What was your inspiration in becoming an artist?
My mother inspired me to become an artist. She recognized my creative skills long before I did. I will never forget the day I was suspended from school for not doing my work in class. My teacher kept telling me to do my class work but instead I decided to draw the picture that was on the cover of my school book. I was so engrossed in the drawing I could not stop. When my teacher realized I was not doing my class work she sent me home. I was in the third grade and this was the first time I had ever been suspended from school. When I came home crying thinking I would be in a world of trouble, my mother asked why was I home when school was not out yet? I told her I was suspended for not doing my class work, she asked me what was I doing that made my teacher so upset? I reached into my folder and showed my mother my drawing. To this day I will always cherish the loving response my mother gave me when I showed her my drawing, she said “ Michael, this is beautiful.” This is why I am an artist!
What mediums do you prefer to work with and why?
I am a sculptor and painter however, I work mainly in clay. Clay comes directly from the earth. It contains all the minerals which make up the human body. Clay is also taken for granted much the way the human body is. When I say I work in clay the response I get from most people is what kind of pottery do you create, they only see ceramic cups and bowls they don’t see sculpture. The same can be said for people when it comes to taking others for granted, our first impression of meeting someone for the first time is their physical presence or what others have told us about them, It is not until we get to know a person’s characteristics or personality we began to better understand them. Working with clay is very similar, you have to get to know it to truly understand what a beautiful material it is to create with. It has taking me more than 35 years to get to build a relationship with clay and I am still learning something new every time I work with it.
What artists do you like and why?
I surround myself with real artists, the ones who believe in themselves! Not the ones who egos have to be stroked by others who have the financial resources to put them into high-end galleries and art venues just to pimp their minds and use them up until their next victim comes along. I am inspired by the artists who are true to their respective talents and driven to create by a spiritual force of true self-expression. I seek out artists willing to share their knowledge and history of the creative experience and want to leave a legacy of positive human existence behind.
What is your favorite work of art to date and why?
My favorite work of art is my first sculpture in clay. I was in the fifth grade when I put my hands in clay, it was like seeing an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. I just knew what to do with it. My teacher showed the class how to make a cup but I chose to put two cups together and make my first sculpture. My teacher was so impressed with what I created he paraded my sculpture around all the classes. I still remember that wonderful feeling but it was not so much about myself, I believe it had more to do with what I had created. From that point on, every sculpture I create is just an extension of that child-like feeling I had so many years ago the first time I worked with clay.
What qualifies someone as a collector?
Not having some so-called authoritative person tell you what to collect. I have found most people who collect art have an emotional connection with the art they purchase. Follow your heart. You don’t have to be filthy rich to become a collector the world is full of affordable art in all price ranges you just have to be willing to seek it out. A great starting point is to find art you are comfortable living with and build your collection around it. Get to know the artists you are collecting and form a relationship with them. As a result, you will meet other artists and become expose to a creative environment which teaches you about the art making process and the importance making art a valuable part of your life.
What has been your most radical work of art? What was the message?
I am currently working on an exhibit titled Identity Theft. Some people may call the work in this exhibit radical but I call it my reality! My message in this body of work is to use my creative skills as a tool to teach and inform the viewers to question and research their true history. Our so-called historians have done a great injustice by brainwashing countless black people and people of other races into believing the only history that black people come from is the slaved narrative which has been taught in schools for decades. This false historical narrative only makes up 5 percent of the 200 thousand years of documented African world history. Africa is the cradle is civilization but so few American schools teach this as part of world history. The Identity Theft exhibit tells this history. If are schools refuse to teach its students the vast and life-changing contributions made by Africans who gave us our culture, we must begin to find ways to teach it ourselves. Human life began in Africa and migrated through the world so as hard as it is for so many to believe, we are all Africans who come from the mother-land.
How has art impacted society?
I have said this several times and I will say it again, without art as we know it the world would be a giant void! Everything we see and experience is in some way connected to the creative process. Be it pleasing or distasteful, art will always be a vital necessity in the expression of human life. We must all leave this earth at some time and whatever it is we have done with our lives will be the legacy we leave behind. Civilizations and its societies are remembered by two things - what they create and what they destroy. How do you want to be remembered?
Why is it that nude art of African Americans is viewed differently than nude art of Caucasians?
From a historical point of view dating back long before the Renaissance, creating art was only for religious purposes, royalty and elite classes, most being of European, Spanish or Caucasian races. Art was also used as propaganda. Those artists who painted the black body often portrayed them in a servitude fashion placing them in the background while painting a white male or female nude in the foreground as the main center of attention. This led numerous people to believe the image of a white body was the most desirable and the black body had no real significance. This scenario has been in place for centuries. Even in today’s world the focus of art in the mainstream art world is not directed towards the black figure nor the black artist. Very few if any artists who painted the black nude body where excepted in the elite world of art. Let’s be real about it how many white collectors want their home, gallery or museum collections to have a beautiful figure of a black nude as the centerpiece? When all we see on media and read in the paper are negative imagery of our black people, humans tend to believe it and therefore we are reluctant to buy or create works that positively depict us. I know I am contradicting myself because I am a black artist. But this is the history I have been taught. This is also one of my main focuses in creating art. So, I can say fuck off to all those of refuse to see the beauty in the black nude body. I love my blackness and my black people and I will continue to create them until the day I die!