How have the Arts impacted your life?
Ever since I was 5 years old I knew I wanted to be an artist. At every phase of my life art was at the intersection, guiding me, informing me, and enriching my vision of my self and the world around me. I see everything through the lens of an artist. I am constantly observing, analyzing, and decoding the things I witness in my quest for deeper understanding and living my fullest life. I have dedicated my life to making art about the human condition and living by the credo derived from Proverbs 18:16 which states, "A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great."
Describe your style of art.
The majority of my work is derived from my imagination and deep affinity to history, in particular Civil Rights history. I construct my compositions like a conductor directs an orchestra. I carefully think about the juxtaposition of forms, the intersection of complex narratives and symbols, and the poetic structure of the human form and its myriad expressions that communicate to my audience. Stylistically I have drawn from the Surrealist movement, the panoramic story telling murals of the 1930's, the African American aesthetic during the Harlem Renaissance, the protest posters and murals of the Mexican Masters, the German Expressionist woodcuts, and the salient voice of the Black Power movement of the 1960's. My figures are charged with vitality, they appear to be heroic as their sinewy muscles bulge. The exaggerated forms project into space through the mechanism of perspective and you are aggressively pulled into the compositions and are left to ponder your agency. My art is bold, unapologetically Black, sometimes confrontational, but mired in love of self, community, and society.
What inspire you to create?
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana amidst a rich history of music, Mardi Gras, food, colloquialisms, all steeped in the cultural traditions embedded in the African American community. I grew up with a keen awareness of the history that was circumscribed on my Black male body, and the complex web of issues we faced societally as Black people in America. I quickly realized that my voice was amplified by the artwork I made. As a kid I was enamored with the fantasy stories in comic books, and I searched for a Black hero in those narratives to no avail. So I decided to create the world that I wanted to see and construct the hero where it was not imagined. I want to create images of the unsung and the everyday deity of people in society. I endeavor to reflect the beautiful, complex, and diverse culture that birthed me. I am not interested in just reflecting the hegemonic power structures that attempt to restrict our movement and eradicate our existence. I am interested in creating work that shows our magic, our spirit, our strength of character, our unbounded imagination, our survival acumen, and our love of community. Generations before us sacrificed so much to enable us to walk the walk they talked about.
What artwork do you feel is your favorite creation and why?
I created a work titled Pop, Pop, Pop, which is a tribute to Amadou Diallo who was slain by 4 police officers in New York in 1999, when he attempted to pull out his wallet to identify himself they thought he was pulling out a gun. The four officers shot at Amadou 41 times, connecting with roughly 50% of the bullets, ending Diallo's life. The thesis of my tribute to Amadou, is that we as Americans must get up from our pregnant tables and be active in the lives of people regardless of race, representation, or socio-economic class. If you look deep into the composition you will note that the table is actually a pregnant woman who is giving birth to a full grown young man, who stands in a cruciform, wallet in hand, and the names of several companies plastered on his body signifying the commodification of Black Males in America. The couple sit unaware of his existence eating a good old American meal of Chicken and french fries. The couple ultimately represents our direct calling to rise up and stop separating ourselves from the people in peril in our community. The challenge is for us all to see Amadou not only as a Black man, but as brother, son, father, neighbor, and friend, and not simply as other. The stains embedded in the fabric of America are not ones that can be dealt with by the oppressed only, it is a distress call for all of us to step-up and use the "keys" and the "hooks" at our disposal and be "fishers of men."
How important is art regarding the development of our youth?
I have dedicated my life to making art and teaching it to the next generation. The power of imagination is essential for the cognitive and social development of an individual to be creative especially in an ever changing societal structure. The cathartic nature of making something from nothing is a powerful tool for youth in teaching them the importance of work, rigor, dedication, and planning. The skills garnered from the arts are, in my opinion, life affirming, life changing, and door opening, especially in this market. The creative process also lies in direct opposition to the destructive spirit that destroys property and conversely has an affect upon the psyche of the individuals own body; art is life.
What does success look like to you?
What's the next project you're creating?
I am working with Leah Glenn Dance Theatre in the creation of a multi-media dance production called "Nine." The work commemorates the heroic bravery of 9 African American youth, affectionately known as the Little Rock 9, who integrated the public school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. The collaborative work will showcase modern dance, and several design elements that I am creating to support the production. I am creating the costumes, stage props, and projections for the work. The production is set to premiere in the spring of 2021 to begin the tour cycle across America