therapy. Sometimes you need just a beautiful, quiet place, and to not be in your house and reflect on a terrible year. If were gonna have to self-quarantine, or be away from people, why not be in a beautiful space with good light that makes you feel like youre ina different world? I would love that for my friend, I would love that for myself, I would love that for everybody. I, of course, am not going to pay for the flight to Bali because Im not made of money, but Bali has really cool Airbnbs, and the one that I found is kind of like a tree house, on a cliff in front of a lake, and its $120 a night. I got a couple dollars that I can spend on my friend maybe four days, three nights.

Dario Calmese is a history-making Black photographer. He was the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vanity Fair. They love an Annie Leibovitz, but I think its important to work with a Black photographer or a Black makeup artist or a Black lighting person because they just know how to make our skin look the best that it could possibly look. Sydnee is photogenic as fuck, so she actually doesnt need this photographer, but if money aint a thing, I want my friend to look the best and feel the best, and be able to look back and remember this moment. Sometimes you just need to have hot photos of yourself for yourself not even to post, just so you can look back and be like, Remember, when I killed the game?

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Im a Muslim and Arab American. Will I Ever Be an Equal Citizen? – The New York Times09.17.20

Culturally too, we are usually treated as a separate race, hence our almost universal portrayal as villains or victims in popular media. In books and newspapers, Arabs and Muslims are typically seen through the lens of current events foreign wars, global migration and especially terrorism. The association is so pervasive that references to it crop up even in situations that have nothing to do with terrorism. At my literary events, for example, Ive been asked many times about Al Qaeda and ISIS, as though my being Muslim grants me special insight into transnational terrorist groups that combine Islamist ideology with guerrilla tactics.

Muslim Americans who appear in a public forum will, sooner or later, face that question, whether the forum is a literary event or a fashion show or the halls of power in Washington. It may take the form of an accusation, from someone who has been fed a diet of propaganda, or it may take the form of a sincere remark; it may even take the form of a joke, intended to lighten the mood of the audience. But it will come. And when it does, the Muslim faces an impossible choice: Ignore the comment and perpetuate the association with terrorism, or address the comment and perpetuate the association anyway. There is no right answer. There is only the hope, by speaking about oneself, to create room for individuality.

My own life has taken turns I could not have imagined when I stepped off a plane at Los Angeles International Airport on a late-summer afternoon in 1992. Back then, my intention had been to complete a Ph.D. in linguistics, then return home to Morocco, where I planned to work as a college professor. A couple of years into my degree, however, I met an American, we fell in love and eventually married. In choosing to be with him, I chose to embrace his country as well. That made of me an immigrant, the kind of person that America has long mythologized, in art if not in life from the ruthless gangsters in The Godfather to the hardworking women in The Joy Luck Club to the eponymous founding father in Hamilton.

But even under the best of circumstances, immigration is a traumatic experience that cuts a persons life in two: There is the life before and the life after. For a long time after I moved to the United States, I wore two watches: one that told the time in Los Angeles, and the other the time in Rabat. In the morning, while I was getting ready for class, I would often think about my family, 6,000 miles away, sitting down to afternoon tea. In my memory, everyone back home remained exactly as I had last seen them, as if caught in a photograph. It never occurred to me that, day after day, they were getting older, making new friends, switching jobs or moving houses. They were changing, just as I was changing.

Whenever I stepped out of my apartment, I felt keenly aware that I was speaking a foreign language, whose sentences I had to compose with deliberation before I could speak them. In graduate seminars, my classmates would chuckle or even laugh when they heard me mispronounce some words, especially those I had only known in print epitome and fortuitous and onomatopoeia. At times, the phonetic rules of English didnt make much sense to me: Why did rough rhyme with tough but not with dough? Eventually I adapted to the local dialect and my foreign accent became less noticeable. One morning, a few years after arriving in this country, I woke up with the startling realization that I had dreamed in English.

The language was the easy part, however. There were so many cultural differences that hardly a day went by when I didnt notice a new one. It was not considered impolite, for example, to eat ones breakfast in front of others in the dorms common room without offering to share it with them. It was not considered rude to invite someone to lunch at a restaurant and then expect them to pay for their meal. If I sound singularly focused on food, perhaps its because food is so intimately tied to culture. It seemed to me that Americans were always rushing around, never taking the time to sit down for a cup of coffee or a proper dinner. I was shocked the first time I saw a woman eating a hamburger as she drove down the 10 freeway.

My story of immigration has been enriched by the love of my husband and family, the joy of enduring friendships, the fulfillment I find in my work. But nothing could have prepared me for what I lost. I missed my grandmothers funeral, four of my cousins weddings and countless birthdays and celebrations with my family. If there was a crisis, I could never be sure that I would be there to help. Once, I remember, I was on vacation in Wyoming when I received a text in the middle of the night telling me that my father was in the hospital and that he might not make it. For several minutes my mind couldnt comprehend the text I was reading. All I wanted then was a chance to say goodbye. I scrambled to book a flight and traveled back to my hometown. To my relief, the treatment my father received worked and, while he recovered, we had a chance to spend some time together.

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This Lovecraft Country Actor Is Happy in Her Own Skin – The New York Times09.15.20

This interview contains spoilers for Sundays episode of Lovecraft Country.

For the gore-adverse Wunmi Mosaku, Lovecraft Country might seem a curious choice. But shed already read most of the pilot script when the monstrous Shoggoths started ripping off appendages, and by then, she was hooked.

I got so lost in the story, I felt like I was committed to this character before I realized it was a horror, Mosaku said of the HBO supernatural thriller set in 1950s Jim Crow America. But what I think is so clever about the script and the book, and also so magical and mystical and wild, is that the scariest thing is the reality of the horror.

Mosaku plays Ruby Baptiste, the blues-belting half sister of the gutsy Leti (Jurnee Smollett), whose dreams of working behind a counter at Marshall Fields remain unfulfilled. Until, that is, in Sundays episode, the fifth of the season. With the help of a potion, Ruby wakes up in the body of a white woman, played by Jamie Neumann. Calling herself Hillary Davenport, Ruby spends the day alternately enjoying and being bewildered by her newfound cultural currency before metamorphosing graphically, painfully back into Blackness.

Seeing ribs and elbows popping out of someone elses skin is gross, but I was actually more enamored by their artistry, Mosaku said. Like, how did they do that?

The Nigerian-born actor, 34, speaks with a sunny British accent flecked with laughter; she emigrated to Manchester with her professor parents when she was a year old. As a child obsessed with Annie, she discovered that Albert Finney, a fellow Mancunian, had attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, so she applied too and was accepted.

A BAFTA-winning stalwart on British TV (Luther, Vera), Mosaku is better known in the United States from films like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Philomena. Audiences can also see her in the upcoming movie His House, in which she and Sope Dirisu play Sudanese war refugees who discover something terrible lurking in their new home in Britain. (It premieres Oct. 30 on Netflix.)

Now based in Los Angeles, Mosaku has spent the past few months trying to keep birds away from her quarantine garden of cucumbers and eggplants. In a recent phone interview, she discussed Lovecraft Country, its disheartening cultural relevance and why revenge is a dish best served without stiletto heels. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

In Sundays episode, Ruby says that most days shes happy to be both Black and a woman, but the world keeps interrupting, and I am sick of being interrupted. Who is Ruby, uninterrupted?

I would describe her as very ambitious. Shes very aware of the game she needs to play. But she still has the idea that if you work hard enough and you just need one break then systemic racism will stop applying to her. We all know that shes talented enough, intelligent enough. She has this deep hope, but actually its masking this even deeper and more fiery rage over the injustice that shes experienced.

The story is set some 60 years ago, but is there anything in Rubys situation that you related to?

Oh, yeah. I look like Ruby in a world that still experiences racism, injustice, inequality, the patriarchy and colorism. Ive experienced that and my familys experienced that, absolutely. The thing I find the hardest about the show is that it does still feel so relevant. I am Ruby in many ways. The car chase at 25 miles per hour and the police officer in pursuit was the most intense thing, because its based in reality and resonates with me. It resonates with a lot of people of color. So thats the thing that I find incredibly powerful about the piece, but also really disheartening as well: It feels like not enough has changed, and sometimes it feels like, have we moved on?

Has your perspective changed between shooting the series a year ago and now, after a summer of protests and renewed national focus on racial injustice?

The difference is theres a pandemic, and theres no distraction for a lot of people. So its resonated more as a movement. People are paying more attention and feeling it more deeply rather than seeing it as a problem over there, or a problem for a racist to fix, or a Black person problem. Weve realized that its everyones duty, everyone who desires and requires justice and apology. Its a community thing. If you want the world to be better, then the world collectively has to do it.

How was it shooting those gruesome scenes where Ruby claws her way out of Hillarys body?

The worst thing was the shape-shifting. Jamie gets off a little light she has to do all the physical stuff, and shes amazing. But the actual coming out of a cocoon? That gore, blood, gunk stuff? Thats all on me. When I saw my eye pop out of her throat, I was like, Ohhh.

In an even gorier scene, Ruby slips back into her white disguise in order to violate her racist boss with a stiletto heel, payback for his abuse of a Black co-worker. How do you prepare to perform something like that?

I had no idea until I read [the script for Episode 5], and it was a real shock, because I didnt see it going there. That kind of violence is not OK in any aspect of revenge. Revenge is something that I have never really explored and personally, my moms always like, Kill them with kindness. Which generally just means to smile and let it go, and shame them for their actions.

We both, me and Jamie, really struggled with that scene. It was a very emotional day, to be honest, because there was the exploration of the depth of your rage and revenge. The pain just feels so real and so deep that it brings up a lot in your own life, of your own rage and your own pain.

Ruby uses the magic potion several times. What do you make of the fact that she chose to keep turning into a white woman?

It ends up a superpower she now has access to now she has unmitigated freedom. Theres magic where theres not really consequences. But I really disagree with what Ruby does. Sometimes Im like, wow, its hard, because it feels like a betrayal, and it feels so wrong. It feels so anti-loving oneself, which is obviously the kind of movement were in as a society: love oneself. It is really difficult for me, personally, to understand. Not understand I understand it. I just dont empathize with it.

Black female showrunners like Misha Green, the creator of Lovecraft Country, are still relatively rare. Did her being there make it easier to explore these kinds of issues?

Oh, absolutely. Talking about racism with white people can make white people very uncomfortable, Black people very uncomfortable. You have to have a level of trust and a safe space to try to talk about how you relate to the character, how you differentiate from the character, the things youve learned. Ive been very much the kind of person whos very quiet about my own experiences. I dont like arguing and I dont like confrontation, and I find it difficult to engage honestly about things like this outside of my home. Because its exposing, its painful, its exhausting having to explain to someone who doesnt know what thats like and who lives the complete opposite to your experience. So theres a realness that you can bring to the table because she looks like you. The world sees her in the same way that it sees you.

Dont get me wrong: Im Black British-Nigerian in America, and without my accent, yes, were treated the same. When I speak, people treat me a lot differently. Im aware of that privilege as well. But sometimes there isnt always an opportunity to speak before someone judges you or treats you unfairly. So it was necessary for me to be honest and open up. I dont think I would have been able to easily perform without someone who shared a similar experience to me as a Black woman.

Read more:
This Lovecraft Country Actor Is Happy in Her Own Skin - The New York Times

Posted in Skin Artwith Comments Off on This Lovecraft Country Actor Is Happy in Her Own Skin – The New York Times

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