By his own recognition, Vincent Coleman is going through a lot of changes. He’s making connections. He’s growing, as an artist and a human being. He sees it happening. Feels it.
Vincent, 26, is immersed in creative work at Smokebrush Foundation. He took a break from hanging a sizeable art exhibition with Don Goede, executive director of Smokebrush, to talk with Humanitou.
We sat down and talked about the ripple effect of awareness and curiosity. Vincent shared his view on the pivotal time we’re in culturally. He also allowed himself to be vulnerable as we discussed masculinity, emotions and letting go of the negative.
Humanitou: I saw a CO Yoga + Life magazine article with you and Kat Tudor demonstrating Thai Yoga Massage. What is your connection with that practice?
Vincent: It’s a really interesting kind of massage. It’s more massage than yoga, you just kind of put whoever you’re working on in different poses.
It’s a really good way to exchange energy, and to really get grounded and rooted in yourself. I did reiki before, and I had no interest in doing massage. I learned about Thai Yoga and it, like, turned my reiki back on. I felt this connection to other people and to myself that I haven’t had in a long time.
I noticed as I was working on people it started to grow my awareness in a way that not many other practices do. You just have to be so mindful about every little thing you’re doing and the exact points that you’re pressing on other people’s body.
It takes a lot of focus and concentration. Some of these sessions last up to six hours, if you do the whole body and all the points and moves and positions that you’re supposed to. It doesn’t feel like six hours. It’ll feel like, maybe, an hour and a half.
That’s pretty insane, because I do a lot of active stuff. I do snowboarding. I ride motorcycles. I was in sports my whole life. Nothing made me feel that grounded or connected.
Humanitou: When you mention the awareness, how does that translate beyond the practice to how you move through life?
Vincent: It’s like awakening a lot more mindfulness in everything you do. Like when I’m doing my chalk art, it’s a lot of putting colors on the ground and rubbing them together.
But after doing a (Thai Yoga Massage) session like that, it’s more about how delicately I’m putting it down and where my lines are going. It’s more fluid. I’m not thinking about it. I’m not forcing it. It’s just coming to me and happening exactly how it’s supposed to. It’s really cool.
Instead of being caught up in negative stuff that’s going on around me, I just kind of picture myself not so much like a cloud but kind of like a fly, just floating and observing, but still being aware of everything and my place in the world.
Humanitou: My impression is that you are a positive, intelligent, curious person. Do you feel that’s accurate?
Vincent: Definitely. Yes, sir. It’s just wanting to learn more about things that we see everyday.
These are all things that I’ve really been passionate about since I was a kid: filmmaking, photography, doing public art, graffiti, building sculptures, making architecture that will last for a long time. I never really knew how much effort and mindfulness went into each and every aspect of it.
So, when I think of learning, it’s not like you learn something and then you know it and you’re done. It’s forever changing, no matter how much you know about it.
I never thought I’d reach that point where I’d just snap and be, like, ‘OK. I’m empty. I’m a vessel. Let’s move on with the future and be more positive.’
I just have this mindset that there’s always more to be learned, and that I don’t know anything in the scope, and I just try to absorb as much as I can and not have any preconceived notions. It just expands everything.
And everything seems to go hand in hand. Looking at it that way, instead of each thing as being its own monster to learn and master, it’s just all relevant to each other. You can get a big understanding of everything, and then find what you’re passionate about and fine tune it.
Humanitou: What is a struggle you have had to face that has informed your life?
Vincent: Growing up, I’ve always been the only African-American, usually, in my neighborhood. My dad’s a banker. We lived, usually, in really nice neighborhoods. Sometimes being out there I get treated different from my neighbors. It doesn’t feel good.
One example: I was just walking my dog one day and this older dude was walking in front of me, and he turned around and saw me. He started walking faster and faster, and then he started running away. It’s like, what’s that about?
I’m not saying this happens all the time. There have been some cases where it has and it’s been really unsettling. It doesn’t feel good.
I know that I probably look scary. I have long dreads. I’m dark. I always have my shades on. I don’t know. Just being judged so quickly like that and these people not knowing how much good I actually do for the community, it’s kind of heartbreaking.
I know it’s not always going to be like this. People will wake up and they’ll see they can’t live in fear all the time.
Humanitou: We’ve come to a particular place in our culture in recent years where these fears have been stoked. Have you paid attention to that? Do you have thoughts on it?
Vincent: I feel like, as bad as it is, it’s a good place. It’s always darkest before the dawn, they say. Getting all these issues out in the light is really good, I think, as a country.
I feel like for the longest time America thought we’re over racism, and we’re over prejudice and treating people horribly. It’s not true. It’s like every five years or so we pick another race to discriminate against for whatever reason.
I feel like the last couple years it’s really been bringing that to light, and people are starting to notice that this is wrong and we can actually change the way we think. I don’t know. I feel like it’s time for a movement.
People are waking up and things are changing. This is either going to be the turning point for really good or really bad. We’ll have to see, but I feel like there’s enough people out there who are open-minded enough to see that we’re on the wrong path.
Humanitou: Another recurring topic I’m exploring in these conversations has to do with masculinity. Light is shining now on where we are culturally there, too. What do you see as the role of men in society now versus the past, and where we’re heading?
Vincent: I think we’re headed in the right direction, for the most part. The ideals of masculinity back in the day are just terrible. I hate thinking about it, thinking that it’s OK to hit women in any circumstance? That’s not OK.
I’ve noticed a lot lately that people are changing. They’re not being scared to be more emotional. That’s a really good thing, because I feel that’s where a lot of the aggression comes from, is holding it in and being told that you have to be tough, that you can’t cry, you can’t pretend that you’re upset or show any sign of weakness.
I think that’s the root of all these problems, because when you hold all that shit in it’s going to explode one day, no matter what you’re doing or who triggers it.
There’s ways to fix that. I think as soon as we break that stereotype that we have to be tough things will get better.
In a lot of literature it says women control everything, they’re the most powerful. They’re the backbone and we’re just the head. That’s really true. If we’re treating them bad, we’re not going to get what we need to succeed, and it creates this negative cycle.
If we’re open and trusting with ourselves, and realize that we do have emotions other than just anger and aggression and fear, there’s a lot to learn from that. Then you can grow and you’ll have better connections.
Humanitou: You mentioned emotions and crying. When was the last time you cried?
Vincent: Like, two days ago. Maybe yesterday, actually.
Humanitou: Did anybody see you cry?
Vincent: Yes. It’s crazy. Up until two weeks ago I had not cried for a while. I mean, I lost two pets and that really hurt. I cried over that, but not just to cry like I have been. It’s really weird.
I’m going through a lot of changes. I’m becoming a lot more mature and I’m letting go of stuff that’s happened to me in the past, and letting go of almost negative expectations that I have on my life now that have no validity to them.
It’s just worry for worry’s sake. It’s nothing I have to be worried about. I’ve been thinking about it for so long, one day it just snapped and I let loose. I just started crying.
Two weeks later, almost every day now, I’ve been crying over something because it’s just me letting go of years and years of being so mad all the time, and not letting go of what people have done to me and situations I’ve been in.
And I realize that now. It’s felt really good.
Humanitou: Do you mind sharing what you’ve been mad about?
Vincent: Some of the relationships I’ve been in, where I have given my all, my hundred percent, and was completely faithful, I’ve been cheated on a couple times. I’ve had people just do really terrible things to me like that.
It was just really hurtful and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody about it, because that’s not a very masculine thing to talk about how women hurt you, you know. You’re not supposed to talk about that, and I didn’t know who to talk to about it.
I reached out to one of my female friends and said this is what’s been bothering me. I don’t know why now this is just starting to affect me. It was just the fact that I’d been holding it in for so long and haven’t told anyone.
I felt weak and almost guilty that I let it happen to myself. That’s not how I should feel. Those are just things that happened and I just haven’t vented. Getting it out there made me a feel a thousand times better.
I’ve felt like I can cry, and I can feel more, I can see more. I feel like my awareness expanded by letting go of all that negative. I feel more in touch with myself and ready to grow.
It’s just really weird. Especially, because I love doing tough stuff. I love getting hurt, skateboarding, motorcycles. Whenever I hear my voice shake, it’s like, “What’s wrong?” Nothing’s wrong, it’s just natural release.
I never thought I’d reach that point where I’d just snap and be, like, “OK. I’m empty. I’m a vessel. Let’s move on with the future and be more positive.”
Humanitou: I think this is part of our answer about masculinity, too. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those things we think of as tough or manly. It’s that we’ve cut ourselves off at only that end of being. We’ve not allowed for the full range that includes tough and soft. We’ve stopped ourselves short.
Vincent: We have. Yeah, thinking that’s everything but there’s so much more.
Humanitou: You work in a variety of creative forms, including music and film. What do you have going on right now and for the foreseeable?
Vincent: Right now I’m just so caught up with the different projects we have going on.
I use my studio mostly for my drums, and I practice them two or three times a week. Actually, I got a message the other day saying they’re too loud. So, I can’t practice in my garage anymore.
Right now, I’m learning a lot more about cinematography and documentary making. We have two big documentaries that we’re going to shoot for Smokebrush. That’s always been something I’ve been interested in.
I love documentaries but, now being in the position to actually make one, it feels kind of overwhelming. I had no idea how much work and effort and mindfulness, and how thought out every scene and every little thing has to be.
It’s quite the growing experience. It’s expanding my artistic ways.
This Humanitou conversation is cross-posted at PeakRadar.com. PeakRadar.com is the Pikes Peak region’s cultural calendar and digital cultural center, connecting residents and tourists with our vibrant arts community. Your source for what’s happening is PeakRadar.com!