Tutti i colori di Obama by Matteo Ceschi (All the Colors of Obama. The Other History of American Elections)

Matteo Ceschi is an artist and writer who has recently finished his book titled, “Tutti i colori di Obama. L’altra storia delle elezioni americane (All the Colors of Obama. The Other History of American Elections),” published by Franco Angeli Editore (www.francoangeli.it).

This is perhaps one of the rare occassions that one interview can cohesively cover old school rap, underground comics, The Jeffersons, Dick Gregory and American Presidential history. I cannot wait to get my hands on Mr. Ceschi’s book.

Following, Mr. Ceschi shares his inspiration, highlights and challenges while researching and writing “Tutti i colori di Obama.”

CFM: WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

CESCHI: My thesis in American History was on the explosion of black music in the post-World War II period. At the time I was often in a small comics shop not far from the university discussing and drawing cartoons. At home, as a background to my long drawing marathons, there were Old School records like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, De La Soul and classics like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix. My passion for music led me to the team of a well-known Italian music magazine, where I am still a regular columnist. After graduation, I also immediately started to work at my university as Teaching Assistant, first in U.S. history, later in Contemporary history, which allowed me to participate in international conferences and meet European and American scholars.

CFM: HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM COMICS TO THE MORE SOBER SUBJECT OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT?

CESCHI: For me, there is no transition but an essential continuity in my artistic and historical interests.

CFM: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY?

CESCHI: Tutti I colori di Obama. L’altra storia delle elezioni americane (All the Colors of Obama. The Other History of American Elections) originates in my deep passion for African-American culture in all its aspects and nuances – I began as a child in the early 1980s with TV series like “The Jeffersons” and “The Bill Cosby Show” and gradually felt the need to study it seriously along the lines suggested by scholars like Rickey Vincent, author of the classic book, “Funk!” and Scott N. Brown.

Jesse Jackson participating in a rally, January 15, 1975 (Source: Wikipedia)

The rise of Sen. Barack Obama and the affirmation of a post-racial and post-ethnic approach to society led me to investigate the roots of this position, discovering exceptional figures like the comedian and political activist Dick Gregory and the Democratic Representative, Shirley Chisholm, who had campaigned in the Democratic primaries for the presidency back in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s. I discovered the Rev. Jesse Jackson – another staunch voice of post-racial politics when, as a young comics fanatic, I first parsed the verses of Melle Mel’s “Jesse.” That was 1994. His name and his story grabbed me, just as Spike Lee, Malcom X and the Black Panthers had done.

L to R: Dick Gregory, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisolm

CFM: HOW ARE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS VIEWED IN YOUR COUNTRY?

CESCHI: I was born during Gerald Ford’s brief presidency and my first memory of U.S. politics is Jimmy Carter at Camp David in the News on my maternal grandmother’s TV. Like a large part of the world’s population in the ‘80s, I grew up in Ronald Reagan’s shadow, but I kept a healthy young distance listening to rap. So I’ve always had a lot of interest in who was sitting in the Oval office, even if in my country U.S. politics and the ups and downs of the various presidents only sporadically interested public opinion before Obama. With the sole exception of Reagan, whose eight year presidency coincided with a period of epochal historic change, I would say that in Italy the U.S. presidency has always been seen with a vaguely positive indifference as something comfortable and certain to turn to with a little more attention now and again when there is some international crisis or presidential elections.

CFM: MANY HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY AND PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHAT SETS YOUR BOOK APART FROM THE REST?

CESCHI: In the three years of research the book involved, I read a lot of the books you mention. Some, like David Remnick’s The Bridge, I liked; others a lot less. If I were to indicate a difference from what has already been written about President Obama, I’d say that Tutti I colori di Obama has the advantage of restoring the fundamental (for Obama, too) experiences of figures like Dick Gregory and Shirley Chisholm – alas, too quickly forgotten by voters and politicians alike – and of integrating the history of the elections and the analysis of the political language and gestural character with pop/popular elements in day-to-day social culture like music, graphic arts and the web in the most natural way possible.

CFM: WHAT ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: Mmmmm……the heroic challenge Dick Gregory and the Peace and Freedom Party issued to the two major parties in the 1968 elections, and his “shadow government”; the feeling between Shirley Chisholm and the college crowds; the citizen diplomacy that preceded and accompanied Jesse Jackson’s first candidacy in the 1984 Democratic primaries, and Barack Obama’s fundamental parenthesis at the Harvard Law School (indispensable in the refining of his post-racial sensitivity).

CFM: HOW DID YOU SETTLE ON THE COVER IMAGE FOR YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: At first I thought I might do the cover myself, but then I thought that would be too much of the same (some of my work is on display at www.coroflot.com/ceschi1974). So I began to look through the web for names of artists who had looked at Obama. As soon as I saw Grey Williamson and Kilroy III’s [Renegade Obama] bust, I thought, “This is the one for me!”

Discovering a common background with one of the two artists only confirmed the first excellent impression. I have always appreciated a 360° approach to the artistic life. My editor liked it a lot and so we got in touch with you.

CFM: WHEN WILL YOUR BOOK BE AVAILABLE?

CESCHI: The book will be on sale from Oct. 5 – just a month before election day.

CFM: WHY SHOULD AN AMERICAN READ YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: Why should the American public read my book? Well, because it’s very, very readable and it would improve their Italian a lot! And then you can always learn something new. Seriously: because at the moment there is nothing on the American market with an approach like my book.

CFM: WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL FEEDBACK YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: The phrase “I couldn’t put it down!” coming from a highly respected historian colleague who had kindly offered to read the rough draft.

CFM: WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT WRITING YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: It was quite difficult to find material on the black presidential candidates – surprisingly so in a number of cases – especially with regards to Shirley Chisholm (perhaps the first serious presidential candidate to be a woman). The greatest difficulty I had, however, was finding objective material to compare with the autobiographic narration Gregory furnished in his books. The last uncertainties were resolved only in Jan., 2012 at Amsterdam’s International Instituut voor social Geschiedenis.

CFM: WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHAPTER OR PART OF YOUR BOOK AND WHY?

CESCHI: Sincere, I’ve never thought about it. But if I had to choose, I’d say the long chapter on Jesse Jackson, the politician whose story comes closest to Obama’s. Both, in fact, tried- though with different results – to win the presidency in a moment in which the media played a fundamental role in the success of a campaign. Not many people know that Jesse Jackson was the first national political figure to make use, during the course of the Louisiana Democratic primaries of 1984, of the immense resources afforded by informatics for political ends. In 1984, 24 years before the army of pro-Obama Facebookers!

CFM: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AMERICAN PRESIDENT AND WHY?

Former president Jimmy Carter fields a question during his news conference in Washington, October 10, 1978. (Source: Salon)

CESCHI: Without doubt Jimmy Carter is, for reasons linked to the memory of my maternal grandmother, as I mentioned earlier; the first American president I remember. As a scholar, I have found his policy on ecology interesting and have treated it in part in an earlier book, Musica e ecologia negli Stati Uniti da Bob Dylan a Bruce Springsteen.

CFM: DOES PRESIDENT OBAMA COME IN A CLOSE SECOND?

As a historian, I think we have to wait before trying to give any final evaluation of the Obama presidency. On the other hand, while hanging on to a vigilant and healthy critical eye – a position I share with Cornel West – I cannot certainly deny that Barack and Michelle Obama have held my attention over the last six years. If the president has always impressed me with his personal sincerity – as we see it, for example, in Amy Rice’s documentary “By the People” – Michelle’s strong personality makes me think of the American past’s iconic, up-front, purposeful black ladies, like The Cosby Show’s Mrs. Claire Olivia Huxtable. Here again (as with Carter) my own early impressions inspire my sympathies and my work.

CFM: WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR READERS WALK AWAY WITH AFTER READING YOUR BOOK?

CESCHI: A more vital and informed view of the United States and the Obama presidency, whatever their political orientations may be. I would not be at all displeased if some Italian reader should take Tutti i colori di Obama along on a trip to the U.S. and go to visit some of the places the book talks about.

And I would not complain if some U.S. reader with a working knowledge of Italian wrote to me to give me any constructive comments that came to mind.

CFM: WHAT WERE YOUR OBSERVATIONS AFTER WATCHING BOTH THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTIONS?

That both conventions were held in the South is heavy with complex significance, though no one has explicitly “unpacked” the components yet as they really should.

The icon of the Tampa convention was, significantly, no candidate – not even any political figure – but a disappointing, even slightly uncertain, Clint Eastwood, and an empty chair. The Republicans showed themselves not ready to deal adequately with Hollywood, leaving viewers depressed as to what might happen when they turned their eyes or attention to everyday US reality. The Democratic convention in Charlotte showed us a far more varied assembly as to age, origins and socio-economic placement. It showed that the president’s party enjoys vigorous good health despite the economy and multiform obstructionism in Congress and in the society. Julian Castro, Bill Clinton (who cited Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech and set out the “mathematics” of both Obama and Bush) and, perhaps even more, Michelle Obama, focused on their candidate and his personal qualities, his political stance and his achievements as president- as the Republican convention, engaged chiefly in image politics had not really attempted to do – or been able to do? – for its own candidate and his political record.  It did, however, tread lightly enough to barely allude to hot internal issues (abortion, stem cells, homosexuality ); even if Clinton mentioned alternative energy, he tied it firmly to future ‘freedom’ from ‘Arab oil’. It was left to the roaming TV cameras to show two women (one with traditional headscarf) displaying “Arab-Americans for Obama” placards. Prudently, no mention was made of the unrealized promise to close down Guantanamo, or the continuing concern for the on-going violations of the word and the spirit of the First Amendment. If Obama not only wins, but the Party wins a Congressional majority, perhaps this scene may change.

Summing up: the convention(s)’ climate, over-all, was sort of ‘80s sit com and so leads me to hope for the best over the next four years. Nor do I think that the dramatic events in Libya, Egypt and some Middle Eastern countries can seriously damage Obama as a candidate.

CFM: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM RESEARCHING AND WRITING THIS BOOK AND WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?

I got to know two exceptional people – Dick Gregory and Shirley Chisholm (Jesse Jackson I already knew) – and I followed their human and political adventures step by step.

At the moment I’ve got a headful of ideas. The search for a new challenge might be resolved “on the spot” in January, 2013, when I’ll  be in Boston for about ten days. Maybe that will pull the switch and point a spot-light in the right direction. Who can say?

Have a question or comment for Mr. Ceschi? (Please email him at matteo.ceschi(at)yahoo.it). His book will be available October 5th through Franco Angeli Editore (www.francoangeli.it).

Thanks for reading!

~ Onjena

#sayitLOUD #spreadLOVE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matteo Ceschi is a historian of African-American culture and U.S. counterculture. He writes for a music magazine and teaches History of journalism and music journalism at the University eCampus in Italy. He has worked with the chair of North American History and Contemporary History at the faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Milan. In 2000 he joined the comparative history project Milan-Montpellier Group, founded in 1980 by Italian, American and French academics. He is author of Musica Nera/Black Music (Milan: 2005) and Green Rock. Music and Ecology in the United States from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen (Milan: 2008) and numerous essays in Italian and English.

CANVASS 44: Toy Designer & Sculptor Eric Nocella Diaz Supports President Obama

Tuttz meets the Renegade

“The Renegade Obama bust is a really good platform. A good game plan to try to enhance the bust as a custom will be difficult. Thing is, even unpainted it doesn’t need anything and to add something… the trick is to not diminish it.”

~ Eric Nocella Diaz

Eric Nocella Diaz was one of the first artists to commit to participating in CANVASS 44. We have a long history with Mr. Nocella Diaz. Through his toy production company, he has been instrumental in helping us bring multiple collectible sculpts and toys to market, including the Renegade Obama bust.

When we shared the concept of CANVASS 44 with Eric in early 2011, he was very supportive of our efforts to contribute art that documented the accomplishments of the 44th President, beyond his election. This was during a time when President Obama’s popularity had predictably dropped after his historic election…and after fighting for healthcare reform.

So it was a natural fit to invite him to embellish the Renegade Obama bust as part of CANVASS 44. We invited artists to interpret the President’s statement:

“This is what change looks like.”

~ President Barack Obama

The “canvas” is a specially prepared Renegade Obama bust pictured above next to one of Eric’s collectibles, the Tuttz. The 1/6th scale bust is approximately 11 inches high and was sculpted by Grey Williamson & Kilroy III.

As Eric finalizes his designs, we will share additional images of his custom Renegade Obama bust.

Please share your Obama-inspired art with us @CANVASS44.

Thanks for reading!

~ Onjena

#sayitLOUD #registertovote #spreadLOVE

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Eric Nocella Diaz has been sculpting toy prototypes, maquettes and statues professionally for over 15 years. He has worked on high-profile projects with major toy companies such as ToyBiz, Marvel, Mcfarlane Toys, ToysRus, Hasbro, Kidrobot, DC Direct, Art Asylum and Ka-Ching Brands. Some of the licensed projects he has worked on for those companies range from the award-winning Beatles Yellow Submarine toy line, E.T., Preschool Spiderman, Lord Of The Rings, Classic Avengers, Japanese Anime FLCL, Batman Begins to the Video Game Award crowned monkey trophy for Spike TV. He is also a co-publisher, art director and editor of independent comic books through Xmoor Studios as well as a producer of popular high-end designer resin toys through his toy companies GoldMane EntertainmentArgonaut Resins.

CANVASS 44: Treason, Truth and President Obama

… Once the president is elected, he no longer represents one party, but the totality of the American politique… at least ’til the next election process begins.
When the Republican party politicians announced that, from the time he was elected, that their prime directive for the next four years was to remove him from office… it was treason… by definition, mutiny.
The people have the right to disagree, dissent, protest… exercise their voice in a number of ways, including the vote…
… but our political officials are hired to treat the POTUS as Commander In Chief… above party affiliation. Non-adherence to this destroys the political process and makes us as citizens slaves to individual party agendas, and therefore the personal interests of its individual leaders.
Mutiny…
Treason…
Capitol Crimes?
Truth.

~ Grey Williamson

Support America by donating to the President’s re-election efforts here and registering to vote in your state.

Thanks for reading!

~ Onjena

#sayitLOUD #spreadLOVE

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Grey Williamson has worked as a writer, artist and designer for almost every major comic publisher in the comic industry. He formed Carbon-Fibre Media as a home for his entertainment properties and productions.

Kilroy III makes his professional debut at Carbon-Fibre Media with his work on the Apollo, Val-Mar and Renegade busts. He has multiple projects under development that can be viewed on his blog, Kilroy’s Attic.

CANVASS 44: United We Stand: A Tribute to America: Presidential Paintings by Alex Krasky

“About our President, I think he will be reelected. He is a strong Guy. And if you saw all my webpages, I have a very special dream. I want to meet our President personally and hand him my Art. (It’s already signed: From Alex Krasky to Our President Barack Obama). My Mom is waiting that one day I will do it. I promised her I will. She is the only one who is still alive in my Family. I want to make her really proud of me.”
~ Alex Krasky
Alex has committed a portion of the sales of his paintings and art prints to the re-election of President Obama as well as to the American Cancer Society.
You can view his unique style applied to other prominent Americans at The Art of Alex Krasky. Alex and his work have been featured in numerous publications, most recently on the USA Patriotism website.
What do y’all think? Can we help make Alex Krasky’s dream come true?
Thanks for reading!
~ Onjena
ABOUT THE ARTIST

Alex Krasky‘s journey to America began when he left the former Russia/Ukraine in 1997.  Although he expressed an interest in art at the age of 5, it wasn’t until seven countries and twelves years after his arrival in the United States that he took an oil painting class and picked up a brush for the first time.  “I learned, life is not a rehearsal, we go forward every day, regardless. I learned to savor the moment and take pleasure in small things in life. After all, life is made up of thousands of “small moments”.

CANVASS 44: BAMA Oil Painting by Ragamuffin Arts’ Oneil Maitland

“BAMA” Oil Painting: 16 x 20

“This piece is inspired by the masking or make-up of politics. To always show a person of leadership joyous and heroic is unrealistic. I aim to show a man leading a nation divided by various ideologies. The intense color of the background makes the lone president monumental as is his responsibility.”

~ Oneil Maitland of Ragamuffin Arts

Proceeds from the sale of “BAMA” will benefit Organizing for America and Africa-Diaspora Partnership For Empowerment & Development Inc (ADPED).  The ADPED is a not-for profit organization with membership from people of all nationalities, creed, and gender, who are bound together by a strong commitment to empowering people of Africa and the Diaspora to achieve community-led, self-reliant, sustainable livelihood and development.

Please contact the artist, Oneil Maitland at ragamuffin.arts(at)gmail.com for inquiries regarding “BAMA.”

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Oneil Maitland is a Caribbean American artist and animator whose work feature a versatile approach with communicating the traditional aspects of fine arts with an urban contemporary allure. Maitland attended the New World School of the Arts majoring in drawing/painting and electronic media. His art style is bold, intense,and vibrant but yet leaves room for sensitivity to what must come next… life. The content of the artist’s work ranges from social, political and cultural identity.

CANVASS 44: Wet Paint by Andre Woolery : The Canvas is Not Yet Dry : 44th and 1st

Wet Paint by Andre Woolery

“Wet Paint”

“Some choices we live not only once but a thousand times over,
remembering them for the rest of our lives.”

~ Richard Bach

“The Obama presidency means many different things to many different people,
but it will not be capable of a complete evaluation until many decades later.
Despite varying opinions the numbers will always ring true: 44th and 1st.”

~ Andre Woolery

Since 2008, many of us voted for then Senator Obama and have continued to support the President as he makes many difficult decisions on our behalf. And others, well, while we engage and respectfully debate the chronic nay-sayers, CANVASS 44 is not about that, but about celebrating and supporting President Obama.

The writing is not yet on the wall as for how the President has performed in his first term. But over 9,000 thumbtacks are on a canvas, thanks to Andre Woolery. Over 9,000 decisions to tell a story of inspiration and determination that is not unique to the subject, nor the artist, but representative of all of us who work hard, in short, to pursue happiness.

If we all had a cumulative record of the result of the many decisions we made each day, what would it look like? “Wet Paint” captures the warmth and humility of the most powerful man in the world. You can’t fake that.

For those in New York during February 23rd and March 1st, Andre will be exhibiting “Wet Paint” with his other works at Frontrunner Gallery.

The title of Andre’s solo exhibit, “Bruised Thumbs.” :0)
ABOUT THE ARTIST

Born in Jamaica and raised in New Jersey, Andre Woolery creates art that is accessible and reflective of his journey. His work was recently profiled in Black Enterprise and Complex Magazine. Read his full story at www.andrewooleryart.com and follow him on twitter, @undre2g.

CANVASS 44: Excerpts from an “INSIDE LOOK: Grey Williamson and the Making of the Renegade Obama Bust”

CARBON-FIBRE MEDIA (CFM): WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO A BUST OF PRESIDENT OBAMA?

GREY WILLIAMSON: After Barack Obama became President, it started. I watched as an unprecedented attempt at dehumanization took place with no respect for the man or the office that he held. I had seen these types of attacks before… I knew what they felt like.

History revealed that neither Malcolm X nor MLK had aspirations toward fame and fortune. Neither actively sought personal recognition. But when faced with extreme adversity they were forced to make choices of character.

It’s then that their greatness expressed itself. It was then that their true selves were revealed… and the hero emerged.

Seeing President Obama under monstrous but familiar assault, I respected the power of the moment and decided to bear witness to it…

I was struck by the strength he displayed, maintaining his character in the face of hate. I wanted to communicate how I was affected by that strength and the intensity of focus… I felt like he was fighting my fight… carrying my weight. So, I wanted to give something in return. The best that I have is my art…

Artwork becomes a part of history. Because of my ability and the uniqueness of my perspective, I couldn’t wait for someone else to capture what was happening at this time. I wanted to do my part.

Ogi Gogi Bot Ogi Gogi Bot

CFM: HOW DID YOU SETTLE ON THIS DESIGN… HIS EXPRESSION… HIS POSTURE…?

GREY: I wanted to portray the inner qualities of the man. I asked myself how does his wife see him, because she married him… how does a wife want to see her husband. I tried to stay true to that.

I selected the posture of a boxer because he is currently engaged in the fight of his life. His pose is reminiscent of the fighting style of Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather or someone like that.

Aim High Bot

CFM: SOME MIGHT SAY “RENEGADE” IS AN APPROPRIATE NAME FOR THE BUST SINCE PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS BROUGHT “UNWANTED” CHANGE TO AMERICA. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

GREY: I would say that change here more represents growth and progress. I don’t believe that people, in general, object to that, they just don’t want the pain often associated with it. Although I am not responsible for that moniker being placed on him, I chose it for the bust for what it could mean as a statement against the conventional thinking of the “old guard” who still believe that extreme separation between the classes still serves them.

I believe that the Obama presidency represents a paradigm shift, a “change” in perception… the effects of which will be felt beyond our lifetimes.

Read the full interview on Carbon-Fibre Media’s blog, The Ethyr.

Additional pictures of the Renegade Obama bust can be viewed on Carbon-Fibre Media’s showcase.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Grey Williamson has worked as a writer, artist and designer for almost every major comic publisher in the comic industry. He formed Carbon-Fibre Media as a home for his entertainment properties and productions.

Kilroy III makes his professional debut at Carbon-Fibre Media with his work on the Apollo, Val-Mar and Renegade busts. He has multiple projects under development that can be viewed on his blog, Kilroy’s Attic.