#87: Tameca Coleman
Tameca Coleman says she’s not so special, but we think that’s just her sweet side speaking. As a writer, singer, selfie-taker, documentarian of changes in her neighborhood and the fleeting colors of urban nature, massage therapist, MFA candidate and lover of people, art, culture and life, Coleman expresses in multiple ways what so many of us can’t or don’t know how to express: that beneath all the grit, bad politics and forces beyond our control in this world, we still live in a paradise. The hard part is learning where to find it. Let Coleman take you there, via her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Tameca Coleman: I love artists. I love artists of just about every medium. I love dance, music, literature, performance art, food as art and, of course, the visual arts. I love hybrid and experimental forms of art, especially, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a lover of the classical and traditional stuff, too. I love things that push a boundary, are difficult to define and that make me stop in my tracks. Sometimes I even love art that makes my stomach churn. I most definitely love art that makes my skin tingle and burn. And at the heart of it all, I love witnessing any part of any creative process.
I’ve often taken long walks or bouts of silence after being moved by something. After seeing a performance by MeeAe Cecilia Nam, one of my former voice coaches, for example, I rushed out of the theater alone and walked and walked and walked. The same thing happened to me when I saw Lila Downs perform. My whole chest and face felt like it burst open. I had to take that long walk just so I could hold it together while I figured out what to do with all the broken and spilled-out bits.
My first visit to the Clyfford Still Museum, I remember feeling like I was buzzing. I circled the building at least five times and then sat and stared at one of his very large works. I took my time leaving the museum, went on a long walk before heading home. Then, after some days, I was able to kind of look out into the world again, interact with it, process something that was mulling down deep inside of me and then to express it. I can name a long list of instances like that.
I feel this same way about nature, too. For me, art that evokes some kind of emotion or resonance is the same kind of nature strand I find when lying down beneath swaying pine branches, dipping my feet into a cool creek, watching minnows and searching for mica, or popping open a skylight as the sun sets so that I can listen to all of the neighborhood birds sing and chirp and chatter.
Art and nature are not only inspiration; they are food. They are integral.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Every single day, this list changes for me. I suppose if I was a big party person and I could invite anyone I wanted, I would have to have a party once a week, just so I could get through my ever-changing list. It would kind of be like an ongoing salon, something I think we need a whole heck of a lot more of in this day and age.
At the moment, I think I would like to invite Marina Abramovic, Meredith Monk and Tagaq, this beautiful Inuit throat singer I learned about on Björk’s album Medúlla. All of these women push some serious boundaries, and I have been absolutely fascinated and sometimes wonderfully disturbed by their work. These women kind of represent the sort of energies I follow and wish to embody. They walk the line, and embody deep, dark earth-mama energies that create and destroy. I believe they also walk toward transcendence, even as they dip their toes into the dark. They can walk through all of that and not lose themselves to it. I can’t even imagine how wonderful that would be, to be able to hang out in a room full of women like that, to talk with them and watch them maneuver through the party, imparting gifts of each of their particular expressions of art to everyone who had chosen to arrive.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
There are so many amazing things happening in Denver on all kinds of artistic fronts. There are many incubators and hubs for just about every medium, from the indie level on up. A few that come immediately to mind are Titwrench, DINK and Creative Music Works. There are numerous others, and I believe there is room for even more than that.
And that points to what I consider one of the very best things about creativity and art in Denver. There is so much possibility for new hubs, new incubators and people just kind of generally making their way within communities that already exist (hell, there’s room for folks who also walk alone). While some communities are a little exclusive (even when they might say otherwise), there are many more well-established and welcoming communities like, say, the Denver slam community or Denver’s comics scene. You can find your way to one of these communities, make some new friends, get inspired and create your own art, expand from that.
I think that too often, creative groups and individuals think way too small and suffer from a mindset of lack. Of course, these mindsets aren’t empty or pulled out of folks’ yeah-yeahs. A lot of artists are struggling to survive, physically, psychologically and fiscally. I have little against exclusivity (groups always self-select; that’s a fact of life and really kind of a necessity), but I feel that some groups have become so exclusive that they have lost hold of the pulse, and as a result are dying.
For example, I’ve witnessed some groups who kind of yearned for young blood to bring in some freshness, but they let their cooperatives die out because they never followed through with the reaching-out part. There was no sharing there. They created an eddy that didn’t flow anywhere. They could have offered their experience to the youngers and been refreshed with new ideas as they bolstered and supported the youth of their communities coming into their own. This is just one example.
I would like to see more cross-pollination between creative groups. I don’t think there is enough of this. And I truly think there is room for it all. Creatives can really help bolster and support each other in a world that seems hell-bent on making artists’ respective crafts difficult, and at times seemingly all but impossible. We just have to think outside of the proverbial box — or eddy.
How about globally?
Globally, one of the best things for creatives is how connected we all are. I see so much flak given to social media and its users, and with such a boon there also comes a curse, be it social-media addiction or over-saturation from the constant influx of messages, news and media. But I remember at its advent when a lot of us who weren’t born with it realized the wonderful potential for getting in touch with other creatives across the country and globe. Possibilities for learning and collaborations grew exponentially. Suddenly we found ourselves chatting with people whose work we’d previously only admired from a distance or that we didn’t even know about before we found them on social networks. We also found new ways of creating. A super-recent example of this is Esperanza Spalding’s upcoming new album that she will record on social media. Her fans will have some say in the process and what’s to be created. They will be able to witness the whole thing, including Spalding’s food and sleep breaks.
The very worst thing is the commodification of everything. I don’t even know where to start with this, especially since it’s such a double-edged blade. Everyone needs to make a living. Everyone deserves to receive compensation for their contributions to their communities and the world. But too often, if a work does not fit into an easily sold package, it's treated as somebody's hobby, pooh-poohed, even if the work is something mind-blowing. Artists are told to get “real jobs,” by people who are miserable with their own work lives and who also crave more of what all of the respective arts have to offer.
Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?
Yes. Pay attention to the trends but don’t necessarily follow them. Or, if you follow them, give them the side-eye and hold an air of skepticism as you research why the trends are what they are and who is at the steering wheel. What are their intentions? It’s a conversation point, and often art holds some place in the conversation. Art can be commentary, and it can also turn trends on their head.
I like the idea also of stealing like an artist (à la Austin Kleon). Take the selfie trend, for example. I often joke that I was taking selfies long before it became a thing. And lately, I have been messing around with framing and social media/app filters to create interesting images of myself. I’m so bored of the usual brand of selfie. And you can laugh — I don’t take this very seriously. It’s sort of an internalized joke, playing on this absurd reality where we are constantly capturing ourselves in cell-phone frames and posting them on social media. I guess it’s also self-expression and a way for me to mark time, see what I can do with what I have at hand and then share it. It’s a love-hate thing. Selfies are absurd, but they are also undeniably fun.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
The main thing on my bucket list is that I want to travel. I want my work and art to take me places I have never seen so that I can see and experience how other people live. I want to know what plant life smells like elsewhere, and what color the light is with different slants of sun. I want to feel and hear other cultures’ music and art firsthand. I want to be molded by all of that.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as a creative?
Someone once told me that when you are feeling down about who you are, take a look at the people around you. When I remember to pull my head up out of any stupid funk, I see so many amazing people: creators, dreamers, activists, conscientious entrepreneurs, people who work toward the healing of the planet and all humankind, entertainers, thinkers and on and on. I look at these people and try to remember the absolute love and admiration there. I sought them out, and I wanted to know them, even if it was over that one cup of coffee we had or that one walk we took through downtown Denver. Even if there is currently a rift, that feeling of love is still there.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I’ve lived in Denver for sixteen years. This is the longest I have lived anywhere. I feel anxiety sometimes, thinking I need to leave. I think that feeling is somehow part of my chemistry. My family moved a lot when I was little, and then I continued to move a lot more when I left home. Even in Denver, I have lived at fifteen different residences. It has been challenging for me to get onto my feet (I think I am nearly there), and I know it would be easier for me in many respects in my home town or in some other place where I didn’t have to work so hard.
Often, I want to leave, but then there is something a Boise musician named Johann Helton told me when I was leaving Idaho that has haunted me since that day. He traveled quite a bit to New York as a session player, and I asked him why he never just moved there. He paused and said he had thought long and hard about that, that he felt he needed a home base, an anchor, and from there he could travel anywhere.
I think about that everytime I think I’m about to pack up or sell my stuff and skedaddle. Denver has most definitely become my home base. I have so many friends and so much love and history here at this point. Why should I start over?
Besides, I’m super-interested in seeing what this town is becoming. I feel obligated to be part of the troupes of creatives who are still creating here, and to help as I can in support of the creative life here. This is the anchor, and I can hop off to anyplace, come back and be home.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I think hands down, it has to be Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. She is a living embodiment to me of what artivism looks like. She lives it. She’s involved in her community, works politically, is outspoken and creates beautiful modern art based on ecological and political concerns. She also has a long history here and truly knows Denver and its creatives. She does not limit herself to any one community within the greater community, and she gives back. I also feel that she helps to get a lot of us more involved in the governmental conduits for change, so that artists/creatives can do what they do even as the city changes.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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I am being called out to finish some projects, to publish some writing, to do things with some of the images I have been creating. I am also being called out to sing. I have my work cut out for me, and I have projects in mind, but I can’t let the cats out of their bags just yet.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I don’t know who will get noticed, but I know who I’d like to see get noticed. In photography, I’d like to see Matthew Novak, Tara Hornung and Haley Loria Carnefix get some well-deserved attention. In dance, Jessica Herring. In writing, Erika Wurth, Nahshon Cook, and Khadijah Queen. In fine art and comics, Scorpio Steele and Felipe Echevarria In music and performance art, Becca Mhalek and Sheina Fae. There are so many more I’d like to list, but these are some of the firsts who come to mind.