WHOLE LIFE: Acacia Rodriguez’s “Let the Earth Proclaim the Work of Her Hands” re-examines the meaning of self-care at Spa Rhed. (Photos/Nicholas Hernandez)

BROOKLYN — Vibrant colors depicting flowers, leaves and Black women stretch across three storefront windows in Clinton Hill as Acacia Rodriguez installs the finishing pieces on “Let the Earth Proclaim the Work of Her Hands.”

The artwork framing the edges of Spa Rhed’s windows, part of Black ArtStory Month in north Brooklyn, attempts to reimagine salon spaces as places for spiritual journeys of restoration, peace and solace. 

Her vision creates a landscape where Black women bask in the beauty they create through self-love, rest and care. 

“I wanted there to be space for other people to see themselves,” said Rodriguez, an artist and designer who describes herself as a “Queer Nonbinary Femme Dudebro.” 

“I think it’s a great honor for Myrtle Avenue to fund like Black artists and Black futures and specifically queer Black futures.”

The 10th anniversary edition of the social justice art festival, which coincides with Black History Month, showcases work celebrating Black women’s achievements and roles in society. 

Black ArtStory Month has put murals on display in eight storefronts on Myrtle in the 13 blocks stretching from Carlton to Classon avenues. Created by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, the event spotlights the Black artistic and creative legacy of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. 

Last year, the event focused on love as a power for healing, unity and liberation. This year’s theme, “Democracy’s Body: An Ode to Black Womxn: The Position & Voice of American Democracy,” produced by curator Bre’Lynn Lombard, highlights Black women challenging and reconstructing democracy.

Lombard, founder of UnJaded Curations, which creates pop-up experiences rooted in the Black radical imagination and collective healing, said she hopes the artwork will reframe how Black women’s accomplishments and presence in society are viewed. 

“I want people to come to Black ArtStory Month…with a mind that is so open and so ready to be challenged and pushed that you are ready to create what should exist,” she  said.

“I started UnJaded Curations because there was a lack of people who looked like me in curating,” said Lombard, a former history teacher in Brooklyn. “I realized how important it was to tell stories and how important it was to have visual representations of people and what these representations do to us and for us.”

MZ Icar, an art company founded in Brooklyn that is participating in Black ArtStory Month, reimagines the foundations of equity, perspective and legacy in the geometric shapes of “In Us We Trust,” which is installed at Peck’s Food near Washington Avenue. 

The triangular pieces represent the balance of intersectionality between people, voice and presence in environmental democracy. The piece’s floral images and greenery, according to the collective, represent the value of land and power from generation to generation

MZ Icar consists of anonymous artists as “a way to be fearless. It’s a way to also move through with a clear separation that these are works,” one artist said in an interview. 

“We exist in a society that just is not centric to our needs and our views,” she said, noting that the group is mostly comprised of Black women. “It doesn’t even really acknowledge our contributions or our role that we’ve played in history.”

The ultimate goal of the collective, the artist said, is “to shift a paradigm and present another story, present another option for the future, another option and avenue for the way that we can move forward.”

Theodore Peck, owner of the café, said he is excited to participate again this year in Black ArtStory Month. 

“The window represents something that people are feeling,” Peck said. “I see it as a wall for the artists to express themselves.”

Tanasha Oakley’s “Skookum” showcases the potential of Black women as catalysts for societal change.

Tanasha Oakley, a full-time traveling artist whose piece “Skookum” is on display at Green in BKLN near Clinton Avenue, said this event is the first time she has created art that is available to so many viewers. 

“A tenth anniversary—and still coming behind a lot of the artists that have done it before me and seeing what they have contributed—only inspires me to keep up the good work and really produce something that I’m proud of,” said Oakley, who also works as Sphynxx Deity

As a Black female artist, Oakley said she hopes to spark awareness about Black culture for the community, especially for Black youth.  “Skookum” depicts an elegantly dressed woman smoking a cigarette as a fire engulfs a building. The artwork, as described on an accompanying label, portrays the subject as a possible catalyst to the deconstruction of the massive structures. 

“Even if a young girl doesn’t really understand why there needs to be a platform like Black Girls Rock or Black girl magic, [the artwork] definitely starts that awareness,” Oakley said.

Amanda Ocasio’s “Reclaim and Renew” focuses on the influential Black female artists Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill.

Like Oakley, Amanda Ocasio, a small art-business owner and artist from Bushwick who produces work under the name Sona, said she has never had an opportunity like this before: “It’s meaningful to me to be in my own neighborhood and make art that is this powerful…and giving back to the community.”

Ocasio’s “Reclaim and Renew” focuses on the musical artists Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill. She said her piece, on view at the Shic by Soketah salon near Classon Avenue, calls attention to the power of sonic artistry as a utility of individual freedoms. The portraits fill the window space and incorporate Hill and Holiday’s zodiac signs of fire and air. 

Ocasio hopes the mural will inspire people to research and learn more about the performers’ impacts. 

“The neighborhood needs more stuff like this to happen,” she said. “And it’s great that it is happening because it brings people together.”

Black ArtStory Month murals will be displayed at Green in Bklyn, Peck’s Food, Local’s Food Market, Soco, Salon 718, Spa Rhed, Shic By Soketah and Pratt Institute’s Film and Video Department building throughout February.