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Nearness Interview: Tina Tona

Jul. 13, 2020
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Tina Tona’s artwork is colorful and intentional, featuring compositions as strong as the messages they transmit. Tina specializes in film photography and collage art but works in multiple mediums to highlight the nuances of Blackness and femininity. They utilize vintage photographs and magazines to create collages inspired by poems and historical events. Here, Tina talks to Nearness about spending more time with family, turning to artists like Solange for reassurance, and creating more compassion in the world.    

Nearness: How are you staying creative? 

Tina Tona: It was extremely hard for me to stay creative when the quarantine first started because I lacked motivation, but the more time has passed, the more I’ve been able to find inspiration and start feeling like a human again. I think watching the ways that other people have creatively adapted to this new life made it feel like it was possible for me too. I’ve also been stripped from so much that I’m used to, so in a time like this, my art has become one of my priorities. 

Nearness: What revelations or realizations have you had about yourself or your life during this time? 

Tina: Isolation has absolutely encouraged self-reflection for me. I was so used to always being on the move and having to get something done before all of this that the first week of staying inside, I didn’t necessarily know how to navigate the feeling of just being with my thoughts. Because of this, I’ve gained an interest in the practice of mindfulness, something I never tried to make time for prior to quarantine. I think I’m definitely going to come out of this stronger and more self-aware. 

Nearness: Tell us about art (books, movies, music, etc.) that you've discovered or revisited during this time.

Tina: I’ve been revisiting a lot of childhood classics. My sister and I watched ATL, Love Don’t Cost A Thing, and Roll Bounce over the last two weeks and that’s been a really fun [means] of escapism for us. My friends and I also regularly use Netflix Party to watch movies together. Sometimes we watch bad ones on purpose and that’s equally as entertaining and fun. I’ve started reading Art On My Mind by bell hooks as well. 

Nearness: Is there a particular favorite piece of work you like to reference during difficult moments, such as this one?

Tina: I think Solange’s album A Seat At The Table has always been something I turn to in the midst of any turbulent time. Regardless of the situation it always makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. Also, the song and music video for "stay sane" by pink siifu is incredibly therapeutic for me. 

Nearness: What's been inspiring you lately?

Tina: Something that’s been inspiring me is the way that people have been showing up the last few weeks for the Black people who have died at the hands of police brutality. I’ve noticed a rise in non-Black people taking initiative and re-educating themselves on the ways America has relied on and excused white supremacist practices. This has made me feel a lot more visible and feel a little less hopeless about the future of this country. In addition, Black art has always and will always be an inspiring force for me, regardless of the circumstances.

Nearness: What are some silver linings that you've encountered during this time?

Tina: I’ve picked up a couple of new habits. I started doing yoga. I learned how to make cold brew and have been making myself some fire iced coffee the last two weeks. I also barely used to cook and since quarantine I’ve experimented with a couple of vegan recipes for my family. I’ve just enjoyed hanging out with my family more.

Nearness: What routines have kept you grounded?

Tina: Creating has absolutely kept me grounded. Even though it’s a source of escapism for me, it reminds me that I’m still able to do things that make me feel like myself. 

Nearness: What changes do you hope are in store for the post-quarantine world?

Tina: I can’t even imagine what it’s going to look like, but I hope we’re all more sensitive toward one another. I hope healthcare becomes more accessible after this, that celebrity culture ultimately dies, and that there's a significant amount of reform in regards to the way the system treats Black people. 

This interview is part of a series of conversations with artists discussing their experiences during quarantine. 

Interview by Victoria Campa. Artwork by Tina Tona.

This was published under Adolescent's collaboration with Nearness Project. Check them out here.