In Conversation: Diedrick Brackens and Danez Smith

In Diedrick Brackens’s most recent body of work, blessed are the mosquitoes, he turned his focus to the disproportionate rate of HIV infection in Black and Latino men, while probing possibilities of both medical and non-Western, spiritual paths towards healing. In one work, ‘summer somewhere (for Danez)’ titled after Danez Smith's epic elegy to martyred Black men and boys, the figure floats suspended near a blooming tree, rising towards a supreme energy, perhaps drawn by a celestial force from above. Using this body of work as a starting point, the two discussed the overlaps and common threads in their artistic practices, as well as sources of inspiration and methods of working during this period of isolation. ⁣⁣

Danez Smith is a writer and performer from St. Paul, MN. They are the author of “Homie” (Graywolf Press, 2020), "Don’t Call Us Dead" (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, a finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. They are also the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness.⁣⁣

Diedrick Brackens lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, and is best known for his woven tapestries that explore allegory and narrative through the artist’s autobiography, broader themes of African American and queer identity, as well as American history. His work is held in public collections such as the Brooklyn Museum, The Hammer Museum at the University of California Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Artadia Award, the American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award, and the Studio Museum in Harlem's Wein Prize, amongst others.⁣⁣