The Art World at Home: Brooklyn Museum Curator Jenée-Daria Strand Is Researching Lorraine O’Grady and Reflecting on Her Dad’s Work With Tupac

The art world is slowly coming out of lockdown, but many decision-makers and creatives are still staying close to home. In this series, we check in with curators, historians, and other art-world professionals to get a peek into their day-to-day.

Jenée-Daria Strand, who is pursuing a masters in museum studies at New York University, joined the Brooklyn Museum as a curatorial intern in May 2019.

She was promoted to full-time museum instructor and curatorial assistant at the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in September, and has been an integral part of the team ever since.

With the museum prepping to reopen, Strand took the time to speak with us about finding her place as an emerging Black curator, how she stays productive at home in Springfield Gardens, Queens, and the art of making smoothies without an exact recipe.

What are you working on right now?

Many things, at the same time! Most imminently, I am supporting Catherine Morris and Aruna D’Souza in their curation of the museum’s upcoming Lorraine O’Grady retrospective, which I am so looking forward to sharing with our visitors. I believe our Brooklyn community will resonate with Lorraine’s preeminent approach to Black female subjectivity, destabilizing binary ideologies, and her identification as a descendent of Caribbean immigrants.

Walk us through the when, where, and how of your approach to this project on a regular day.

As much as I would love to be able to dedicate hours of uninterrupted time to one project, that’s never realistic. Lately, I’ve been restructuring my approach to productivity by incorporating the “big three” method, which I learned from entrepreneur Erin Winters (aka Erin On Demand). Sunday night, for example, I will sift through various emails and notes to create a list of tasks I need to accomplish for the three main areas in my life: personal, professional, and academic. When used daily, this method produces organization, focus, and a sense of accomplishment for me.

What is bothering you right now (other than the project above and having to deal with these questions)?

Finding my community as an emerging Black curator in the art field. I am championed by incredible leaders in the field, and I am here because of a strong foundation paved by intense labor—from my Guyanese immigrant mother to thought leaders, artists, and activists. I am well aware of my history, I have a strong sense for my future, but I feel longitudinally disconnected.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Twitter! Twitter makes me cackle daily.

"Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good" at the International Center of Photography, New York. Photo by Jenée-Daria Strand.

“Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good” at the International Center of Photography, New York. Photo by Jenée-Daria Strand.

Are there any movies, music, podcasts, publications, or works of art that have made a big impact on you recently? If so, why?

So many things: “Unchained Melody” by Al Green, Mark Clennon’s work, a video of Sammy Davis Jr. performing in Italy in 1962, every Versus battle, Tyler Mitchell’s I Can Make You Feel Good. They each emote a particular perspective or experience that I resonate with.

What is your favorite part of your house and why? 

This bookshelf area is my favorite because I return to it multiple times a day and it almost perfectly encapsulates who I am. The shelves house a few of my favorite books and publications, my jewelry pieces, and my journal that I write in every day. Above the shelf sits my dad’s platinum plaque.

Years ago, my dad, Darron Strand, was in a group called Rappin’ Is Fundamental. In addition to creating their own sound, they also wrote, produced, and sang for Miles Davis (“The Doo Bop Song,” 1992) and Tupac (“Temptations,” 1995). Their collaboration with Tupac was selected for Tupac’s third studio album, Me Against the World, in 1995; spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 list; was featured in the 2002 film 8 Mile; and was selected for Tupac’s greatest hits album. “Me Against the World” sold 10 million copies and ultimately went double platinum—hence the plaque.

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Photo by Jenée-Daria Strand.

What’s your favorite work of art in the house and why? 

My favorite would have to be a diptych. The top image is a recent purchase—an image by Dana Scruggs—below sits Sankofa by Atiya Dorsey, which was featured in my first independent curatorial project in 2019, “what once was” at New York’s Gloria Gail Gallery. As a former dancer, I was instantly compelled by the movement and directionality in both images—and aesthetically they work so well together. Metaphorically, they both represent pivotal moments in my career.

Are these any causes you support that you would like to share? If so, what, and why is it/are they important?

In relation to my recent purchase of Dana Scruggs’s work, I was able to buy that print through See In Black—a collective of Black photographers who uplift and invest in Black visibility. Through the sale of highly-curated prints, they raise funds that support civil rights, education/arts, intersectionality, community building, and criminal justice reform. It felt congruous to support a cause that feels integral to how I operate as a curator while having the opportunity to build my budding collection.

Above, Dana Scruggs Untitled. Below, Atiya, Sankofa. Photo by Jenée-Daria Strand.

Above, Dana Scruggs Untitled. Below, Atiya, Sankofa. Photo by Jenée-Daria Strand.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Breakfast! I can have breakfast all day, every day.

What’s going on in the kitchen these days? Any projects? And triumphs or tragedies? 

I’ve been trying to perfect my smoothies these days. Though I never measure my portions, here’s an estimate of the recipe I follow:

2 cups of frozen strawberries
1 banana
¼ cup of milk (I prefer oat milk)
A handful of blueberries
(optional additions: honey, ice, one Yoplait yogurt of any flavor, or two scoops of French vanilla ice cream)

Which two fellow art-world people, living or dead, would you like to convene for dinner, and why? Bonus: Where would you want the dinner to be, and why?

Carrie Mae Weems and Thelma Golden because both women operate at the intersections of incredible forces. Ms. Weems is an image-maker, activist, and scholar, but also a performance artist, which I would love to converse with her about. Ms. Golden has actively shattered barriers for generations far beyond comprehension; I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I am certain I wouldn’t want the conversation to end.

The dinner would be somewhere where comfort, nourishment, and community are at the heart of the atmosphere.

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