By Jahneil La Mara
Birthed out of a conversation between gallery owner Anyka Barber, visual artist/self-proclaimed sci-fi fantasy geek Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, and writer khoLi, “AMEN: A Collaborative Meditation for Survival,” a mixed media exhibition currently on display at Oakland, Calif.’s Betti Ono Gallery, is appropriately named.
“We were talking specifically about surviving academia and surviving academia as two queer working class women of color and what it meant be in an institution that was built to keep us out in so many ways and that was based around survival. Specifically around spiritual survival and creative survival,” explains DeJesus Moleski, a California College of the Arts graduate.
“AMEN” was inspired by the spirits of American funk-singer, Betty Davis, and Japanese artist/singer/writer, Yoko Ono—the two that influenced the creation of the Betti Ono Gallery four years ago.
The exhibition honors our creation, history, and spiritual texts from a new imagined perspective, which is how the title emerged. “’Amen’ is a holy affirmation that has been used around the globe and that has survived through several iterations,” DeJesus Moleski continues. “Different holy types of phrases [affirm] the existence of whatever it is you’re creating. So it is also saying, ‘Amen, we exist now.’ ‘Amen, we exist in the future.’ And, ‘Amen, so it is.'”
The artists describe the exhibit as “playful, powerful, and transmutation.” It is intentionally inclusive of all people, specifically queer people and other marginalized communities.
“What we wanted was to create,” khoLi tells ELIXHER. “If we are working with ideas of survival and we are thinking about creating survival myths and futures for people—really figuring out how that can be both collaborative in terms of creating it but also feel collaborative when people experience it.” “AMEN” merges DeJesus Moleski’s specialty in art with khoLi’s skills as a wordsmith.
The duo shares that the exhibit provides the queer community with the validation mainstream media is often void of. Queerness, they add, has traditionally been written out of history. But the future looks promising.
“Nothing is really new and yet we have an infinite set of possibilities,” says khoLi. “I realize we aren’t using all of our tools yet and there are some tools that are yet to be discovered.”
For more information about “AMEN: A Collaborative Meditation for Survival,” visit bettiono.com. The exhibit runs through October 31.
Jahneil La Mara is a Southern California native and graduate of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University where she received her B.A. in Mass Communications and served as editor-in-chief of the school paper. Nowadays she’s learning the streets of NYC. She has always been intrigued by the personal style of others and loves food, natural hair, traveling and Instagram. La Mara enjoys reading all things queer, fiction and non-fiction, and writes about her personal experiences being a young fashionable queer woman of color on her blog, LaLaLaMara.com. She serves as an editorial intern at ELIXHER.com.