She was there. Sketching Degas and his dancers, Paris, 1870s-1890s. (In process).

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Sketch of me dressed as a dancer sketching Degas’s dancers. Graphite, India ink, watercolour, and chalk on paper. 11″ x 15″ ©2017 Mary Khan
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Edgar Degas, Dancer with a Fan (study), c.1895 – c.1900

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At age fourteen, after seeing the drawings of young dancers (who were around the same age as me) by Edgar Degas, I immediately made the decision to become a draughtswoman. I was struck by the artist’s strong lines, movement, light, angles, and distinct use of colour. I identified with the girls both through my own physical embodiment – my light frame, my thin arms and legs – and as a burgeoning artist. I intrinsically felt my marks on paper were interconnected to his. Years later, when studying 19th century art history, I learnt of the harsh reality of survival for the dancers and the complicated role the artist played in depicting them. I am currently working on a group of drawings within my series “She was there.,” related to my lifelong admiration for and struggle with these beautiful works.

She was there. With Miles Davis at Columbia 30th Street Studio for the recording sessions of Kind of Blue, April/May 1959.

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She was there. With Miles Davis at Columbia 30th Street Studios for the recording sessions of Kind of Blue. NYC, New York, April/May 1959. Drawing inspired from original photograph by Don Hunstein, 1959. This shot features Bill Evans on piano. Drawing ©2017 Mary Khan

Iconic, larger than life. Kind of Blue considered a masterpiece of modern music. Modal jazz, flowing improvisation, one take recordings. Racism, misogyny, eccentricity. Tenderness, eloquence, elegance. Subtlety. Social biases with regards to male and female artists. All of these manifest in the mythology surrounding Miles Davis.

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Graphite, chalk, and watercolour on paper. 24″ x 36″. Finished work.  ©2017 Mary Khan.

Original photograph of Miles Davis and Bill Evans by Don Hunstein, 1959.

I kept thinking about Cisely Tyson hiding in the basement of her house while the police were upstairs laughing with Miles. I wondered what she was thinking about, crouched down there in the darkness. I wondered if thinking about his genius made her less frightened and humiliated…

I wondered if she tried to remember the last time she had known a brother whose genius was not in the way he played a horn, or made a living or ran a city, but in the way he loved her…

So the question is: How can they hit us and still be our heroes? And the question is: How can they hit us and still be our leaders? Our husbands? Our lovers? Our geniuses? Our friends?

Pearl Cleage, excerpt from Mad at Miles, 1990

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Obviously had to add blue to the piece.
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Pink. This hue is love and Miles is king. Jazz is love. Jazz is king. Jazz is the sound of integrity.

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Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances.  — Bill Evans, Liner notes on Kind of Blue, 1959.
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The decision to deliberately make myself small (along with the choice to tilt my head and wear my hair in an updo) was inspired from the painting Frida and Diego by Frida Kahlo, 1931