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Chandra Brooks

Chandra Brooks photographed by Monika Stepak
Chandra Brooks photographed by Monika Stepak

The Greater the darkness, the brighter is the potential for light.      

I’m from the Midwestern city of Town & Country, Missouri.  Per capita, Town & Country was said to have had the second wealthiest population in the USA when I was coming up.  Ironically, this wealth never directly favored me.    Nor did the intelligent behavior I later learned to be associated with the educational standards afforded the wealthy.  My family was poor.  My parents were car assemblers at the Chrysler plant which meant they were often laid off or on strike.  I grew up in Winchester, Missouri which should be as infamous as Ferguson now is, but because the racism I was baptized in took place before the bright lights of the internet, my suffering went unnoticed.  Growing up as “the Black family” in Winchester taught me the process of consciously dissociating from myself in order to see who I am in the context of my surroundings.  My mind and body were regularly abused and treated maliciously by: the other children which sadly included Black kids from the city being bussed for desegregation purposes.  At an early age, I began making dissociating during beatings a special “trick” of mine.  First, I tried making my stomach into a trampoline when the other kids held me for another to attack.  I’d imagine the assailant bouncing up to the jungle gym.  That didn’t last for long so I had to send the child further away, into another universe.  In my head, I’d see the culprit’s mother come get them from school and leave upset that her child had been seen flying off to another planet.  Depending on the length of the beating, I’d even event the world of dangerous trees and all the trials the child would experience before coming back to earth.  Later, I switched places and left my body to watch what was happening.  I further developed this technique at church where my curious and questioning nature often had me ridiculed and condemned for what some ignorantly or hatefully considered Satanic reasoning.  Like everything, there are numerous ways of interpreting the consequences of disassociation.  On the one hand, it can develop into a psychological disorder which sits hand in hand with some of the most intense personality disorders.  On the other, even if the disorder develops into a clinical manifestation, that person still has the ability and opportunity to use these experiences for more than individual scars.  That’s how I like to look at things.  What I’ve found is that being born physically weak and prone towards illnesses with fatal potential made me develop my mind because my body wasn’t always cooperative.  My mind is even more sensitive and susceptible than my body, but it contains the gift of an unbendable determination and hope eternal.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve used disassociation as a vehicle for understanding where other people are coming from.  I was sad for the child’s mother when I sent her kid to other planets, so I brought them back.  I was sad for the child because they walked home alone to an empty house where no one waited for them.  They’d have been even lonelier on another planet.  Being able to step outside of my shoes and into yours has been the greatest gift I’ve received from racism.  The greatest gift of being a sickly child who was bullied and maliciously attacked in the crevices where teachers probing eyes failed to reach, was that it made it preferable to spend recess in the library where I was safe amongst the shelves of written dreams and imaginings.

I’m not mathematical in the usual way although I use my understanding of fractal geometry – as applied to sacred texts such as: illuminated manuscripts and holy books in my work.  This understanding developed out of a love of Fibonnaci’s Golden Section Geometry which came from my childhood obsession with DaVinci, The Masters and “sacred geometry”.  Because of how these affected me visually and emotionally I decided it was best to create work that was aesthetically pleasing and emotionally engaging.  I work with handcraft where the inconsistencies and organic variables counterbalance the mathematics of reason through a tactile visual rhythm.  My themes are the visualization behind the stories of identity, translation and cultural assimilation.  My point of departure is the vernacular created through world heritage as seen in: folklore, mythology, and universal religious beliefs.  My creative process is based on workshop and salon practices because I like the “old” ways and believe they never truly die: the Middle Ages become a Renaissance, with Arts & Crafts & The Bauhaus for other eras.  Look at a WordPress layout and you will see our version of an illuminated manuscript pieced together by digital workshop processes, produced by multiple hands.