​bored of art by old white men? art hoe are a collective focussing exclusively on art by people of colour

“Anytime an artist of colour makes art it is always automatically political”

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Mar 3 2016, 8:15am

Sydney Vernon

Throughout history, people of colour have served as cultural muses or been borrowed from and appropriated without credit, and shockingly remain excluded from art history. Go online and you'll find a wealth of art by people of colour, but where are these art works exhibited in real life? Often excluded from the art world unless its being fetishised as outsider or primitive art, the visibility of artwork by people of colour is something the world is clearly lacking, which is something Art Hoe is keen to correct.

Founded in 2015, by gender fluid teen artist, Mars, Art Hoe is a new art collective that focuses on showcasing art by people of colour. The collective is managed by a team of curators, several of whom identify as non-binary and/or queer, and all of whom identify as black, although from various cultural and religious backgrounds. From photography to mixed media, the art represented varies from artist to artist, and anyone is welcome to submit.

What's the story behind Art Hoe?
There are so many talented people of colour out there and one of the only platforms where they can showcase their work is online. Artists of colour are often excluded from galleries and creative spaces because these spaces are monopolised by whiteness. You go to a museum to see work by dead white men, and you go online and it's saturated with breathtaking works by people of colour Why is that? Why hasn't that been changed yet? If we can't find a space for ourselves... then why not make a space for ourselves. For Us By Us!

Anisa McGowan

Why the name Art Hoe?
We call ourselves Art Hoe Collective because hoe is far too often used as a term to shame black and queer women. Just because of our identity we are thought of as hoes, labelled as promiscuous, and whether we are or not, promiscuity isn't a reflection of character. There is nothing wrong with being a "hoe" and unabashedly loving your existence. It is engraved into the standards of society that any women/femme person comfortable/free with their sexuality should be labelled a "hoe" with the intention of devaluing the person. Art Hoe reclaims a word that once was used as weapon against us and moulds it to become our armour.

What do you make of the relationship between art, its history, and artists of colour?
Artists of colour for hundreds of years have been excluded from the art scene, while women of colour are fetishised and used as muses. Van Gogh drew so much inspiration from Japanese art, Picasso from African art, and Gauguin from the women on the Pacific Islands he visited. We are often used as shallow inspiration without any sense of autonomy. We're not expected to be capable of artistic qualities. We're expected to be overly fetishised muses, but not artists. Even now in music and fashion this kind of cycle where we are taken from, then rejected, continues. Then when we attempt to create and showcase our own work, the same people who siphon off our creativity quickly shut us down. Art Hoe Collective is us putting our foot down and creating a space for ourselves. We're no longer begging to be given the recognition we so rightfully deserve.

Should your ethnicity define your art?
We think anytime an artist of colour makes art it is always automatically political. Our ethnicity defines our art because our ethnicity defines the way we navigate in the world. We want to be on the same platform as these white men but we don't want to be stripped of our identity in order for people to consider us as equals.

Sage Adams 

Do you have an overall aesthetic?
Our aesthetic is being unapologetic about our identity. People of colour are a varied group and it's unfair and impossible to claim we have one aesthetic because we are far too diverse to even attempt to claim a "look".

What are you looking for in an artist?
We don't look for specific characteristics in artists. We're mostly interested in the stories people share, the emotions and experiences that are conveyed through their art.

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on creating physical spaces like art galleries and performance events within major cities, right now that consists of Washington DC, New York, and Miami. We are also in the beginning stages of cultivating an Art Hoe book club. Soon we will be launching our website with tons of new interactive content, hopefully by March. 

"Growing up as a girl w/ kinky/curly hair, I wasn't use to seeing myself on television. The TV shows I watched usually featured a token black girl w/ straight hair and fair skin. The token black girl was almost always the sidekick to the main character who 9 times out of 10, also had straight hair and super unlikely to be a person of color." Zoé Lawrence 

"Someone at school told me I reminded him of Yoko Ono, but prettier. At the time I remember feeling flattered... I am unlearning docility, unlearning smallness, unlearning submission. Through my art I am learning how to use my voice loudly, how to write with intention, how to use my body as a weapon to stand up for myself. " Natalie Yang

"It's been a while, living in this body that does not fit. As a confused, displaced Indian non-binary femme boi.. A few months ago, I was approached by an acquaintance and blatantly told that she was not 'able' to use my pronouns. That my pronouns 'didn't fit'. The hurtful words of that one person- brutal as they were in the moment- were laughably insignificant in the face of the overwhelming love of the people I care about. My body was never hers to know.. I define myself on my own terms." Priya Kunjan

Credits


Text Tish Weinstock