On Bunnies


An Interview with Khadijah Queen

The Splinter Generation, up until now, has been a literary site. Recently, we decided to add art to it because we like art and because we’ve heard from lots of people who weren’t writers – many of  them visual artists – who wanted to be a part of the project. We chose Khadijah Queen as our first art editor partially because she is both a writer and an artist. We also chose her because her art has a lot to do with our mission.

From her artist’s statement: “In both art and poetry, I examine how we see (or do not see) the beauty and terror in the various occurrences and transformations within and around us….” Really, though I’ve never thought about it that way, that’s kind of what we’re doing here. This is what good art should do, especially generational art. And this site wants to feature as much art and writing like that from our generation as possible.

The art featured throughout this interview is from Queen’s two-dimensional work. Most of it involves rabbits. She will explain.

Note: Unlike our process with literature submissions, we don’t have the staff to accept blind art submissions. If you have an idea you think we’ll really like, you can send an inquiry to splintergeneration@gmail.com. However, we won’t be able to respond to all blind inquiries.

– Seth Fischer for The Splinter Generation


Splinter Generation: Why bunnies?

Khadijah Queen: Rabbits aren’t necessarily cute and cuddly like the Easter bunny. For example, I didn’t know rabbits made any sounds at all until I researched them. In fact they have a very loud, grating scream if threatened. A mother rabbit will kill her own young (thinking them enemies) if touched too soon by humans. So rabbits are vulnerable and soft, but they do also have the ability and impulse to fight back and even to kill.

The common stereotyping, if you will, of rabbits parallels stereotypes of the human variety. As such, I explore images of rabbits as a means kq-etchingof reconciling truth and ignorance. In This Craft of Verse, Borges writes that “[animals are…] somehow eternal, timeless, because they live in the present…We are mortal because we live in the past and in the future—because we remember a time when we did not exist, and foresee a time when we shall be dead.” As a life-long city dweller, I am in awe of the natural world even as I feel separate from it (though in Tampa, where animals are everywhere, that is changing).

SG: I like that quote from Borges. Do you see a lot of that sort of thing, this talk of integration, in artists from our generation? I see a lot of young artists who are embracing guerrilla forms of art, art that investigates what it is to be a human animal rather than just being a cerebral artist or someone who puts poop in a jar. Do you see any thematic trends along those lines? Any artistic ones? How does your art work in conversation with other artists of your generation?

KQ: The short answer is yes. Quite a few artists I see working with human/animal/nature themes include more established artists like Wangechi Mutu, whose animal/woman collages are a big influence for me, and emerging artists like Shana Robbins, who did a performance in Iceland. There’s a website – www.losingyourself.com – with some visual examples of her work and a few other artists mostly of our generation working with similar natural elements.

I’m also very much influenced also by artists from the previous generation who are still making work, such as Adrian Piper, Marlene Dumas, Bill Viola, Mary Kelly, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorraine O’Grady, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Anderson, Saskia Olde Wolbers and David Hammons. Hammons in particular mixes elements (often detritus) from his environment (Harlem) such as his drawing of Nelson Mandela on torn billboard paper or paintings on warped wood, or his body prints from 1975 — the year I was born. Speaking of guerilla art, the art world has really tried to make a star of him but that did not appeal to him at all.

In concrete terms, there’s a great deal more mixing media and crossing genres — drawing and video, performance and photography, sculpture and sound, etc. — building on movements like Fluxus and ‘happenings’ that began in the 1960s. There is collaboration and of course artists across generations are inspired and informed by political, social and philosophical discourse, issues of identity/selfhood and perception. My work definitely falls into all of those areas. But I also think there’s much emphasis on ‘making it’ or gaining critical/popular attention that can be stifling to true risk-taking. I don’t know that our generation has a defining aesthetic yet — unless, perhaps, it is to remain unfettered by definition whether that tendency comes from fear or from a desire to keep seeking.

SG: You mentioned a very interesting couple of possibilities there. You said that our generation doesn’t seem to have an ascetic yet, but that this may result from either fear or a tendency to keep seeking. This is a loaded sdsc_4380tatement, and I of course can’t let you off the hook just saying that without expounding upon it. What do you mean? What are we afraid of? What are we seeking?

KQ: While I kind of cringe at the generalities implied by my answers, I think we’re seeking connection, but are also afraid of it at the same time. Our culture is so competition-oriented, so focused on ego and recognition and money. That can stifle the creative process, which to me is more about exchange between maker and idea and object/performance and viewer/reader. Others have written and spoken on that topic more articulately than I, but I feel the most successful work I’ve seen and read is able to create a connection on some level — be it visual, intellectual, emotional and/or all of the above and more. Thankfully, though, we are also seeking truth. And that’s characteristic of artists of any generation.

SG: Thank you!

For more from Khadijah Queen, you can visit: http://khadijahqueen.com/home.html
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