Forgive us the sin of having missed the announcement for the latest January/February issue of Essence. Our January was starting to take on the harsh tones of 2020, what with all the insurrection and double-dip impeachments, not to mention shoo-ing our children out of the room when we realized Shondaland was definitely not giving us a PG-rating with Bridgerton.
However, it bears mentioning that the latest cover of Essence features two powerhouses in Rihanna and renowned photographer and multimedia artist Lorna Simpson.
For the time in the magazine’s history, they commissioned Simpson to “interpet modern-day beauty.” The result is a magnificent cover and a 12-page portfolio of Simpson’s photo-collages starring the one and only hater of the club and slayer of those that have her money, Rihanna. The spread is titled “Of Earth & Sky” and even comes with an essay penned by Simpson’s daughter, Zora Simpson Casabere. The pieces are similar to the collages Simpson created of Black women taken from the older copies of Ebony and Jet, transforming the images into that of otherworldly deities and goddesses.
Simpson needs little introduction, as the Brooklyn native is the first African American woman to present her work at the Venice Biennale, in addition to also being the first to have a solo exhibition at MoMA. In her youth, she focused on documentary photography but later went to school for painting and visual arts. Almost immediately, her career took off, as her photography became more conceptual in nature, challenging our perceptions of gender and race.
In response to working with Simpson, Rihanna gushed to Essence, saying, “Lorna is a legend,” adding, “Honestly, I just didn’t think I could get her, But I like reaching for the stars, and I like challenging myself.”
You can find the latest issue of Essence at newsstands everywhere. Apparently, they still have those.