The Connection between Man and Beast: An Interview with Reign the Artist
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
The artist community has endured multiple barriers to express ourselves in the midst of a pandemic given that world as we know it is consistently altering depending on the state of the virus. Personally I am over the virus but also thankful for the time it has granted me to learn about myself as a woman. As we continue to enter into unprecedented times I had the pleasure of interviewing Reign Morton also known as Reign the Artist who has become a close friend of mine, shortly after a shoot we had collaborated on to execute his vision of “The Connection between Man and Beast”. We met at Hot and Cool Cafe which is a well known coffee shop in one of the black Meccas in Los Angeles. Leimert Park has a special place in my heart. I plan to highlight Leimert Park in the near future on this blog but I want to go over my archives first. I have done a lot of shoots within the past two years that I am sitting on.
As I approached the outdoor seating in front of the cafe he greeted me with a smile and air hug given that we were advised to socially distance, safety first as the saying goes. I was introduced to his dog Asha Moon, an adorable mixed pit bull, and he proceeded to tell me about how loving she is despite being an animal that unfortunately most people would fear. Incidentally his comment was in alignment with the shoot and the questions I had prepared to ask him about that day and also his bold declaration I had captured on Juneteenth. He sat across from me in a regal manner with his locs adorned by scarf, a Sankofa necklace, and yellow jimi hendrix style shades as he began to explain his inspiration for the concept. After chatting over some coffee and our personal beliefs around coronavirus we dove into what “The Connection between Man and Beast” represented for him.
What compelled you to get on the horse at Leimert on Juneteenth ?
“Prior to the shoot it was the relationship that I felt between me and that beast in the midst of all this going on such as people moving, talking, and flowing there was this animal. I wasn’t thinking too much of it. I had seen a man walking the horse around, but I remember also seeing the fear in people's eyes, and I saw all these black people amazed, you know how kids want to run up and touch something but their momma slaps their hands away. And I saw the dialogue between these people who didn’t go to nature but yet it was brought to them so it’s different because the reaction was in their eyes as if they were beguiled and amazed by it but also had fear. I felt like dealing with that in the moment within myself so I got on it and I guess there was a connection that sparked in them seeing something in me while also me seeing something within myself, and the horse being of a subliminal message that ‘alright this is nothing to be afraid of.’ I think we get to explore more when we can constantly do that for ourselves, and it doesn’t have to be on a big forum where you meet people or show them but it’s a casual conversation amongst yourself about what is your relationship with fear and that energy. We always talk about love and hate but what is your relationship with fear and how has it pulled you back and stopped you from life. And even with black people and our own blackness by saying ‘Oh I’ve only seen caucasians people do stuff like; that’s for caucasian people when it’s not.’ They have operated and sewed it back to you so that you can believe it originated from a European state of mind but yet again it’s not. Being in that state of mind, I had sat up there with a coat I had made the night before and that coat allowed me to say something without having to say anything. I didn’t have the words to put together because I was heavy hearted but I wanted to be around people. So when I got on the horse I noticed peoples faces especially the children, go from fear and hesitance to awe , pride, and then finally strength. I saw the switch because I was nervous myself, but I felt also safe and I wanted to show the people that were afraid earlier that fear doesn’t belong here. You can respect this animal and have admiration but fear doesn’t have to be part of this scenario."
What did your coat say and why did you choose that specific message?
‘ The original I can’t breathe’ and it had the date of when slaves were emancipated. So I basically wanted to show the evolution of I can’t breathe and how it started. When were we first put into a situation where we had to struggle for the very thing we had the right to have access to which is oxygen and your breathing.
For the photoshoot “The Connection between Man and Beast” you had complete creative direction, Why did you choose this concept?
We are strong people but we also have an immense amount of impact when it comes to things that we are afraid of as a culture. Do you remember when your grandma would tell you “don't do this or that because I am afraid of..” everything that she told you not to do possibly came from an element of fear that she had about it and we pass our fear on for generations. It’s similar to the stereotype that black people don’t know how to swim when in reality the way that we were brought here we were given negative cognition about the ocean and how to escape from freedom, how it would mean death thus we developed a fear of water and swimming. We see caucasians having this interaction with wild animals in nature and being chastised about it when in reality that’s where we get most of our energy from because our heritage is being connected with the source energy. We have almost been tricked into clowning the very thing that gives us life and I felt connected with that animal, the majestic beast or known as a stallion. It was subconsciously showing me as a black man dealing with my fear and actually doing it with a woman of color. While also showing the triangle connection between the things that make us afraid of each other and really connect with each other, those are the very things that will make us flourish just like with nature. And so symbolically not to compare myself to a horse but there is a certain type of domestication or reconnection in order for me to be able to relate with a queen, there is parts of me that I have learn being in this westernize culture being told otherwise that I have to escape in order to reconnect with that love centered space with my female counterpart. So all of that was going on in my mind, and even being on the horse with her at the same time I felt the fear in her which made me have to tap into something deeper within myself in order to keep her calm and safe while also letting the horse know that I am in control right now, but I respect your strength and power, and need you to support us. It’s about the subtext of conversation that we have with ourselves, counterparts, lovers, and coworkers and with nature which ultimately is God. Going to nature is like going to God and the more we ex that out our life is feeding into the ego of man. That's what I felt like I was doing.
As a community we seem to fear the unknown or place stereotypes on things we have curiosity in. I want to help shift that narrative by using my visual art to not only showcase black people doing fun elaborate things but inspire the youth and community to step outside of their comfort zones. There is growth in being uncomfortable.
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