My artwork is vividly colorful, idiosyncratic storytelling that is full of dramatic irony, eclectic influences, and quirky characters. The work is made to inform, entertain, and document the layered and intersectional complexities of intimate Black life. Inspiration for the stories usually comes directly from my daily life experiences. History, literature, and current events are also heavily mined.
Everyday I hear, re-tell and, invent stories. As much as the stories are visual, they also represent my personal oral repertoire of storytelling. When made into visual artworks, the audience is invited to reinterpret and re-tell the stories as acts of social commentary.
Artwork created in 2021 for San Diego State University during tenure as the Arts Alive Artist in Residence
A project I’m now beginning, Pantheon of Akatas, involves extensive research as I'm inventing a non-linear epic narrative that mixes past, present, and future. Another project, Home Remedies for Driving While Black, is about the impact of some recent police brutality incidents on interpersonal relationships. A third project in development is an illustrated book project.
Scale & Materials
The scale of my work varies from tiny to very large. A variety of drawing and painting materials are put on canvas, paper, wood, fabric, or panels to create two-dimensional artworks. Sometimes I blend digital art processes with more traditional materials. Sometimes I create studies that look like finished artworks and then change them into another medium. When this happens, a kind of duplicate artwork gets created but really, they become two different things.
My Art Practice
My art practice is built on multiple levels of living life. At the base level, I build it on the joy, sensual pleasure, and ancestral wisdom I adventurously seek. Talking and listening to people, reading, traveling and enjoying other storytelling mediums is another level of stuff on which my practice is built. My intellectual life is another level that permeates the others. Asking hard research questions, speculating, and problem-solving by applying “politics” to “the personal” is where art can prompt dialogue through multiple academic discourses for diverse audiences.
Photo credit: artist Zeina Baltagi
Like many artists, I’m liminal and a hybrid. My influences are eclectic. A short cross-section of novelists and artists I often think about includes, Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Jacob Lawrence, William H. Johnson, Xiomara de Oliver, Carmen Lomas Garza, Alfredo Ceibal, and Sandow Birk. Whole categories of stuff I find influential include Southern Black Folk Art, Haitian Vodou flags, Mexican Ex-voto paintings, Asian scroll paintings, Persian miniatures, graphic novels, Star Trek, and an array of narrative textiles and contemporary illustration.
Many of my friends and acquaintances are visual artists, writers and creatives. A few I've dialogued with the most about art over the past decade include Duane Paul, Lili Bernard, Lisa Diane Wedgeworth, Mark Steven Greenfield, Janet E. Dandridge, Sandra Johnson Lee Chandler, Jamaal Hasef Tolbert, Lisa Soto, Michael Massenburg, Umar Rashid, Mary Anna Pomonis, June Edmonds, Zeina Baltagi, Martin Durazo, Lezley Saar, Stanford Carpenter, and Johanne Rahaman. Highly impactful intellectuals at this moment include Dr. Scot Brown, Bokor Christopher Voncujovi, and Prof. Dr. Melina Abdullah.
Many other friends and family are critically important to me everyday. Of special mention is my late grandmother Edith Harris, who was a master vernacular storyteller. I think I can hear myself patterning the delivery of my storytelling after hers while adding artwork to the mix.
This is a commitment. By documenting the concerns of my imagination, my mission is to signify and embody lives lived, while leaving art behind as a kind trace of generational cultural wealth. This is my artistic statement.