Micro-Residency at Headlong
Who is Misty Sol the artist?
I am an interdisciplinary artist, interested in life rituals as the basis for artistic creation and liberation in public and private Black life. I also conceive of oppression as an opposite set of aesthetic principles and rituals that attempt to undermine our full experience of personhood.
At a basic level, I am interested in what makes us well and what it means to be alive, here on this planet as a part of a community of people, plants, animals, and ideas, fully experiencing life. I think that’s so important for people to consider, especially Black folk, for whom there have been/are so many attempts to displace and dehumanize us. My own presence in a rapidly gentrifying Philadelphia represents a map of a 500 year journey of displacement; it represents the attempts to erase our memories and connections to land, self, and community. I am standing in the face of all that, remembering who we were, before and in spite of that experience, and looking forward to who we might become. For me that is restorative practice. That’s a kind of justice. That’s what I’m doing when I paint, sing, write, garden, forage, or teach: a whole lot of prayer, play, and imagining.
And what would you like to share with the world through your art?
The connections I’ve found and am exploring:
The joy of stories (the world is made of stories) tragic comic and everything in between.
The importance of telling your own stories.
Literacy, not just books (though reading them is one of my greatest pleasures in life), but visual, natural, and cultural literacy. My practice is about a holistic reading of the world (life is a giant book if you can read it!).
Tell us about your piece Peppers and Onions?
something in her seasoning made you fly…
what she got in that pot? a little piece of the sky?
something in her seasoning made you fly…
something in grandmama’s kitchen, made you a butterfly
-From Butterfly Woman by Misty Sol
Peppers & Onions … is an explosion of color, stories, sensations, and collective memories. It looks at our relationships to Black motherhood through the lenses of literature, personal family history, and ritual. The gallery is an immersion into childhood memory and the subconscious.
The kitchen is the heart of the exhibit. This nourishing kitchen is preserved as a subversive space, simultaneously a stage, gallery, and sanctuary where the blues, both horror and joy, that Black women express can become sweet.
Sound design: Ralf Willis and Misty Sol
Camera: Dwayne Alistair Thompson
Costume Design: Monica Alvanel and Misty Sol
This performance installation is a study of pairs: public and private, wellness and distress, word and image, scent and sound, the self and the familial, process and product. It’s an experiment in projecting interior experience onto exterior spaces. It’s not a straightforward reading or performance of the kind I’ve done before, though there will be some of that. It’s more of an improvised environment that I hope will spark some collective memories and reflective experiences. Folks can expect to see some of my visual art work paired with more conceptual pieces, sound, text, object, etc. Hopefully there will be some work from collaborating musician Ralf Willis paired with projections. There will definitely be space to chill, reflect, and interact.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Foundations and processes:
Cooking and the preparation of plants into food and medicine is my primary and most consistent creative ritual. And peppers and onions are the foundation of any meal I make. Onions in fact are the ingredient most of the world’s food have in common. That relationship is even stronger when we talk about the diaspora. So these ingredients and others can cause a collective olfactory memory. Those good smells coming out of my kitchen, link me to the diaspora, to Philadelphia, but also to my mother’s kitchen.
Sensory memory and lived experience:
My mother’s large collection of black and white family photos and the stories, imagined and real, behind those photos.
My memories of childhood home, my interactions with my family and how I found those relationships reflected in Black women’s writings–my own, Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison and others.
Where else can the community engage with and witness your works?
I have two meter murals on 52nd and Walnut, down the street from the African Cultural Arts Forum in Philadelphia. There’s a rich history of Black owned business there, theatre and small scale manufacturing. A lot of great Philly artists worked on that project and I was proud to be included. Last year I started the Tiny Farm Wagon for Cultureworks of Greater Philadelphia to teach natural literacy through public art projects. We are currently planting a community garden in West Philadelphia to be the site of fresh produce, classes and art projects.
You can also find my short stories and children’s book illustration online here:
Little Myrtle, a children’s book
You can also read some of my writing for free here:
A short story, here