Tag Archives: kingCARLA

That Moment When Artists Snap

by Carla Aaron-Lopez

Carla writes about the experience of being an emerging artist. Her previous posts are: Notes from kingCARLA, Notes from kingCARLA 2, Notes from kingCARLA 3.

Kevin Bongang, Mural in Edgewood neighborhood, Atlanta

Kevin Bongang, Mural in Edgewood neighborhood, Atlanta

“Kevin just snapped,” said Corey. And he did.

One year, his drawings looked a certain way and the next year they were on another level. They took on their own whimsical nature unlike the controlled squiggles that Kevin was known for drawing. His color palette no longer looked like someone studying color but of a man that had created his own world and the colors informed the mood of the characters that inhabited this make-believe space. I was blown away by someone that I felt had potential but wasn’t sure where he was going with all that. Half of the time I don’t even know where I’m going.

I had this conversation about Kevin with Corey, an artist friend of mine, a few years ago before I left Atlanta. Corey is another person that also snapped when it came to his art. It is his series of female portraits that are just striking. At the time, I didn’t really understand the ramifications of Corey’s statement about Kevin or what it meant to truly snap artistically. Years later on a spontaneous trip back to Atlanta, I saw one of Kevin’s newest public art murals and began to understand the power of snapping as an artist.

As much as I’ve studied art, there is a legit moment when the artist snaps. The work changes and evolves to an actual visual statement versus a singular creative object. Hobbyists make creative objects. Artists make visual statements that force viewers to think and see the world differently . As cliched as it is to use Picasso as an example, he snapped the day he walked into a museum, saw some African masks and changed the direction of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. That same painting changed the entire direction and nature of modern art in the late 20th century. Picasso makes art history and we all know the rest of the story from there.

What went through his head the moment he saw those masks? We can speculate but we weren’t there nor can we go back in time to have a Being John Malkovich moment and crawl into his mind to see what he really thought.

We just know that it was at that moment, he snapped.

Honestly, I’m waiting for my moment to snap. I’m in awe and envy of my friends that have had their moment. I want to evolve but I have let fear get in the way. Fear of not making something mind-numbingly great. Fear of not hitting the black intellectual nail on the head. Fear of getting fired for making super controversial feminist (yes, I’ve finally admitted that I am a feminist) work because I’m a middle school art teacher and the list goes on. It’s these types of fears that keep me from progressing the way I would like to as an artist and I don’t know when or how I’m going to get rid of them. I’m on the side of my proverbial mountaintop but scared to continue.

Eventually, I’m going to snap too. Or just be stuck in waiting until I quit making art.

I look up to many artists that have all had that moment somewhere in their career. Sadly, majority of them are men due to the art world’s lack of compassion for all women artists. Even more sadly is that if those same women artists have never had children and it wasn’t because of a biological reason (see Frida Kahlo), I lack total respect for them. My life doesn’t align with theirs. They will never understand the beauty and harsh reality of motherhood. They will never understand the intense paranoia of doing something that could possibly take food off your table and clothes off your child’s back. Face the facts, I live in the South and Southerners don’t do controversy very well. That’s a reality for me while others can get away with it. I stand in the wings of life’s grand stage secretly applauding their controversial actions.

I’ve lacked in producing any work this past year because I’ve finally achieved the goal of getting my career as an educator and financial life together. Not only have I been concerned with making my art but seriously, how was I going to pay for this? How were supplies going to get into my home? These priorities force me to think and see art differently. Encounter new ways of executing old ideas. Boldly steal concepts from my favorite artists and force them into my fold. I figured out a long time ago that if I wanted to make the bold, controversial art, I needed for it to be large, attention-getting and everything that I feel I cannot be in public.

I want the work to be disgusting and unladylike. I want to do it under a pen name of a white man and totally fuck with the perception of gender and power because why not? White men rule the art world. I want the work to have everything that you hate in it. Pictures of outer space and shit. Big, fat ass strippers because why not? Throw in little nods to slavery and the black experience here and there because black and white people love that shit.

Maybe I have snapped and I don’t know it yet.

Maybe I’m fantasizing again.

Or maybe I’m bored and unchallenged because I am a middle school art teacher who spends nothing but time sharpening my foundational sword.

There’s only so much I can do right now in this moment.

–    Ms. Lopez


Carla Aaron-Lopez photoArtist: Carla Aaron-Lopez

Instagram: @iamkingcarla

Twitter: @teachkingcarla


Notes from kingCARLA 3


In Post-Partum Document, artist Mary Kelly explores the mother-child relationship.

In Post-Partum Document, artist Mary Kelly explores the mother-child relationship.


By Carla Aaron-Lopez

kingCARLA  writes about the experience of being an emerging artist. Her previous posts are  Notes from kingCARLA and Notes from kingCARLA 2.

Last time I was in this space, I was complaining commenting about being an emerging artist. I made statements about getting over rejection and pushing to make more work instead of being such a procrastinator. I’m still a procrastinator actually but soon after, I began working two jobs and my tune has changed a bit transforming into something else. At this point, I’ve joined the American workforce as a middle school art educator while I work the retail slave ship on the weekends slinging slacks to 40-year old men that wish to look younger. It’s a heavy load to work seven days a week constantly but I’ve got a child that needs stability. I’m a parent, yo. An artist and a parent. Add in the fact that I’m a woman and you’ve got a black unicorn on your hands.

And how is this possible, you say?

Like this.

Art is my life but my son is bigger than art. Sometimes, art has to be put on the backburner staying warm for him to have a home to live in, proper clothes to wear and yummy food to eat. I’m not breaking up with art. I just have to take long pauses here and there. Recently, I came across an article that I actually agreed with on Hyperallergic. It was a weekend long-read titled The Problem of the Overlooked Female Artist: An Argument for Enlivening a Stale Model of Discussion written by Ashton Cooper. Hell of a title. I commend Cooper or the copyeditor for thinking of that.

I became enlivened by her perspective on the redundant language used to talk about women artists. Cooper sourced numerous articles released about women artists throughout 2014 in which the language used to speak about them was either truly stale and unimaginative or spoke about a woman artist in a rediscovered fashion as if she was a fly on the wall during big historical moments in art but really she was an active and vocal artist the entire time the big historical moment in art was going down. Check out this excerpt from the article about Phyllida Barlow in which the author quoted an article from The Guardian circa March 2014:

She’s taught everyone from Martin Creed to Rachel Whiteread, but it’s only now, at 70, that Barlow is getting her dues as an artist.

Barlow, who turns 70 this week, has spent her adult life making sculpture, enjoying her greatest success by far over the last 10 years.

She went on to the Slade until 1966, and then began teaching, and having children; she and Peake have five in all. […] In those days, she was working in total isolation.

The part I highlighted in bold stood out quite strong to me. Especially the part that says she was working in total isolation. I guess when you have five children, everything is all about your children. Hell, I only have one! My guess is that art never went onto the backburner for Barlow as it has for me but I know it wasn’t always on the forefront either with her being a teacher and a wife. My other guesses include that she was never in isolation with five children and she eventually had to learn how to become an effective teacher. I may not know much about Barlow but I can relate to her story if those are the only tidbits I ever learn about her.

The article comes to an apex while speaking about Barbara Hepworth, her married life and her cavorting with the international art world and comes to close with fascinating information around Judy Chicago, Isa Genzken and Sarah Charlesworth’s careers with some strong questions: What was she doing then? Where was she showing? Who was she in community with? How did her practice change? What forces of exclusion did she face?”

I don’t know. The information just isn’t there. What I do know is that if reality showed up at any of these women’s doors looking like maternity then it is my hopes they assumed their new roles as mother to a child (or more) and truly began a new adventure, chapter, section of their lives. We already know the art world is notoriously white, male and sexist as well as racist. We also already know that many people believe that when a woman gets pregnant, her life is automatically over. That’s not necessarily true. If the lives of the women outlined in this article were over I think we wouldn’t be talking about them. There wouldn’t be a Tate retrospective on Barlow or MoMA’s current exhibition on Sturtevant (who’s completely new to me).

In essence, I believe they sharpened their metaphorical swords in the hours after the children went to bed or over to grandma and grandpa’s house for the weekend because that’s the only time I get to do anything regarding art. Everything becomes a juggling act that you just work out over time. I hope to make work as profound as these women but I don’t want to be 70 years old to get my recognition for it. That’s that bullshit if I have spent a lifetime possibly struggling to support my family on teacher pay. I’d rather take the recognition money now and create a trust fund for my son because that’s my reality in addition to art.

Too bad I wasn’t born with a dick because I wouldn’t have the ability to give birth and be weighed down with the overwhelming responsibilities of having child. Everything always falls on the mother whether a father is or isn’t present. While I care so much about art, I’ve learned that the art world doesn’t care about my child. Making the decision to sacrifice my love for art is constantly on and off the table. Every moment becomes a moment to create or think about art differently. I’m constantly sharpening my metaphorical sword as an art teacher to a group of students who could honestly give a fuck about art in the first place.

It’s hard out here for a pimp!

Based on that article and these words I’ve written, I guess I’ve got to pimp harder.


Artist: Carla Aaron-Lopez 

woke up with my horns on. fell in love with a cadillac. born/raised in charlotte, nc. baptized in the dirty south also known as atlanta.


Notes from kingCARLA 2

By Carla Aaron-Lopez

kingCARLA  writes about the experience of being an emerging artist. Her first post was Notes from kingCARLA.

carla aaron-lopez 1

Ever heard the saying: You get a lot of NO’s before you get to YES?

I hate it. Drives me insane. Especially when I get turned down for exhibitions when I know my shit is tight. But alas, life moves on… because it has to. Doesn’t it?

Recently, I introduced myself to Charlotte, NC to a small crowd of people that I knew and people that I didn’t know. I’m quite into creating my version of Southern culture therefore I served everyone cherry moonshine. By the end of the night, people were happily drunk and into the works that I put on the wall. Now that that night is over, I find myself back in the mundane motions of an everyday routine. And today in email form about a juried exhibition in DC, I received my last no. Like, seriously folks, the shit is really beginning to piss me off so bad that I don’t know what my next move is but when I get there I’ll let you know what I did.

carla aaron-lopez 2As an emerging artist that is trying to take my professional life seriously, I’m working through these issues all artists have. Some of us will be able to get over them. Sadly, most do not. If I continue to have a temper tantrum or fall into depression every time I get a no then I’m not really living my artist life to the fullest. Therefore, when things like this show up… I review my resume.


Because I can remind myself of all the work I’ve put in over the past 10 years as an artist and to see where I would like to be for the next 10 years. Life steadily evolves without our permission. If I spend all my time concentrating on the bad/negative/upsetting parts I will miss my opportunity to shine. And that moment is coming up soon in the form of a panel discussion at Georgia State University on blackness as aesthetics. Bruh. I know that shit so well for the weird negros, white folks and people of color in America. I’ve chosen that event at this moment to be that professional artist I see myself as when no one is around. That campy motherfucker with a Southern twang dropping sweetly ignorant yet highly intelligent verbals from her mouth. A modern day Zora Neale Hurston.

My fantasies. They’re huge. Tengo grandes cojones… metaphorically speaking.

Back to the resume review.

In order to play the character I’ve created, I need to review what I’ve done and what it means to me. I think that from there I’ll be able to have a stronger basis for my aspirations as an artist and begin boiling down who my audience is. And I know my audience is small. I believe them to be a perverse group of humans that are rather bored with mediocrity and normalcy of American culture. They hate what’s perfect and enjoy the seedy underbelly of popular culture. It’s dangerous grounds to lurk in those spaces but to an outcast (or marginalized person) it is home and peaceful. For years, I’ve created works that attract this group of people. That is, within reason because the rabbit hole of human oddities runs very deep and very scary. I’m fascinated by the relationship of what’s considered normal in societies and what’s marginalized in terms of the human experience.

carla aaron-lopezMaybe that’s why I get so many no’s. I’m black woman but don’t really care to produce works again and again on the gaze/masculinity of white and black men. I’d rather empower a bitch and keep it moving but don’t call me a fucking feminist. And because I’m black, I’m bored with the constantly reproduced slave narratives. The content needs to be really fucking fascinating or else I forget about it. I know my history very well therefore I seek to produce works that challenge the new contemporary ways in which racial/sexual contracts are upheld in American culture. Now, that shit can go somewhere over hill and into outer space. Maybe I need to be a male artist.

Maybe then I’ll get noticed.

Nope. Fuck that.

I know my day will come when I stop getting Wangechi Mutu references. Until then, fuck these no’s. I’ve got more exhibitions to apply to, a new body of work to establish, a panel discussion to prepare for and a baby boy to raise in America.

I ain’t got the time to be in my feelings over a damn no.

And neither should you.


kingCARLA with friend Solomon at "Who is King Carla?"

kingCARLA with friend Solomon at “Who is King Carla?”


Artist: Carla Aaron-Lopez 

woke up with my horns on. fell in love with a cadillac. born/raised in charlotte, nc. baptized in the dirty south also known as atlanta.



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