Briefly describe the work you do.
My current work functions as a mechanism to create dialogue about the social issues that confront us in our daily life. My work critiques hierarchies within society and how those hierarchies uphold social relations that perpetuate injustices. I question the ideals we are expected to accept by revealing a reality of contradictions through subject matter and materiality that stand as traces of experience. My work offers viewers an opportunity to consider a range of pressing social issues that are typically understood strictly within the context of the spectacle.
In my large–scale monochrome paintings, depictions of iconic figures confront the viewer, conjuring uncanny relationships against stark black canvas. Diffused light introduced through the use of tinted pigments, allude to apparitions of memory. In my concrete sculptures, ruined concrete forms act as metaphors for moments in time. Bullets embed and riddle these surfaces marking moments of past trauma and distress. Through the use of figural elements and surface texture, I gather traces of memory from the ruins of history, recontextualizing fragments of perception to conceive a more dynamic present. My most recent sculpture attempts to convey society’s movement towards a post-human world. Found objects signify different periods of technology and speak to the irony of that pursuit. The diversity of histories I engage, and the complex conflicts that result from their convergence, require flexible, diverse and eclectic methods in the construction of the resulting works.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
From a young age, social circumstances and experiences related to my ethnic background caused me to unconsciously observe social behaviors and relationships. I am from a mixed cultural heritage of both black and white which positioned me in a grey area. My parents’ unwillingness to address social issues in the context of race also left me in a grey area, yet both would address social issues in the context of human nature and history. My father often used his knowledge of economics, history and world cultures to provide me with examples of social phenomena. As a result, history, a subset of memory, became an early passion eventually led to my interest in sociology. Sociological perspectives provide me with lenses to critically interpret society. Those lenses facilitate my attempts to understand my experience. The process of gaining an understanding and clarity of my experience is what inspires me. My work gives form to my understanding of the individual’s place within the conflict of ideologies that shape social institutions and the need for social change.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
In a traditional sense, the studio is a refuge for my creativity. It contains the tools of my visual language which allows me to articulate what I conceive based on my ritualistic activity that stimulates creative thought. While the studio is a special place for making, being outside the studio is equally or even more important to my practice. When I am out of the studio, I am in a mode of being where almost everything I do is done with a foresight of being in the studio. There is a conceptual process of making that is fed by everything in my environment that percolates, culminates and then manifests itself as an idea or object. My continuing struggle is trying to find a balance between the being in and out of the studio.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Roles I find myself playing that I did not envision myself in when I first started making art was that of a facilitator, entrepreneur, researcher, and public speaker. As I expand my ability to work in different mediums, I find that my roles expand.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I work whenever I have time; I don’t have a “best” time. Sometimes I will be lying in bed and an idea will come to me. Sometimes, my most creative ideas begin when I am not in the studio; I might be out talking to people, observing my environment or looking for specific information that is relevant to my practice. I am always relating what I experience and see toward my passion to express and perceive of something more.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Over the past five years, the aesthetic of my work has changed dramatically due to my investigation into materiality and how it can augment my expression. The characteristics of the material and possible techniques that can be used to manipulate the material, can increase the layers of meaning within my work. I believe the most recent change to my work with regard to medium is my investigation and facilitation of socially engaged art. Community as a medium that is engaged through the creative process is new and exciting prospect that complements conceptual foundations of my practice. Aspects of my work that have remained the same is my passion to understand and express social issues.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
As I stated in the question regarding my background, my father and mother’s background has had a significant impact on my work. My father taught english, history and economics. My mother has an extensive background in social work and is a psychologist working with trauma victims. My mother would take me to the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh as a child and I believe that the figurative characteristics of Renaissance and classical artists had a significant impact on how I use the visual language. Thanks Mom! I think if you look at my work you will, figuratively speaking, see my parents. Besides my parents, my life experience has had a significant impact on my work. In terms of philosophers, writers and artists that impact my work there are too many to list but I can tell you that I usually find any of the above that increase the breadth and depth of my understanding and inspire creativity. In terms of Pop icons, early HipHop up to the Golden age of Hiphop had a significant impact on my knowledge of self and development as an artist. Artists like Eric B. & Rakim, KRS-1, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Gang Starr, Big Daddy Kane, Prince Paul, etc. Shout out to all my teachers, Tom Beemsterboer, Dale Huffman, Mrs. Chung, Lonnie Graham, John Bowman, Simone Osthoff, Bonnie Collura, Matt Olson, Tom Canada, Peter Gilmore, Maureen Crossen, William DeBernardi, Bev Bates, Ann Shostrom, Robert Yarber, Paul Chidester.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
My desire to understand life experiences, which what I now know fuels my practice, pulled me away from the arts. That and the responsibilities and obstacles that confronted me pulled me away. With the help of self doubt and my parents expectations to find a practical way to earn a living, I was pushed away from the arts. I explored professions as a computer technician, massage therapist, construction, custodian, food service, administrative work. I have pursued education in business, teaching and art history. My other interests are Sociology, Philosophy, Language, History, Postmodernism, Post-postmodernism, Posthumanism, Axiology, Socio-economics, Inverted Totalitarianism, …
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.