Artists and Americans
Jameela F. Dallis. 2020. 4x5 Large Format Camera. 
Jemella F. Dallis is writer, artist and educator with a Ph.D. in English. Jamella’s publications range from love poems and dance reviews to scholarly book chapters on Gothic literature.

Artists and Americans, is a study of creative individuals in North Carolina, focusing on how their unique artistry has inspired the cultural transformation of this state.  Originally known as the Tobacco State and, existing under the shadow of slavery and tobacco farms, North Carolina has bitter roots in “southern charm” culture, ripe with evidence of inequality, uneducated prejudice, and poverty.  However, with a mass infiltration with a diverse new seeds migrating to this area from across the country and across the world, the heartbeat of North Carolina is morphing to one ripe with artistry, expression and opportunity. 

In 2010, North Carolina was rebranded from the Tobacco State, to the Creative State, but there is much work left to be done to bring about to full realization of transformation of our culture. Artists and Americans has potential to facilitate movement toward recognition of diversity within the artistic talent of this region. Although the project is still in the works, I envision the finished product to be printed on oversized newspaper, Artist, floating in exhibition space - displaced by air: moving, breathing, sharing space. When one walks behind print - seeing show though: faint image of unrecognizable American. This is my nod to humanity - to Mesopotamia, the birthplace of civilization. This will symbolize man's true origin and illuminate our the potential for change. 

As an outsider to this region, a white male raised in San Francisco, the Bible Belt influence in North Carolina is staggering and sobering. My privilege is evident in every outing, from my morning swim to my few encounters with traffic police. I have encountered the damage that has been done in relationships between those with white skin and black. I aim to add fresh efforts in the repair of these relationships -through education, self-exploration, and humble acknowledgment of my privileged ignorance. 

The ancestral trauma of this region is present in the soil, the air, and in the systems that govern. Artists and Americans - has been an opportunity to thread the continuity of artistry through the lines of separation. To bring light to a collective conscience that transcends skin color and magnifies the power of diversity in creativity. Its purpose is to amplify the message of each artist, and to bring attention to the beauty of this region and its people. Its purpose is also to acknowledge the inevitable role of pain and tragedy in the formation of beauty and character. As we work toward healing, these images profoundly resonate with the truth of what was, what is, and what will be.

One of the most wonderful things about this project has been the collaboration that is occurring between myself and those that I encounter. There is an experimental element to each shoot, containing ideas and input from each participant. Thus far, the artists who have participated in the Art World Creatures project include Jamella F. Dallis, William Paul Thomas, ShaCarol Stewart, Maylassa Lipscomb, “Dalek” James Marshall, founders of The Mothership (Katie DeConto, Megan Bowser, Krista Anne Nordgren), Thomas Sayer, Edith Gray, Jeff Bell, Peter Marín, Nate Shaefer, Tamar Harris Warren, Damola Akintunde, JoRose, SeRah Lenea, Louis St. Lewis, Chris Charles, Madeline Greco, Jaclyn Bowie, Orvarkki Crosby, Roman Gabriel and Matt McConnell. More are scheduled to participate. Each participant will be provided with an audio recorder asked series of questions: What moves you? What is your current project titled? Why is it this title? If you had to describe the project in one sentence, what would you say? If you were commissioned to take anyone's portrait, alive or dead, who would it be? If music is the ultimate form of abstraction, what type of ambient music or sounds do you create to?

Artists and Americans documents these North Carolina creatives with experimental surrealism portraiture film stills through Analogue Cameras with colour neg film. My current studies at The International Center of Photography in the Creative Practices have catapulted the project by facilitating introspection and strengthening my awareness of the connection between my own life experiences and the art that I create, concerned photography. It is through that introspection that I have learned to draw upon my archive, utilizing that energy to uplift the underexposed artists around me. The project is designed to bring recognition and to amplify the unique voices of artists in this area. It has created opportunity for collaboration, dialogue and a greater understanding of perspectives that I would not have otherwise known. Only through acknowledgment, validation, and recognition can true cultural transformation begin. 

Toko-pa Turner writes, “LONGING is the call to this reconciliation with the events of our lives. Instead of trying to curate reality so that it is only filled with pleasure and peace, longing asks us to make a mingling of laughter with grief, a combining of hurt and salve, a willingness to enter into our lostness so that we may be found.”