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May: Brian Ellison

Artist Brian Ellison of Houston, Texas, presents UnMASKunlinity, which explores the complexity of African American masculinity by documenting the daily lives of the Black experience and same-gender loving comradery, simultaneously creating safe spaces for Black men to engage in this dialogue. By dismantling the stigma associated with Black masculinity and speaking about subjects that are traditionally taboo in the Black community, the film impacts viewers and participants by allowing them to gain perspective on how the emotional boundaries that were created centuries ago, beginning with American slavery, have been passed down—reflected in how today’s Black men understand and experience their emotions.

Brian Ellison is a self-taught photographer, cinematographer, and conceptual visual artist. He is the director and producer of the film UnMASKulinity and the founder of The Black Man Project. Ellison believes there is no limit to self-expression and that art is a universal language that can be the catalyst for healing. Through his lens, Ellison documents the everyday Black experience such as gentrification’s impact on historical communities, under-publicized Black love and comradery, parenthood, and the persistent courage of Black women and men.

UNMASKULINITY

Brian Ellison, unMASKulinity, 2020; video, Time: 48:52; Courtesy of the artist.

cATHERINE DAVILA-MARTINEZ

Catherine Davila-Martinez is a mixed media sculptor. She graduated magna cum-laude, from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture. She is a former Project Row Houses Summer Studios Artist of 2018. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Houston in the discipline of sculpture. Catherine is a contributing artist of the “We Here Black Women’s Arts Collective’.’

“The collective creativity of my family influences my art. From crocheting, to clothes designing, to leather design and metalwork, I draw inspiration from generations of knowledge. My artwork explores the strength in femininity. I make art to connect with my community. I enjoy making art to share in some of the beauty in the world. I enjoy creating mystery in art.”

The Hour Glass Symbol: covert symbol of the underground railroad is a reimagined pattern from quilting created in wood. The quilters of the underground railroad discreetly conveyed messages through using different quilting patterns.

Catherine Davila-Martinez, The Hour Glass Symbol: covert symbol of the underground railroad (performance), 2021; digital video, Time: 1:44; Courtesy of the artist.

The Hour Glass

Catherine Davila-Martinez, The Hour Glass Symbol: covert symbol of the underground railroad (front view), 2020; pine, poplar, red oak, steel, wire, 36 x 36 x 66 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Catherine Davila-Martinez, The Hour Glass Symbol: covert symbol of the underground railroad (side view), 2020; pine, poplar, red oak, steel, wire, 36 x 36 x 66 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Marcelese Cooper

Marcelese Cooper is a filmmaker, photographer, poet, illustrator, and part-time human being; he is a former California resident and current academic nomad in pursuit of his MFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston. Above all else, he cherishes the art of storytelling and believes it is with the tools of our respective mediums that we generate an understanding of ourselves and our surroundings.

My work explores the intersections of my own identity but primarily focuses on the relationship between dreams, science-fiction, the black/brown body, and storytelling. My art practice is a circular process that crosses into many mediums but ultimately ends in my camps of photography and video. This work often asks me to reflect upon the body I carry through this existence in an intimate way and with an urgency. In these two pieces, I voice the experience through poetry and performance.”

Marcelese Cooper, RUN BLACK BOY RUN, August 2020; video, Time: 3:44; Courtesy of the artist.

Marcelese Cooper, I am a Black Boy After All, November 2020; video, Time: 3:25; Courtesy of the artist.

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