Traci’s Bartlow’s Valentine’s Day ‘My Life in Nudes’ exhibition

Written by on 02/13/2020

Self Portrait by Traci Bartlow

by Minister of Information JR Valrey

Some people do not celebrate Valentine’s Day,
nonetheless it is still important to celebrate Black love, sensuality,
sexuality and our relationships with our bodies. The legendary Oakland
photographer and dancer Traci Bartlow is hosting an exclusive one night viewing
of “My Life in Nudes,” which is an archive of nude or partially nude photos
from photo shoots spanning three decades.

Known for her work with the Punany Poets and
having been on HBO’s Real Sex filmed in Oakland in 1999, Traci has been a
trailblazer in many different genres of art and entrepreneurship. This Friday,
Traci will be opening up the gallery in B-Love’s Guest House with some infused
bites and spirited drinks. This will definitely be a night of fine art to
remember. Now check out Traci Bartlow’s thoughts in this exclusive Q&A.

M.O.I. JR: What is the story behind you
originally picking up a camera and becoming a photographer in East Oakland? Who
were you inspired by?

Traci: I started photographing my neighbors in
the neighborhood I grew up in, after I had lived in NYC for several years and
travelled to other countries. I came back home and saw my community through new
eyes and was excited to document what I saw.

A friend had given me a 35 mm camera that I
used in my travels. I enjoyed learning about other cultures and taking pictures
of their ways of being. So once I was home, I loved photographing the beauty of
home and what was familiar to me.

This was the early ‘90s, and crack was
devastating to my family and community. Through the destruction, I saw the
care, togetherness, family bonds, children laughing and sharing tender moments
with their parents. I needed to see and document the joy and beauty of who we
were even in those dark times.

In the early ‘90s, crack was devastating to my family and community. Through the destruction, I saw the care, togetherness, family bonds, children laughing and sharing tender moments with their parents. I needed to see and document the joy and beauty of who we were even in those dark times.

I was inspired by Gordon Parks in the way he
documented families in poverty. I was also inspired by a man, I think his name
was Wayne, and years ago, he was the picture man and would walk around the
neighborhood and make portraits of people and sell them back to them. I was
inspired to do the same thing. From there, I parlayed my connections in the
entertainment industry to documenting the Hip Hop scene in the ‘90s.

M.O.I. JR: When did you decide that you also
wanted to be on the other side of the lens as a model? Was that before or after
becoming a photographer?

Traci: It was before. My background is a
dancer and a performer. When I moved to New York on scholarship to the Alvin
Ailey American Dance Center, I also pursued acting and modeling. This was the ‘80s.
Super models were big, and I wanted to be one; Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb
and Linda Envangalista were all super models whose careers I followed.

M.O.I. JR: What inspired you to do a fine art exhibition
of nude photographs of yourself called “My Life in Nudes”?

Traci: As I uncovered my collection of photos
I shot in the Bay in the ‘90s, I came across my different modeling portfolios.
In there were nude photos from different eras of my life, from various dope
photographers. I wondered, what can I do with these images, how can they be
shown? Knowing that my exhibition “Oakland Picture Lady Tales of a ‘90s Girl”
was going to premiere in the summer of 2020 in my home gallery, I thought why
not have a one night viewing of “My Life in Nudes” collection in the sanctuary
of my home? It’s a safe place that I control and can share these images on my
own terms.

M.O.I. JR: You have always been an artistic
trailblazer in the Bay Area. What made you become a part of the Punany Poets
and do an episode of HBOs Real Sex in the ‘90s? Are you still active with the
Punany Poets?

Traci: As a poet, I attended lots of poetry
readings and performed often. This included erotic poetry I wrote from a brief
experience as a stripper and other personal reflections.

Upon meeting Jessica and performing my erotic
work with them I was included in the lineup for the filming of HBO’s Real Sex.
Although I’m not currently active with them, I appreciate their groundbreaking
work in Black erotic expression and their message of self care and safe space.

M.O.I. JR: What are your views on the body?
Black love? The sexuality of Black women?

Traci: I’m a dancer. My body is my instrument.
It is the sacred vessel I am gifted to live this life in. It is my duty to
honor and care for it, and to use it to the fullest of its capacity. I am a
Black woman, an African woman. Black love is self love. It is the love for my
family and heritage.

I am a Black woman, an African woman. Black love is self love. It is the love for my family and heritage.

This love ignites me to praise the legacy of
greatness that I come from and honor my ancestors by carrying the torch. The
sexuality of Black women is a powerful force of nature.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little about B-Love’s
Guest House? What is it and how long have you had it?

Traci: B-Love’s Guest House came about in 2008
when I was a new homeowner with rental property and could not find a tenant.
The unit is a large apartment with five bedrooms on the street level of my
Victorian house in West Oakland. It seems that the size of the unit, with its
many bedrooms, made it hard to find the right fit for a tenant.

Another photo of and by Traci Bartlow for her “My Life in Nudes” exhibition

A few choreographer friends of mine came to
town for a three-month artist residency and needed a place. That’s when it
clicked, to create a space for artists coming to the Bay for gigs. Throughout
my career as an artist I have produced many events and know how to transform a
space.

I know the vibe I want people to feel when
they walk through the doors. My mother did domestic work, so I know how to
clean on a professional level. I began to stage the rooms, and then tapped into
my international community of artists and activists and let them know that I
have a space to rent when they come to town.

M.O.I. JR: How could people get more
information and purchase tickets to Traci Bartlow’s “My Life in Nudes”?

Traci: Go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/my-life-in-nudes-exclusive-valentines-day-photo-viewing-tickets-88754191175?aff=ebdssbdestsearch.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and
filmmaker, can be reached at
blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.

Source: San Francisco Bay View


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