For Us by Us—Black Women on TV

from Season 2 of HBO’s ‘Insecure’

TEXT: Shauna Mercy

For 8-10 glorious weeks in the summer, my girlfriends and I gather to watch HBO’s Insecure on Sundays. Finally, 30+ mins of storytelling — for us by us. We find ourselves laughing at Issa’s mirror monologues, cheering when Molly slays at work, and cringing when both girls make a complete mess of their love lives. Thankfully, Insecure is just one of many shows featuring black female talent.

These days black girls can look forward to Blackish, Greenleaf, Queen Sugar and the entire Thursday night Shondaland line up, and it’s about time too! For far too long black girls have grown accustomed to not seeing our faces in characters from our favourite shows. And when we are included, the characters tend to be monolithic in nature — we’re either matriarchal, magical and perfect, or urban (because you can’t possibly be all those things at once).

The constant white washing of our humanity is unbelievably exhausting so it makes sense that we gravitate to and celebrate shows that put the narrative of Black female lives back in our hands. I longed for the day when black women would be regular fixtures on TV, where we play white caped heroines saving men from their scandals one day, and basic AF, flawed, insecure women the next.

Though most days we find ourselves yelling at our faves, it feels good. It feels good to see us dominating TV with layered portrayals of what it means to be black and female. It feels good to see those same black female voices win golden statues for jobs well done. It feels good to have options. But mostly it just feels good to finally see us building our OWN tables rather than asking for a seat at theirs.

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A Prologue to Novella’s Conversation with Artist Mark Liam Smith

“I view art itself as a language.” — Mark Liam Smith
‘Grey Stallion’ — Oil on canvas, 72 x 48, 2017.
Much has been written on Mark Liam Smith, especially after he was granted the Emerging Artist Award in 2015 and won this year’s Visual Arts grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Despite the complexity and depth of his works, much of the coverage seems to home in on Mark’s colorblindness. Considering how his last two series, Imagined Narratives (2016) and A Day at the Met (2016)and his latest Of Centaurs and Men (2017) deal with matters of perspective, subjectivity, and the process of interpreting art, it seems a curious approach. That the biographical detail is neither a limitation nor a defining feature of Mark’s works is clear once one takes in the ‘Grey Stallion’, the 72 x 48 oil painting now on view at Montreal’s Galerie Youn. There’s a lot to take in and consider — the intricate composition, the detailed physiology, the narrative, the colors —, so much so that Mark becomes, as should be the case with moving works of art, almost incidental. Especially with his narratively consuming works like ‘The Blessing’ and ‘Hippodamia’, there’s time only to appreciate what’s at hand.
In Of Centaurs and Men, Mark projects his vision and perspective onto the classic mythological figures, and thereby refocuses our attention to the imagined lives of the creatures. If magic-realism is a way of expressing the beauty and details of the real world through surreal and magical language, the world of the centaurs is a reflection of truths of the audience’s reality. In other words, the paintings are narratives that make the viewer reflect on the strange and the beautiful.
‘The Secrets of the Forest’ — Oil on canvas, 72 x 48, 2017.

Mark Liam Smith is a Toronto-based artist. He recently received the Ontario Arts Council’s coveted Visual Arts grant. His latest exhibit, ‘Of Centaurs and Men‘ is on view at Montreal’s Galerie Youn until October 28th. Stay tuned for our interview with Mark. 

All images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Youn.

Tried and Tested: Paige Denim

Denim jeans are by far the most widely used and appreciated articles of clothing that people have in their closests. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular Joe or a self proclaimed foshionista, chances are you own a pair of jeans, and among them the perfect pair of jeans. Now finding the perfect pair of jeans can sometimes be tricky – everything from fit to dye has to be absolutely perfect for denim lovers to fall in love with the denim they’re about to purchase. Which is bound to cause some frustration for those who can never seem to find the perfect pair. Luckily, Paige has a wonderfully unique and perfectly wearable collection of denim that’ll have even the most discerning of denim connoisseurs falling in love over and over again. Here are just a few example of how versatile Paige’s collection of amazing jeans are!

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief

The idea of spending a lot of money on a pair jeans never appealed to me, so I had very little expectations when given the chance to try and test a pair of Paige denim. I selected the men’s Croft-Langdon super skinny jeans and had a change of heart as soon as I put them on. The super soft and comfortable fit gave me everything that I ever wanted in a pair of jeans. Being somewhat vertically challenged, skinny jeans have always been my go-to when wanting to appear taller. But after wearing them a few times, they often don’t fit the same. I packed the Paige for my trip to New York for fashion week and wore them a couple times and each time the jeans fit perfectly; its as if they made were made for me.

What I love the most is the ability to dress them up or down. I can pair them with a studded moto-jacket for a night on the town or I can wear them with a white button-down and a blazer for work. Either way, these jeans are now my new favourite.

Meg Summers, Contributor

I have to admit, the straight leg pant has been a little intimidating for me for a while since I’m used to living in/styling my clothes with either super tight skinny jeans or over-the-top baggy men jeans. There hasn’t been an in-between. Until now! I went with the Julia Straight because I loved the slits at the bottom and wanted something unique to shake up my wardrobe. These jeans feel like the softest denim I’ve ever worn but still give me the satisfaction that I look stylish and put-together. The jeans’ claim to fame is that they do not lose their shape (we all know the rush to throw your jeans in the dryer last minute so that they snap back to their original fit). After wearing these out to run errands and, a few days later, to go dancing, I can say that the jeans have kept their promise to stay the way I found them! An absolute favorite that I will continue to try new looks with, no other pair could’ve cured my fear of the straight leg pants like these.

Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Jeans, above all else, should be comfortable. If you’re squeezing into a pair that makes you feel like your lower half might just necrotize, or you might be wearing one that makes you look like you have a wet diaper hanging out from your backside. Luckily, Paige denim is the complete opposite of that. The fit of the jeans I chose, the Lennox, is arguably one of the most comfortable pair of denims I’ve ever worn. From what I can deduce, the extremely comfortable fit must come from the soft material, which has an amazing amount of stretch, making it feel as if you’re wearing a pair of soft sweats rather than a pair of heavy and thick jeans. Another great aspect of Paige jeans is their dye and wash. A simple pair of black jeans are all well and good, but it’s always fun to have a super interesting pair of ‘off-black’ jeans that add a little bit of oomph to your everyday look.

Michelle Cheung, Social Media Coordinator 

I selected the Hoxton Ankle Black Fog Coating from Paige Jeans. At first, I was hesitant to get a pair of wax jeans, thinking the coating would feel tacky and wouldn’t last over time. I chose the pair because it was unlike other items in my wardrobe. When I tried them on, they were very comfortable and yet form fitting. Although it is just a wax coating, the jeans look like leather without feeling tacky or uncomfortable like pleather. I’ve worn them a couple of times and even washed them, yet these jeans fit and feel the same. I’ve been wearing them non-stop, and I can say with confidence that these Paige Jeans definitely replaced my usual black skinny jeans. They are very versatile and I can wear them from day to night, pairing them with a basic white tee or a blazer for an effortless look. I especially love wearing them with my black-heeled boots. These jeans are my newest and most versatile fashion favourite. Try them and you’ll be wearing them all year round!

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Copies of Reality, and Other News


‘Sentimental Journey’ (1971) Nobuyoshi Araki

Music Review: PONY & the Ok Ok’s

‘Small Things’ by PONY:

A page torn from a dusty Lisa Frank binder tucked away on a shelf in your childhood home. It is at once scandalous and self-aware. Oh, the feels this song will give you. FYI: PONY is a garage rock trio from the 6ix. The single is catchy, the vocals are clear, the drums are too cool for school, and the guitar breathtaking. What’s not to love? Well, aside from the guy or gal you don’t actually ‘love, love.’ Skip the line: “You look so cute, pretending not to care. I don’t want you — I just want somebody there.”

‘British Columbia’ by The Ok-Ok’s:

Have you ever kicked yourself, or attempted to, while thinking, “Man, I wish I discovered so and so before everyone claimed to know them on a first name basis?” Well, ladies and gents — here is your chance. FYI: The Ok-Ok’s is an indie rock band from Pennsylvania. The single, immediately transports the listener to the storied realm of first-listen utopia. I’m almost speechless, in terms of how stunning the vocals are — controlled, soulful, and legit bankable. Skip the line: “But you’ve got, what you want; but you’ve got, what you want. Inside of me. In your face. And screwed me right. You robbed me twice and fooled me once.”

Text: Toni Styles

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