HW x MJ: My MidJourney
Updated: Mar 1
When that Lensa app went viral back in November 2022, I’ll admit that I jumped right on it. I created my avatars and got a few that I really liked. But the backlash made me delete the app because I got freaked out about the facial recognition stuff and the concern over artist theft. However… I was intrigued. When I was presented with a new project, I turned to AI for concepting ideas for my proposal. I am always thinking about the women who migrated during the Great Migration. Always. I wanted to know more about this tech and if it could help me visualize some things. I ended up finding an app that I could easily use on my phone. Photoleap is a photo editing app that has AI built in so I started messing around with it. I started generating different types of women and ceramic objects just to see how they would form. They were not great but they were fascinating to generate and I would revisit over the next couple of months to try different prompts.
Fast-forward to January 5, 2023, I'd just finished Station Eleven on HBO and I was still thinking about it. A lot. It's a series based on the 2014 book by Emily St. John Mandel about the 20 year aftermath of a pandemic that wipes out 99% of the world's population. It’s also about the absence of technology and how art is essential for survival (there’s some clear irony here). The character Miranda stood out to me because she was a Black woman (in the tv series) and she was the catalyst for the entire story. Also, Danielle Deadwyler’s quiet performance was breathtaking and memorable.
After I finished the series, this quote from the graphic novel that the character Miranda wrote, would not let me go:
I remember damage. And escape. Then adrift in a stranger's galaxy for a long time. But I'm safe now. I found it again. My home.
All I could think of was Miranda as Dr. Eleven and wanting to see her in a space suit and helmet. Thinking of her and our beloved Hippolyta from Lovecraft Country and the space suits as armor and protection or as a form of freedom. Black women who made necessary and hard choices during the Great Migration. A period of time in their lives where movement was absolutely essential for their survival, whether physical or spiritual. I wanted to see these women, give them presence outside of my mind.
I’d already created and exhibited artwork of constellations based on Women who moved from southern states to northern cities between 1920 and 1940. Collages made of hand painted and hand-cut cotton paper. Women that I (and my 13 year-old nephew) researched on the US census records, including my own family. I decided to make a bigger attempt at using this new tool. This AI bot where I could generate just about anything I wanted. I decided to finally take a deeper dive into learning how to use MidJourney.
There’s so much to say after this. I caught MidJourney at a moment when the software had evolved significantly so the results have been really sophisticated and inspiring. I feel like it has unlocked levels of how I see color and texture and has inspired me try other mediums as well as expanding what I do with clay and paper. It has also replaced my doom scrolling. I'd made a personal goal to stay off of Twitter for 2023 but since January 5, I haven't even had the desire. I've been so wrapped up in AI generating that it's been a smooth transition.
Since January 5, I've had many conversations with creative friends, my partner, and my therapist about the impact this is having on myself and others. I brought up how I've been told multiple times about the large group of ancestors and guides who surround me and how I feel like these computer generations are somehow connected to my ancestral generations. How I've been trying to figure out how to tap into that and this feels like an entry. It’s all so wild to consider but the feelings are no less real and the impact is very concrete. Of course, I've created many types of images outside of these women but they are the core.
We are now in March and I have immersed myself in this AI generative art space, exploring how I can use this technology for my work and craving to hear more about what's next and how all of this will impact Black cultures, globally. So far, it has mainly been a source of inspiration, exploration and joy for myself. The results are so beautiful and weird and so me, that I want to share.
What you see here is the evolution of my process. I started with text-to-image prompts then I began mixing in my own work which is what I mainly do now. Generating AI images so I can blend them with my work and then blend again and again. A friend of mine likened it to hip-hop, like a form of digital visual collaging. That’s why you’ll see pottery and clay in many forms and pattern/line work in most of these images. Some of them look like they are constructed with clay or porcelain. There is also a helmet or headpiece almost always present.
I decided to call these particular images my Ancestor Index (AI) because of the initial inspiration around the women/fems of The Great Migration and also because I feel connected to each generation that comes through. There is something about the language around “generations” that joins these worlds for me and this process feels very personal. I want to create this index as a way to actualize and venerate the Black feminine and the creative and supportive energy that guides us.
I’m thankful for online communities of Black folks like myself who’ve gone down this rabbit hole and it has healed or opened them up somehow. It feels very personal. I do believe that for many of us it is more than just technology. There is something about this ability to see yourself and imagine something beyond what has been available through limited or inaccessible means. What does this tool allow the mind explore as an artist, a writer, a visionary, a person who has ideas but has no connection or access to visual artists or art communities?
The next step is to bring some of this stuff to life. If you want to see more, follow my AI IG page: @ancestorindex.ai or visit the Ancestor Index page on my site.