Small Press Traffic

a semicolon with a green bottom and a yellow top, made to look like a dandelion.

whistling t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶v̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶g̶a̶r̶d̶e̶

"Time is the Act of Looking Back" by Brian Kwon

Curated by Mimi Tempestt

with Thad Higa, Mihee Kim, Brian Kwon, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta, Lyn Patterson, Crismerly Santibañez + Alexandra Velasco

May 13-June 2, 2023

“One reason for making and exhibiting a work is to induce a reaction or change in the viewer…in this sense, the work as such is nonexistent except when it functions as a medium between the artist and viewer.” –Adrian Piper

Small Press Traffic and Mimi Tempestt present whistling t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶v̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶g̶a̶r̶d̶e̶, an exhibition showcasing eight poets of color who engage in visual art, performance, and multimedia practices. 

Each artist maintains unique and experimental practices while critiquing the ways the avant garde has been historically gatekept and whitewashed. This exhibition challenges conventions, explores identity across racial and ethnic diasporas, and experiments with artistic forms through a non-white, decolonial lens.

Curator Statement:

“My intention for curating this show is to highlight the powerful works of local artists and facilitate community engagement through a radically human lens. My vision is to expand on the conversations of identity, diaspora, and solidarity through the medium of  ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶v̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶g̶a̶r̶d̶e̶ in art and poetry, and explore the ways on which these artists subvert and reclaim the notion of artistic and poetic experimentations. So often as artists of color, the notions of experimentation and  ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶v̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶g̶a̶r̶d̶e̶ get taken away from possible renderings and interpretations of our art, but by highlighting these artists, our communities can experience firsthand how artists of color are at the forefront of exploring everyday subjects in nuanced and complex ways. Presenting this showcase allows the artists to reflect on a myriad of feelings, intimacies, scenarios, complexities, contradictions, and conditions of their work to facilitate reflections about existing in the world." –Mimi Tempestt

Read Alan Chazaro's piece on KQED: Decolonized Poetry Takes Center Stage.

This program was made possible by the California Arts Council Impact Projects grant and We Are The Voices.

Mimi Tempestt

Mimi Tempestt (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and daughter of California. She has an MA in Literature from Mills College, and is currently a doctoral student in the Creative/Critical PhD in Literature at UC Santa Cruz. Her debut collection of poems, the monumental misrememberings, was published by Co-Conspirator Press in 2020. In 2021, she was selected for participation in the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices & writers, was a Creative Fellow at The Ruby in San Francisco, participated in last year’s well-regarded exhibition at SOMArts The Black Woman is God. Her second book, the delicacy of embracing spirals, is forthcoming with City Lights in 2023. Her works can be found in Foglifter, Interim Poetics, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Thad Higa

Thad Higa is a Korean-Okinawan American cultural worker, born 1989 on Ohlone Land, San Jose, California, and raised in Hawaiʻi. Thad received a BA in Creative Writing from Seattle University in 2011, worked as an unemployment adjudicator in 2020, and earned an MFA in Book Arts from Mills College in 2023. His work has been exhibited in the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum, Five Myles Gallery, Asian Arts Initiative, Knust Kunz Gallery, the Hawaiʻi 2022 Triennial, and most recently at the Murphy and Cadogan Art Award Show. 

Thad works with artists' books, concrete poetry, printmaking, collage, typography, graphic design and living rooms. He investigates the intersections of language, technology, capitalism, eurocentrism, and their roles in controlling perceptions of reality, value and legibility.
Mihee Kim

Mihee Kim is a writer, artist and intuitive practitioner. She works across disciplines and traditions, foraying between language, multi-modal collage, energy traditions and craft forms. Her poetry has been nominated for multiple Best of the Nets, a Pushcart Prize, and her manuscript was named a finalist for the Bergman Prize. Mihee is currently seeking publication for her 1st book of poetry, The Closing Petal at Night. She earned a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA at California College of the Arts. Mihee is the Managing Director of Kearny Street Workshop, a longstanding arts nonprofit for Asian Pacific Americans.
Brian Kwon

Brian Kwon is an artist, poet, and amateur mythographer. Born and raised in the Bay Area, his work draws from a well of illustrative tradition and candid ethnography to weave landscapes both epic and intricate. Each piece aims to expose the surreal parallels, the symbolic malleability of that which we all agree to call reality. He wants to create worlds that draw you in, waltz with you, then kick you back out into the world with a deeper understanding of this collective project of being.
Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta is an artist, poet, and sexual health educator from the lands of the Tongva people who now lives in Yelamu, Ramaytush Ohlone territory. They are the author of The Easy Body (Timeless Infinite Light, 2017) and La Movida (Nightboat Books, 2022). Their writing has appeared in Wolfman New Life Quarterly, The Anarchist Review of Books, SFMOMA Open Space, and the SFMOMA parking garage and has been translated into French and Spanish. Their expanded work has been shown and performed in places such as the Los Angeles River, punk houses, and microcinemas across Turtle Island.

Lyn Patterson

Lyn Patterson is a storyteller and book art MFA graduate, currently residing in Oakland, California. She is a deeply invigorated poet who is specifically inspired to make art which centers Black diaspora and those who have been historically marginalized in our society, as a means of empowering future generations with their stories. Her work has been published in Popshot Magazine and KQED. She is a 2022 Colleen Cavin Fellow and a 2022 Voodoonauts Fellow. Her visual/audio poetry have been featured at poetry events for the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn.
Crismerly (Cris) Santibañez

Crismerly (Cris) Santibañez is an Oakland-based artist from San Lucas, Michoacán who specializes in wardrobe styling. For Cris, styling goes beyond selling a product and fantasy, it’s a tool for healing and storytelling. Their practice is informed by their working-class background and heavily relies on thrifted pieces and the reworking of garments to fit taboo bodies.
Alexandra Velasco

Alexandra Velasco (b.1989) is an award-winning multimedia artist, performer and filmmaker from Mexico City.

Spanning performance, collage, painting, drawing, film and video - her work is a mix of surrealism and magical realism that emanates from her constant search of connecting our physical realm with our inner fantastical dream/nightmare reality. Focusing on the use of the relationship between the physical, the mystical and the metaphysical, Alexandra recontextualizes pop culture, mythological and religious iconography to explore the many facets of our mind-body, in order to create beautiful, yet at times discomforting, images. Her films are bold and avant-garde with Lynchian undertones dealing with themes of guilt, hope and redemption that jumpstart tough conversations.

Her art has screened and been exhibited at museums, galleries and festivals worldwide and been featured in Vogue, Elle, i-D magazine and IndieWire.

Alexandra is passionate about affordable and non-hierarchical art and film education and is part of the Advisory Committee at the School of the Alternative in North Carolina where she also leads an experimental film workshop.

Her destiny in life is to create art that acts as a mirror, and helps people believe in magic, to help them access their emotions, pay attention to their dreams, nightmares and inner workings of their minds.