Students showcase the black and brown experience in the U.S.

The You are Special Project by D’Anna Johnson features black models with different skill levels being vulnerable in front of the camera. Photos by Raelyn Fines

Katie Bashista
Spectrum Editor 

Black Art Student Empowerment at VCU, also known as BASE,  held its fourth annual showcase Friday at the Anderson gallery with the theme of Afro-Futurism through Artistic Eyes.

BASE aims to promote creativity and advance awareness of black artistic ability. Corey Lightner, the organization’s president, describes it as a community where people work together to make bigger and better art.

“As long as you have a creative mind and you want to inspire people and you want to make stuff, come on in. That’s what we want,” he said. “That’s what BASE is all about, you don’t have to be an artist just to make creative things.”

The majority of participants in this year’s showcase are BASE members, and some of the artists paid a fee to display their art. Exhibits included videos, photographs and mixed-media displays.

Daniel Diasgranados showed a piece called “lazer fade” — part of a larger photo series called “Voyager.”

It’s a mixed-media photography, design and video piece that contemplates growing up, being black and brown in the DMV,” Diasgranados said.

Diasgranados uses scientific language, fantasy and fiction in his work and merges his early practices with his new projects. He has experience in album art and art direction, working for XO Records, and he takes the visual language from his designs and applies it to his photography.

“This [lazer fade] is basically a photograph that operates like a still image … almost like storyboarding,” he said. “So you’re basically seeing a scene from a thought form, a combination from experiences my friends and I have, normal mundane experiences like getting your haircut. And then I combine those experiences with science fiction language or surrealist language.”

Photography and film major D’Anna Johnson based her work, “You are Special,” on a children’s book by the same name, which centers around the idea of embracing one’s uniqueness.

Photo by Raelyn Fines.

“It’s a portrait project [featuring] a collection of black models of all different skills and comfortability in front of the camera,” she said. “When I was shooting these men, I wanted it to be open and vulnerable and give them their freedom to express themselves in a way in front of the camera that shows who they truly are.”

VCU student Charles Stapleton revealed an intimate part of his life in his piece “Semicolon.” Stapleton’s piece was an exact replica of his room from 2012 to 2014, when he suffered from depression.

“Music got me out of it, so essentially that’s pretty much my whole take on what depression really feels like deep down inside the worries, the messiness, the disorientation. All that is pretty much what I felt,” he said. “And I feel like a lot of people feel that, so I kind of wanted to give artwork that people can really relate to and not feel like they’re all alone with it.”

Stapleton said BASE is all about empowering black artists and giving black students a voice. He said the artists involved are talented and use art as a vehicle to express their struggles, giving people something to relate to.

“What I want people to really take away from this is to just kind of relate as best as you can. Open up,” Stapleton said. “Avoid all the [categories] like black, white, and just really embrace art and see what you feel.”

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