MoMA Mixtape: Can a Trip to the Museum Be Miraculous?
Film and culture critic Zeba Blay finds delightful pleasures in an emotional journey through MoMA’s galleries.
Jul 17, 2023
Delight. The feeling came up over and over again during my recent visit to MoMA. There’s something to be said for how wild it is, maybe even miraculous, to walk into a building filled with inspiration from the minds and hearts of people who lived and died hundreds of years before you. It was such a cozy feeling to walk among the art, to take in work that moved, provoked, and even at times perplexed me, and to contemplate my place in it all. I hope this playlist captures that spirit of delight and introspection, finding the threads that connect one experience to the next.
Zeba Blay with Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair
Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair + Tyler, The Creator’s “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”
Let’s open with my bae (respectfully) Frida Kahlo. There is an intimacy to her work that has always felt like a caress or a whispered secret. Kahlo was a master at creating images that captivate and entice, images of high drama and subversion, images that alchemized vulnerability into power. That’s how I would describe Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, a painting that to me is all about self-fashioning and defiance. Above the portrait (painted around the time of her tumultuous divorce from Diego Rivera), the lyrics from a popular Mexican song read, “*Mira que si te quise, fué por el pelo / Ahora que estás pelona, ya no te quiero.*” Which means, “See, if I loved you, it was for your hair / Now that you’re bald, I don’t love you anymore.” Tyler, The Creator’s “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” in addition to repeating the same declaration, has a similar defiance and implicit tenderness.
Zeba Blay at MoMA, 2023
Stills from Oscar Micheaux. Ten Minutes to Live. 1932
Oscar Micheaux’s Ten Minutes to Live + Marlena Shaw’s “Where Can I Go?”
This excerpt from Oscar Micheaux’s 1932 film Ten Minutes to Live (you can watch it online, and you should) follows the hero, Letha (played by Willor Lee Guilford), trying to get out of town after learning that a mysterious figure is set on killing her. There’s tension and drama in this sequence that is about more than just a killer on the loose—it’s about something more ancient and intrinsic to the Black experience. It echoes the tension and drama in Marlena Shaw’s “Where Can I Go?,” which to me is about home, safety, and, most of all, freedom.
Zeba Blay is a culture and film critic born in Ghana and based in New York City. Formerly a senior culture writer at HuffPost, her work has also appeared in Allure, Film Comment, ESSENCE, the New York Times, the Village Voice, and the Webby Award–winning MTV digital series Decoded. In 2013 she coined the hashtag #CarefreeBlackGirl on Twitter, and in 2021 she published her debut book of pop-culture essays, Carefree Black Girls.
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