The Money Tree Revival Animation

Money-Tree-Title-PageThe Money Tree Revival Project is a unique blend of Chinese and African American traditions. While modeling an African American Revival church service, the performers sweep the audience up into the revival ritual. They chant and repeat over and over that they can turn hair into money!  As the performers make this impossible claim, participants are encouraged to give strands of hair, as much as they can muster to be collected into a basket.  After collection, the hair is woven into coins using a Chinese knotting method, and used to adorn a small money tree. A trial run was performed last year around the winter solstice. Future development of the idea includes a performance in the Bazaar art space in Shanghai. An animation was created to be played while the performance is taking place.

The images below are a preview of the animation 🙂

Human Sculpture

The aim is to use our bodies as well as the objects to think of interesting shapes and forms within a limited time frame. I created several light weight cuboid sculptures which were easy to carry and fit to together. I then asked two persons to use the posts to create a sculpture in 15 seconds in a stage. The audience counted to fifteen then we paused for 5 seconds to take a picture. The same couple had another 15 seconds to make another sculpture immediately afterwards. They were about 10 sculptures in all, with 10 pictures documenting their creations. This rather elemental experiment is an attempt to break-down and study the elements of sculpture in relationship to our bodies. Costume has been one of my main topics of focus so understanding form and body is a basic requirement. The first pictures were taken during a recent art group performance, the Period Art Group, at West Lake Hangzhou.

The second set of pictures when taken on campus at Shuren University, near my home.

Introduction to the Period Group

I joined a group of committed artist who have determined to produce performance art works at least once every month. Since the group was formed I have performed with them three times. Below are a list of my projects and some pictures.

My Foot is bigger than Yours
The Other Half
Human Sculpture

My Foot is Bigger Than Yours
Is My Foot Bigger the Yours?
The Other Half
The Other Half
The Other Half
Human Sculpture
Human Sculpture

This group is really unique in China. I love working and hanging with them. Here are some pictures of some of the other work created during our last performance at West Lake, Hangzhou on November 24th.

My Third Marriage

Objects Used in the Project
Recent Performance Projects Objects
Staging The Other Half 01
Staging The Other Half 02
Staging The Other Half 03
Staging The Other Half 04
Staging The Other Half 05
Take a Picture With the Bride 01
Take a Picture With the Bride 02
Happy Halloween Grrrr!

Third time’s a charm they say, and I wholeheartedly agree. Although I’ve been married 3 times  I still have the same husband. Our first wedding was in Ethiopia during the new millennium celebration in September 2007, the beginning of the year 2000 according to the ancient Ethiopian calendar. We were married again that same year in New York, the most legal, even if less festive celebration. Our marriage is a happy and fruitful one. So why get married again?

My third marriage was not to Lester. I committed my life in a formal way to the activity that has been the driving force of my life for as long as I can remember. Creating Art. In the performance piece “The Other Half” I wore a wedding dress to show my commitment to the solemn thank-less duty of producing artwork.

The dress I wore is store bought off the rack in China, but very special. During the performance while wearing the dress, I asked the audience to go underneath my shirt to see what makes this ordinary dress  really unique. Underneath is a collection of objects and materials arranged to tell a story of my recent journey as an artist. The audience is invited to spend time and explore all the nooks and crannies, take what they can remove , and photograph themselves with me from my most intimate side.

I guess the reason I was thinking about wedding dresses is because Lester and I have started an online store selling dresses for brides, bridesmaids, flower girls and mothers, all made to their size. Check it out. Tell your friends and their friends. You could even become an agent and make some money. Click on the link to visit the site:


Her Hair Must be Fake AND The Shanghai Biennale

Educating the Masses on black hair

Educating the Masses on black hairThe grand opening of the Shanghai Biennial is fast approaching. The main curator organizing this massage production is also the main adviser for my masters degree program at China Academy of Art, Professor Qiu Zhijie  (邱志杰). The biennial will be in the brand new museum for modern art in Shanghai, the first exhibition held in this space. The existing factory space has been renovated and the new work is currently being installed.

The biennial’s framework has also been expanded this year for the first time to include several project outside the museum space, such as, the City Pavilion project and the Zhongshan Park project. In professor Qiu’s opinion, representing one’s city in this exhibition carries even more significance than representing one’s country and yet doesn’t present as strong of a political statement.

There will be about 28 cities represented, and I will be helping to build the Pittsburgh pavilion. Tomorrow the heavy work begins. I’ll update you on the progress.

The Shanghai Biennial is the reason I am away from home and free to write this blog post, but weather in Shanghai or Hangzhou, my experience walking on the street in China remains a constant challenge. Today as I stopped to buy a snack from a man selling wraps on the street, I lamented the fact that everyone constantly comments on my hair. The problem is the inevitable question and often belligerent and incorrect answer: “Is her hair real or fake?” “Of course it’s fake! It must be fake!”

It really maddens me that everyone believes my hair is fake. So much so that the question is rebuffed as a stupid one. And then there are the constant giggles and comments about my skin color. Women in China go to extreme lengths to prevent their skin from getting tanned. They prefer pearly white skin as a status symbol.

One of my friends in the art program, a tall and handsome white  man from France pointed out that the issues of hair and skin are prevalent also in the black community. He says he always has to deal with people commenting on how tall he is. I don’t think he gets it. I guess I’ll have to take him out for a 30 minute walk one day. When people see two of us walking together as a couple, I’m sure he’ll begin to understand the depth of the problem.

I of course talk with tons of people everyday about where I am from and let them touch my hair. Today a woman in the restaurant where I ate dinner counted out my dreads. Apparently I have 220 dread locks. That was a fun interaction. On the 15 minute walk home I told myself that I should just focus on things like this and ignore everything else. It worked for about 5 minutes. A few people passed and stared, the usual question rang out. Ok, I can handle it. Then a couple passed by. The guy said, “Oh a black women.” After a few seconds they started to laugh loudly. I just can’t understand why that was so f—ing funny.


Interweave-The Hair Series

Interweave-The Hair Project New York
Interweave-The Hair Project New York
Interweave-The Hair Project Zhengzhou
Interweave-The Hair Project Zhengzhou
Interweave-The Hair Project Pai, Thailand
Interweave-The Hair Project Pai, Thailand
Touch My Hair (Sculpture) Zhengzhou
Touch My Hair (Keepsake) Zhengzhou
Touch My Hair-Men Only Shanghai & Suzhou
Man-After Female Shanghai


The spectacle of black hair has intrigued artists for generations. Interweave – The Hair Project Series sets the stage for dynamic and spontaneous interaction where anyone can examine a subject’s hair, then sit down and become the object of inspection. Publicly displayed hair is at once both public and private. It is publicly displayed for all to see, but the very intimate caress of hair is usually reserved for close friends and relatives. This cultural truism is exploited here; not to critique it’s relevance, but to offer a chance to adjust our perceptions.

The very simple action of sitting in a public area with the open invitation to “Touch My Hair” (written in Chinese while in China) suddenly creates a dynamic interchange. This action is intimate and sensual; threatening and inauspicious. On one level, just touching a stranger’s hair can be an intimidating gesture. On an even deeper level, persons who decide to become the object of investigation themselves (persons who decide to sit in the chair) feel even more vulnerable.

Through our hair, this project connects our lives and stories. It shifts our literal and physical perspectives, while affirming our similarities and linking us together.

Interweave-The Hair Project New York: The first installation of this piece was performed on May 26th 2007 in New York City, USA.

Interweave-The Hair Project China: The second installation was performed on June 6th 2009 in Zhengzhou City, China. It was then performed in Pai, Thailand; and Shanghai, Suzhou, China. In the Shanghai and Suzhou versions, the sign was adjusted to say “Men Only” in preparation of the following project Man-After Female.

Touch My Hair: 1. Create a Unique Style and 2. Keepsake
The 4th and 5th installations were a two part series performed in Shengda College of Zhengzhou University, on June 3rd and 17th, 2010. On the first day the audience was invited to create sculptures with my hair as their raw material. Two weeks later the audience was asked to create a small piece of sculpture to be attached to my hair and kept there as a keepsake for at least a year.

The 6th installations were the prep work for Man-After Female in Shanghai and Suzhou.

The 7th installation Man-After Female was performed on Feb 19th as a part of a group show in Shanghai. The video of the “Men Only” footage shot in Shanghai and Suzhou was projected, and the men at the live performance were invited to measure out pieces of string against my body then use the string to lengthen my hair.

Performance Art

Is My Foot Bigger Than Yours?
Interweave: Touch My Hair
Mad Woman Jamin'
Interweave: Touch My Hair
Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake: TV Interview
Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake
Beauty Score
Color Gift
Stripped / Strapped

Identity politics is at the center of my recent explorations. The barriers we create to define ourselves and our communities can be a point of contention, but my work strives to create a space for cross fertilization, where two or more cultures collide with thrilling results.

My work in China centers around the theme of beauty and the black body.

Is My Foot Bigger than Yours? This work was staged at the China Academy of Art Xiangshan Campus on April 26th, 2012. The aim was to create a space where people could feel comfortable to explore difference, much like the Interweave-Touch My Hair Series.

Money Tree was performed on the winter solstice, 2011, the darkest day of the year at West Lake Hangzhou, China. The location was West Lake, Hangzhou, and participants were asked to donate strands of their hair to be woven into money as a part of a money tree revival ritual.

Beauty Score, took place in July 2011, at the Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou, China. It is a work created to address opposing concepts of beauty. In Chinese culture from ancient times until today, beauty has been equivalent to white clear skin. In an attempt to further grasp how black skin on a woman is perceived, Beauty Score was created.

Mad Woman Jammin’ was performed on October 22nd, 2011 at the 12 Annual Open Arts Festival Shanghai, China. It starts out as a colorful, playful exploration of the culture of dance and revelry at the core of Caribbean and African culture but the audience experiences a sudden and dramatic turn in mood and emphasis.

The Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake was performed at West Lake during the summer of 2011, Hangzhou China. This famous beautiful lake has long history, and the city of Hangzhou is often lauded as one of the most beautiful cities in China. In the summer of 2011, the West Lake was listed as a World Heritage site. Cai Qing and I visited the 10 famous spots on the lake and worked as artist and model to create this art event. Our aim was to challenge traditional Eastern concepts of beauty. For each of the 10 sites, I wore a new outfit and assessories, and Cai Qing used different media to portray the scene. Cai Qing is the first PHD graduate of the China Academy of Art with a doctorate in Performance Art Studies. He wore his cap and gown to signal his “authority” on what is beautiful. During the later sessions, I asked the audience to give me a beauty score as part of the Beauty Score series.

On the final day, after the artwork for the 10th spot was completed, cai Qing and I joined Shan Zeng our curator on a Hangzhou TV special.

Threads – The Wearable Art Fashion Show, was a collaboration with Juliana Cope at the Jersey City Museum in New Jersey, USA. The show opened with the festive piece Body Bootie, where Juliana and I used movement and materials to celebrate life, and the uninhibited joy of youth. I performed on stage in a colorful plastic crocheted costume while 8 months pregnant. As the opening piece this performance was perfectly contrasted with the closing piece, Undercovers: A Bespoke Burial Blanket which addressed the way some cultures prepare their dead for burial.

The Republic II: Huaxi Village was performed on November 19th, 2011 at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China.

Color Gift was performed on October 22nd 2011 at the Shanghai 800 Art District Building, Shanghai, China.

The Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake was performed 6 days July 2011 on West Lake, Hangzhou, China. The TV interview for the show “Forum by Qiantang River 2011.08.13” of the artists Glenis Paul and Cai Qing and Curator was filmed on the final day.

Threads – The Wearable Art Fashion Show took place on February 24th, 2008 at the Jersey City Museum, New Jersey, USA

Stripped/Strapped was performed in July 2004, New York, USA.