Free Ma Ni**a Art! – Ikohaus
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Well now with that title I am sure we have your attention. As an Afro/Hispanic Avant Garde artist did I really just use the ‘N’ word? Or is this a perception of your thoughts visually replacing *’s with G’s?

Real artists in my mind reflect the state and conditions of society at a particular point in time. My whole reasoning for blogging and writing articles was to give people a factual historical of my journey as an artist. As I have often written from my time in the high chair as a child to the current time.

2nd flr left apt

Let us pick up now on my Harlem years 1982 – 1988. I had run into an old friend of mine from my childhood in the Bronx NYC on the subway, Donna. She had a huge 7 room flat in Harlem, 241 W 111th St and agreed to rent me one of the bedrooms and share the apartment.

In 1982/83 my friend Donna convinced me to take The EST training. Werner Earhardt’s Seminar Training was the defining moment in my life as an artist when I found who I really was and my purpose. I was also in need of a job to sustain myself and luckily found an opening for a Gallery assistant at The Studio Museum In Harlem.

The Studio Museum In Harlem

I was hired as a temporary, gallery assistant solely for the purpose of mounting an exhibit for Black female artist Faith Ringold. My background of having studied art at the prestigious Pratt Institute and being Black I’m sure helped in the selection process, even though I had never had any experience hanging a show other than displaying my own works.

Free Ma Ni**a Art!

The day of the Grand Gala opening for the Faith Ringold exhibition was quite an experience. I was in attendance at the opening in case I was needed with any last minute preparations in displaying the works. Realize now this is prior to me taking EST so I had not yet been ‘transformed’. The feeling I experienced on that day was like that of a house slave in attendance at the Master’s Ball.

No one cared that I was an as of yet undiscovered Black Artist that walked away from Soho some 10 years previously. As I am want to say the ‘Big Muckety Mucks’ of art patrons puffed up themselves as sponsoring this female African American artist, all the while pretending that I was an invisible figure that was there, but really not there. Prior to the show I was set upon by the filming cameraman to set his color gamma by my skin tone?!

Cameraman: Hey is possible for you to stand of there and let me set my camera (a JVC video camera I’ll never forget) for color?

Romero: Sure Ok but why do you need me instead of just the wall and paintings?

Cameraman: I have to make sure I can capture the color of Black people.

Romero: [In my head I thought is this man being racist? Maybe I just play along and see where he’s coming from] Can I see now what it is that your looking at with that camera?

Cameraman: Sure come on and see what I captured.

Romero: WOW! That’s really looks good it looks so much just like me.

Cameraman: Better than that, place your finger on the screen. (as he fiddled with a few controls)

Romero: Hey that’s unbelievable my finger is the exact same color as the screen!

Cameraman: That’s exactly what I was adjusting for. Why? What did you think I was doing?

The cameraman wasn’t a racist, in fact he was an artist like me a seeker of truth. He wanted to reveal to everyone that would watch this documentary what was really seen at this particular point in time of history with Faith’s show. To this day, even though I don’t own any JVC equipment now for video or streaming, I was forever colored by their technology of color correction.

Transformation

Around 1983 I graduated from the EST training and was dramatically transformed, which we won’t go into now but was soon called for a NYC Administrative Aide position. A struggling non-status artist needs a means to exist if they cannot survive by their talent of their creativity.

134th St Hansborough Recreation Center NY, NY

I accepted a position within the NYC Dept of Parks thinking that incorporating nature from the outdoors would make a good means of employment. Fast forwarding to 1984 and transferring to the at then named ‘Bath House’ on 135th St between Lenox and 5th, actually on a little cutout called 134th St.

Problem

The term Bath House in 1984 had a bad connotation. Aids had just been discovered and my Harlem friends husband Billy had just been diagnosed with Aids. Not to be out done, one of my Parks Dept employee friends ‘Monkey Man’ ( called so for his penchant for carrying around an Organ Grinders monkey in his Harlem heydays) was diagnosed with I believe Pneumonia Carcinoma. An early form of Aids where the entire Immune System would break down. He was committed to Harlem Hospital and to my surprise, none of the Parks Dept fellow employees were willing to visit him.

He had befriended me, being an administrative aide in a Maintenance and Operations environment of field workers not used to administrative personnel, let alone a Black artist. He taught me how to play numbers in Harlem something I had never done. I felt it my duty as a human being and an artist to not ostracize a fellow Human Being. Myself and one other worker were allowed to visit him for a short while in the High Risk ICU. As the only ones to visit him the duty nurse allowed to peak his spirits as for the past 2 weeks he had not one family member or relative visit and wasn’t expected to live more than 2 more weeks.

Solution

The Bathhouse had a bad connotation as I explained and my boss an APRM (Administrative Parks and Recreation Manager) Wyatt T Robinson had proposed from the Harlem community a name change to Hansborough Recreation Center after a Black Parks Manager whom was beloved for what he did in the Harlem Community. As I explained previously this is what a true artist does reflect society and the community in which he lives. The Parks Dept had enough money from Capital projects to do a name change and the renovations, but I learned from the Recreation Department that there were historical trophies from recognized organizations like the famous ‘Harlem Honey’s and The Bears’ synchronized Black swim team and even the Basketball and Karate Black clubs that I belonged to myself.

Were they to forever be wiped from history in Harlem? What could I do to lend my talents to that end as a Black artist? I consulted with the Recreation heads in the facility and found they had a treasure trove of trophies. They just lacked a case to display the awards. An aha moment design a trophy case. But alas there were no funds to acquire one suitable.

134th St Harlem NYC Hansborough Rec Center Trophy Case photo courtesy Rec Comm Fontanna

I proposed an Avant Garde solution, suppose we were to create our own? At first I was rebuked, who would create such? I volunteered, I was such a capable artist. Where would the materials and procurement come from? I was told by APRM Robinson come up with a plan and design and he would propose it to then Manhattan Boro commissioner Patrick Pomposello.

Low and behold as you see the design was accepted and commissioned to be done in conjunction with the Carpenters of the NYC Dept of Parks. An impromptu collaboration of artist and fabricators within a City Agency. My way of inserting into the fabric of human history a collaborative project in a Landmark ArtDeco building a design of Romero in the vain of Function over Form. A minimalist design to showcase hidden talents. I studied the original designs of the Bathhouse and assigned the warm wooden tones of the time in contrast to the modern cinder block remodifications in the chance that future modifications would restore the original design style of the interiors.

Codex Protocol

Why do I keep coming back to Codex Protocol? Why was Van Gogh never recognized in his own time? Because we the didn’t have the means for authenticity. I thought in the early beginning that Archive.org could do that for me, but I was wrong that proposition could not prove authenticity.

Take the case stated above in reference to the Trophy Case I designed for The Hansborough Recreation Center in 1984. The only records of this work was done with ‘work orders’ and ‘requisitions’ signed off on some 35 years ago. After weeks of phone calls and emails back and forth with the NYC headquarters of the Dept of Parks and Rec, whom I might add were great at assisting in the unusual request to document for all intents and purposes what was just considered a piece of furniture.

The building itself is on a historical landmark registry, but what about the contents? Now the trophy case that I designed is properly authenticated here, but guess what?

THAT TROPHY CASE IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG! You see I learned while working for the NYC Parks that almost every park in NYC is built on top of old Revolutionary War forts. Fort Tryon Pk in upper Manhattan, Fort Greene Pk in the Ft Greene area of Brooklyn holds a little known Maritime monument that holds the discovered remains of American Revolutionary war heroes that were found buried in the caves of what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard during it’s construction during World War I.

So that is what we artists are now pioneering on the blockchain, authenticating art as it is created, but the much larger job and work is having credible authenticators to document and authenticate assets from mans vast human history.

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PD-US, Link

April 22, 2019

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