St. Petersburg is brimming with local creatives. We love local: artists, restaurants, businesses, dive bars. We have an entire festival celebrating all things local. In a boundless digital world, however, what does it really mean to be local?
A recent transplant from Atlanta, Saudade Toxosi is an artist with an eye for image curation that has garnered attention from notable cinematographers and has led to an ever-expanding portfolio of projects around the world.
Also known for her work in painting, charcoal drawings, photography, mixed media, sound design and assemblage, Toxosi’s studio work can be seen at The Factory St. Pete during second Saturday Art Walk – and at The Studio@620 for Pride in Community, opening today. The artist’s work speaks to the experience of the “New Indigenous African” in the U.S. and people of color worldwide. Inspired by ancestral wisdom and inner strength, Toxosi describes her intuitive, spiritual approach to art and life.
When did your art career begin?
My career began by invitation into art auctions by way of the Hammonds House Museum for African American Fine Art in Atlanta. This is where I began selling my paintings and meeting curators and artists within all levels of experience. It is quite a wonder to show your work in the same room as Radcliffe Bailey and Larry Walker without prejudice and a common goal. That goal was supporting African American art. After integrating myself into this community, other doors began opening. I began my first collaboration with “Saiah” at The Goat Farm, in which we took over the entire campus. Here, I created my first installation, a 10-foot root sculpture entitled “Wulf.”
Alongside my physical interactions there was the web, where magical moments began unfolding. I was meeting incredible artists all over the nation and all over the world. At this time the internet was not about competition, but sincere collaboration and appreciation of the arts between artists. With this, I was asked to support artists with drawings for their album covers and inlays, video installations and photo essays. In 2012, I began a blog entitled Equinox 1600. Equinox 1600 is a code for a spiritual energy from Africa, which is legabatche or the energy of communication. This blog propelled me into film through my selection and placement of images. Equinox 1600 has allowed me to work with and inspire black cinematography and direction in recent contemporary African American filmmaking.
You’re a recent transplant from Atlanta. When and why did you choose this area as your home base?
I have been in St. Pete since December 2020. There’s a sweet moment here. There is something about the land and the climate that I enjoy. Something about nature that feels good. Also, my grandmother is Seminole and African. I feel this wonderful connectivity through my heritage, through my roots. I am learning things that nature is speaking; it is my prayer that it comes though my artwork. Again, I came to St. Pete because my ancestors instructed me to do so. They have provided a way with love and compassion.
Tell me about some significant projects you’ve done throughout your career.
Through Equinox 1600 and image curation on Facebook, I was introduced to five cinematographers and directors through Arthur Jafa. The most significant projects were directly supporting Khalil Joseph for Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016), image/found footage collaboration for Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message and the Message is Death (2016) and image/found footage collaboration with Bradford Young for Black History Written By… (2021).
In 2018, I was invited by Khalil Joseph into his show entitled New Suns where I was supported in creating my first film installation at the Bonnefauntum Museum, Maastricht Netherlands, entitled “Oyeku.”
Is there value in being part of a local art community and if so, what does it mean to you?
There is extreme value in being a part of a local community as well as a global community. It is imperative. The community within its environment shapes, supports and aligns who we are individually and how far we can reach collectively. Together, we create an ecosystem towards expansion, freedom, justice, healing and love.
Local art communities create their own codes. These codes should always provide visibility, honesty and transparency towards upward mobility and healthy growth. Sometimes when communities fail there is a singular vision that obstructs the whole. From my elder’s teachings, it is important that I understand “we.” Thus, creating and manifesting the opportunities needed collectively. There is a strong thread of contradiction within the psyche of most Americans that equates “we” with “me.” When the experience of “we” is perceived, more opportunities, more visibility, more sharing of contacts and resources, we as a community will thrive in ways we have dreamed or desired.