Istwa (Tisha) is a Philly based Haitian-American artist who uses abstract expressionism to explore intimacy, interpersonal relationships, existential surrealism, futurism and liberation. From Istwa’s tenacity for complex color strategy; to their poetically titled abstract pieces evoking consciousness; to interpersonal intimacy and Black radical expressions and explorations of love; they are an abstractionist through and through.
Grace is, has been the hardest for me to find words for. It is super elusive, slippery even. I had to really figure out what it means and looking up the word does not suffice to any capacity. Grace is a cultural learning. A cultural value. It will vary in practice across cultures. Truly understanding grace and how to give grace takes lived experience and conscious practice. I learned that usually when someone says they are giving you grace, they are being less than graceful. True grace is rarely mentioned or noticed. It is a powerful wind two towns over, by the time it reaches you and changes you–you are just trying to figure out where it came from, if anything ever even happened. The most gracious moments are like this, like any other moment they just are. I learned that grace is a great equalizer for when things are falling out of sync. It’s the most gentle restoration of balance, one that isn’t drastic, or intense. Quick and simple like sleight of hand. I learned how powerful it is. How it can be an act of vulnerability, an act of calling the ego in. I learned how you can exhaust yourself through grace; excess and self betrayal. How you can set a placemat for disrespect by extending too much grace to those with no wherewithal. Grace can be a calling in. Not a calling out, but a way for spirit to call you deeper within. I learned how people don’t notice grace at times–how they excuse the reception of grace as something else from their pedestals, how grace is weaponized (not grace), how it is forgotten, how older Black women never seem to forget it.
This piece became a peace. It is about grace. More specifically about my journey to rediscover and rename my grace. All my pieces are about learning, but this one became about change. I learned so much about grace generally, but I learned more about myself through grace. That I shouldn’t be extending grace to folks in ways I don’t intend on extending it to myself. The same grace I exert outward, should also be reflected and extended inward. Learned that I stretch myself thin being graceful; I stretch, contort and reach with grace for those who are not and never will be reaching back. This seems to be a source of great exhaustion for me. I wonder how my mother does it–still. I have to sustain myself continually through this everlasting dance and so I get the point of a two-step.
When used well, it calls you closer to another. I have felt grace, and been changed by it in those silent moments to follow. Grace is change. When you allow yourself to be open, to be vulnerable, perceptive of the slightest sensations you will notice grace. You will notice how graceful a tender hand is, you will notice how graceful nature is. How graceful healers and gardeners are. You will hear things that you don’t understand the sound of, you will feel things deeply and without physical or material sensation. And when you find yourself in a moment of grace reflecting that grace, you find yourself witnessing the shaping of god, you find yourself in change if you choose to allow it. Grace is the bend in roundness, the cool in even a warm breeze, it is being fed before your belly knows to rumble, being watered before you feel parched. Grace is space and the many ways we make, hold, and create it. Grace is heartspace shared without notice.