Based in New York, the Rich Hipster blog is written by Chrisette Michele. Her essays, poetry and lyrics think thru the modern ideas of black entrepreneurship, responsible creativity, and what it means to mindfully serve black and brown female community from a full cup. 

Am I Plastic?  An Experiment with Moses Sumney, Sampha and Paint


… or, The Difference Between Flexibility and Fake

Something incredibly un-profound came to me while setting up to paint the other day. I’d gone to set up the mood for inspiration and began streaming a Sampha song. While looking over his playlist, I realized he too had a song called “Plastic”. Not only did the title live on his album, but another I’d been listening to, non-stop all week. Moses Sumney, also had a song with this title. I’ve been inspired by both of their sounds and messages. 

Have you ever had an idea that you had to share in two different ways because you knew that some people would understand it one way, and other people would understand it another way? How hard is it to “loose” a part of yourself when you shape your message to give it to one group verses another? Does that shaping make you fake? How many ways can we create one message?

As an artist, I often find myself molding and crafting until my fingers bleed. I may be overly concerned with how I give and to whom. Am I a people pleaser or do I just crave concise communication? After 13 years in the art and entertainment business, I’ve found that art isn’t always for everyone’s entertainment. It’s how I express myself. Is "plastic", me ignoring what I really hear in my heart and creating something different as not to cause commotion. Creating your art and sharing your art will be unsettling at times. It’s okay to grow and change, but to grow we must first be present. What am I really hearing, seeing, feeling? How do I express that? How do I expand from there?

I’ve become bored with ignoring coincidences lately. Nothing happens by chance. I feel compelled to explore the topic of plastic and why it keeps showing up in my conscious and on my playlist.

Plastic: fake

Plastic: a synthetic substance used to…. 

Wait a minute. Let me put both songs on repeat for a few minutes while I start this painting. I’ll be right back… (Sunday @ 3:53 pm)


It’s 6:56 pm. I’ve been painting and listening to two songs titled “Plastic” for about 3 hours. 

Plastic: flexible

The concept of plastic has completely changed for me. It means flexible.  I’ve been trying to match “sienna” with a little “burnt sienna” and a bit of tan to make the brown that precisely matches my skin tone.  I stroked the face of my painting and it was immediately apparent that the girl in the photo would not have my complexion. I kept stroking. “Maybe she can be my cousin”. Stroke, stroke.  “Perhaps she’s my home girl”. I couldn’t quite tie-dye the t-shirt she’s wearing and I painted a little too far down with the blue paint to make the perfect crop top. Her waist is longer then I planned and her dreads look kind of like wavy hair.

The music is fluid and watery. Moses Sumney’s voice weaves in and out of phrases about stars and love and galaxies and I’ve made up the rest of the words in my head as I find the right pink, dip my brush in a little more water and finish what I’ve started.  This isn’t what I had in mind, but it’s beautiful. 

As an artist, I often struggle with what creations come from my mistakes. I can often be so flexible during the creation process that I’ll see something created in front of me that I never saw in my head. The struggle isn’t usually whether I like it or not. It’s, “How will people interpret what I just created and how will I explain what is on this page?”.

How important is it to go back and explain when you’ve painted the "wrong" picture? How flexible do we need to be when the picture doesn’t come out just right? How many chances do we get to paint a new canvas? Does that depend on how many canvases we are willing to invest in? Does that depend on how humble we are willing to be when saying, “Excuse me, that’s not actually what I meant.” Or, “I made this, but I’m not sure just what it means.” How does this experiment imitate practical life?

“Would I be a complete savage if I sold this painting?”

That’s kind of the question artists ask themselves after everything they make. Okay, well it’s what I ask myself. That’s because, everything I create is a bit of planning, a bit of chance and a bit of  slippery paint brushes. 

I’m an artist. Pretty much all day. Whether I’m writing a song, creating a yoga sequence, painting a curvy girl in a comfy seated position or delivering poetry, I’m tapping in to something that I don’t fully understand until it’s already on paper. Does this generation share what’s on paper before they fully see it themselves? How long should we wait before deciding what’s really us and what’s a muddy painting? How flexible do we need to be as we paint? And at what point do we know the painting is ready to be sold, shared, offered or explained? Is this why paintings are often called, "A Conversation Piece"? 

What’s plastic in your life and why?

The real question is how quick are we to call people fake? How fast are we to judge art based on a quick glance or a hasty listen? Do we follow the journey of artists? Are we watching the evolution? Are we engaging with them in conversation or just deciding quickly what they’re worth? 

As artists, how quickly are we giving up on our creative offering? How fast are we allowing people’s opinions to end our quest for our own full expression? 

The asana practice is what you see when people are bending their bodies around into fun shapes like "tree pose", "warrior one" and "half-moon". Many are in a rush to conquer each of these shapes, that they might find the perfect Instagram photo or sense of accomplishment. As ling as we are living this life, there is no "end pose". We continue to bend, grow and change. Maybe our art is just the same. Maybe, so is practical, everyday living.  

This poem flows from me now:

Plastic:

Like Plastic

The full expression is an on-going exploration of stretch and release 

Again and again, 

Until the body fully forms the shape in which you twist and bend it. 

 

Every day that the body grows and changes, 

the practice changes and grows.

 

Don’t despise the curves of life, 

The twists of wind that come and go. 

This is the natural ebb and flow. 

When we’re done we’ll know. 

 

But until then, 

Continue to bend,

Like plastic.

 

All My Love, 

 

CM

“Self Development” The Neglected Catch Phrase

A Black Woman's Creativity and the Healthy Lessons of Rejection - by Chrisette Michele