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April 18, 1972 |
Town & Country, Missouri, United States
Chandra Brooks (born 1972) is a contemporary African-American artist who explores themes of race, gender, cultural assimilation, personal psychology, collective spirituality and identity through her work. Notable works involve inventing light cuttings and her use of negative space as a pathway for light through her project The Universal Fairytale.
Brooks was born in Town & Country, Missouri, the youngest of six children born to Chrysler Corporation assemblers Isaac and Cecelia Brooks. Brooks was the first member of her family to be born and raised in an all-white suburban environment. In her community, she experienced a vast amount of racial violence, a fact that shaped her career decisions and affected her entire life. During the 1979 energy crisis, the Brooks family was deeply and personally affected by constant layoffs and the threat of unemployment which continued until her father's forced early retirement due to ill health and plant closings in 1989.
Brooks experienced of the violence of: growing up black in Winchester, Missouri; going to all-white schools; black-on-black racism directed at her via her Southern Baptist Church as well as through the inner city African-American youth who were bussed out to Ballwin Elementary, Morgan Selvidge Middle School and Lafayette High School via desegregation programs led to early experiences of dissociation and depression which caused her to begin writing in kindergarten and developing a voracious appetite for self-healing; yoga, from a school library copy of Swami Vishnudevananda's The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga in addition to studying and practicing Zen Buddhism at a local center at the age of 14. Also at 14 she became a student of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's principal cellist John Sant' Ambrogio. Later, Brooks attended Logos School for Gifted children and went on to study at Parsons School of Design in New York as well being a guest of the Image & Sound Department of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Art following a brief hiatus in the Monumental Architecture Department of The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
From 2000 to 2011, Brooks and her two sons lived in squats, gardens and a host of unconventional situations that allowed her the safety of community in: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Italy, Germany and Sweden.
Since the age of 14, Brooks has taken initiations in several philosophies/religions: Nichiren Buddhism, Bodhisattva Vows, Transcendental Meditation as well as exploring Islam, Hinduism and the eight-fold yogic path. In 2009, she was introduced to Kabballah by Ofir Touffal. Currently, she is working on a series of light cuttings of the 72 Names of God in addition to the 99 Names of Allah. The role of religion, philosophy and history in her project can be exemplified in her attempt to work intensively with the precepts of the 3-Abrahamic Faiths. Brooks creates adaptations of The Universal Fairytale which respectfully showcases aniconic light cuttings to highlight their similarities by developing light cuttings that follow the injunctions against idolatry in the Abrahamic Faiths in her attempt to create cross-religious dialogues through art that focuses on the differences in each's similarities.
Her current project incorporates a range of influences including: Anaïs Nin, The Dadaists, Picasso, Greek Mythology, Lilith & The Epic of Gilgamesh, La Belle et la Bete, The Works of William Shakespeare, Lotte Reiniger, Eric Carle, Derek Jarman, Emperor Jones, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wayang Puppetry, Silat, Yurijy Nurshteyn, Old Masters Paintings, Sergei Eisenstein, and dancer/educator Tim Gulliher.
- The Universal Fairytale website.