Are We Still Cool?
August 1 – September 12, 2020
I grew up with brothers.
Two beautiful black men there to show me love – and to rough me up when it was needed. I’ve always found such beauty in the ways of a man of color. The swagger despite having the weight of the world on their backs. The sharp gaze of worried eyes watching as you enter a newly gentrified neighborhood. Despite all the odds, they have beauty and grace. How often do you tell a man of color he is beautiful? Gorgeous? Soft and pretty? Now think about how often you hear a man of color tell another man how godly he is? Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you assume they are lovers? Most black and brown men are raised with the idea that they cannot show emotion. Or that if they do, it’s perceived as “gay” and “weak”.
‘‘Be a man”.
Who made the rule that men of color have to be so hard all the time? That they have to just swallow their pain because they will be less of a man if they express it? When you look at what society tells them from the age of five, it’s no wonder that they fear showing emotion. I’ve always been fascinated by this because I was surrounded by men of color growing up. Alongside my wonderment of the hard exterior of a brown man, I noticed the lack of representation of men of color in art.
Would they realize how pretty they are if they saw themselves as a Michelangelo sculpture? What if they were presented as soft beings instead of angry violent ones? What happens when you give men of color the space to feel their heavenly nature? When you give them the space to say I love you with no judgement. Give them room to feel as pretty as a blooming orchid…
I provided a space like this for 13 men of color, along with my creative team of Michael Board ll and Nadiya Jackson. We adorned them in flowers and homemade rose water. Gave them a home cooked meal and let them know it was a safe space for conversation and emotion. During the photoshoot we made sure to constantly tell them how immaculate they were. That the Mona Lisa would blush in their presence. Some were unsure of the intimacy at first. Something in the back of their mind wondering “Are we still cool?” Will the homies turn their back when they see me covered in lace and pearls? Those worries seemed to fade as we played a playlist of their favorite songs and hyped them up to no end. We interviewed them with questions about intimacy, friendship and self care. We intentionally chose men of color who are leaders in their communities in hopes that they will take this conversation and continue it with other men.
The time has come for men of color to be treated as works of art. It’s time to raise them up and remind them of the godliness that they possess. To give them space to hug their homies.
To buy that motherfuckin’ bath bomb.
To give them the space that has always been lacking. I want my two brown nephews to look at Botticelli and see themselves. I want the black and brown men in my life to show unapologetic, tender love for each other.
One day I want my future son to look at himself and say without hindrance:
“I am black.”
“I am art.”
“I am beautiful.”
THIS PROJECT WAS BROUGHT TO LIFE BY CHRISTINA PITTALUGA AND MADE POSSIBLE BY:
Photo and Editing Team: THE AMAZING MICHAEL BOARD II AND NADIYA JACKSON
KEVIN QUINN MARCHMAN
MINGZEN FOO MONTOYA
FRONZO D. GILKEY
MICHAEL BOARD II
Public Hours: This is a “fishbowl” style exhibition and can be viewed from the outside anytime.
Additional Programming: Be sure to visit the website to see the full Are We Still Cool? photo series and to purchase a print of your favorite artwork.
Understudy is free-to-visit and open to all.
Christina Pittaluga is an actor, writer, producer, creative director, teaching artist, stylist and multimedia artist born and raised in Denver, CO. In 2014, she joined The Black Actors Guild. Although she started as an intern, her ideas, quick wit and hark work earned her the title of Director of Creative Content with the Guild. She has been blessed to experience the art scenes of both Colorado and New York City. She continues to use her knowledge of theatre and styling to enhance the artistic opportunities given to her.
Artist’s Website: https://www.blackactorsguild.org/articles/arewestillcool or find Christina on Instagram @tina_danielle_cari
Understudy is located at the Colorado Convention Center / Theatre District light rail stop near 14th and Stout. Look for the Shantell Martin art bench.