Chanel Thervil stretches art world canvas for people of color

As a teen, Chanel Thervil would explore New York City’s museums and feel disconnected from the work. Thervil went on to get a bachelor of fine arts in painting at Pace University in NYC and a master’s in art education at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Now the Haitian American artist and educator works to increase the representations of people of color on “both sides of the canvas.”

But with museums shuttered, Thervil had to put some of that work on pause. Thankfully things have changed — Warm & Fuzzy Feels, her exhibition exploring multicultural friendships between women, is now up at the Boston Children’s Museum.

As part of our series about what artists are doing now (check bostonherald.com/entertainment to read installments about musician Ashleigh Gordon, choreographer Tony Williams and artist Ekua Holmes), Thervil talks Beyonce, podcasts and Black heartthrobs.

Harry Belafonte breaking down barriers

Thervil loves watching documentaries, loves how they illuminate little-but-telling details about her interests — such as her search for affirming examples of Blackness. “‘They’ve Got to Have Us’ is a documentary that explores representations of Blackness in film from the perspectives of Black actors, writers and directors,” she said.

“One of my favorite moments from the documentary was Harry Belafonte’s reflection on his role as a heartthrob that playfully challenged the Hays Code by drinking from a coconut at the same spot his white co-star had pressed her lips. It’s those small acts of resistance over time that lead to more bold moves.

“It’s also interesting to consider that was something scandalous in the past when we now get full-on sex scenes in film among actors of different ethnicities.”

Connecting podcasts with her art

“I like to let the sounds of podcasts run parallel to my hands making in my studio,” she said. Recently, Season 6 of The Dissect Podcast, which analyzes Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” has caught her ear.

“The hosts Cole Cuchna and Titi Shodiya do a track-by-track breakdown that amplifies “Lemonade’s” connections to history, politics, contemporary art, African cultural traditions and Beyonce’s personal life. I have never encountered a work of art that encapsulates grappling with the generational curse of slavery’s impact on Black people’s ability to love themselves and each other in such a fresh, relevant way. It’s made me think a lot about the generational curses I’m dismantling in my own life through love and vulnerability.”

Embracing “Insecure”

Thervil has been a fan of Issa Rae since the “Awkward Black Girl” webseries. Now she’s deep into her HBO show “Insecure.”

“This season has focused a lot on the trials and tribulations of how friendships change over time,” she said. “As a complement to that depth, the styling of the cast and cinematography is stellar. It was a bittersweet escape seeing Issa plan a block party and forge new connections with people in a pre-quarantine L.A.

“But overall, it was great to see Black people living, loving and laughing as a salve to being bombarded with news of Black death at the hands of police in real life.”

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