What is my work about?
My work is about miracles, miracles that happen in the most invisible places. I’m interested in the sublime spirit that survives beyond annihilation and death. A central theme is critiquing the boundaries of erasure in all material forms and collective memory. My work is an extension of the black body, beginning from the blueprint of improvisation and ancient abstractions. I utilize sculpture, photography, video, installation and multi-media to challenge the accepted hierarchies and belief systems that are the framework of race, gender, class and culture in America.
As a child living in Detroit, I was constantly inspired by the indomitable spirit, humor and inventiveness of my community. Though I grew up amidst the decline of the auto industry and often-violent urban decay, the people of Detroit never ceased to reinvent themselves in the midst of overwhelming hardship. Thus my work is an extension of this resilient black body. Though trauma, subjugation and historical erasure have created deep cultural wounds, there remains, without fail, an irrepressible urge for transformation, evolution, and ascension. It is this undefined and indestructible spirit that inspires my work, which includes installation, sound, multimedia, sculpture, land art, and film.
I employ materials that draw on our unconscious associations with the body and are embedded with meaning: dirt sourced from specific sites, vinyl records of Motown music, and interviews with some of the oldest living human beings. My work critiques the boundaries of erasure in all material forms and collective memory, using iconic obsolete materials juxtaposed with impermanent living things. Much of my work deals with ideas of annihilation and the sublime. In my sculpture “Unidentified Fist, ” I used soil sourced from Jacmel, Haiti, residue from an ephemeral, collaborative performance piece with Haitian artists. I’ve been collecting and utilizing soil from different parts of the world for the last 10 years, which has been used in performances, films, drawings and sculptures. In the western world, dirt is viewed as something that needs to be cleaned and eliminated, rather than celebrated as a substance that gives and sustains life.
The significance of each material I use is rooted in the embedded and often veiled cultural meaning of everyday objects. My most recent work, under the pseudonym Anonymous B, is an installation of seemingly mundane objects called Perceived Obsolescence. The viewer can handle and even trade some of the objects, such as the “stolen love” cards, which are images made into postcards taken from Facebook users under the search, “love.” Other objects in the piece include site-specific dirt, air, ears of corn, slave shackles, a rock and a musical instrument. I encourage contemplation of the personal and historical memories contained within each object. The work also questions authorship and the incongruity of the commodification of art.
“Moving that veil aside requires, therefore, certain things. First of all, I must trust my own recollections. I must also depend on the recollections of others. Thus memory weighs heavily in what I write, in how I begin and in what I find to be significant. Zora Neale Hurston said, “Like the dead seeming cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the material that went to make me.” These “memories within” are the subsoil of my work. But memories and recollections won’t give me total access to the unwritten interior life of these people. Only the act of the imagination can help me.”
The large-scale installation Immortal Uterus was inspired by the massive laboratory production of the first immortal cells. These ‘immortal’ cells were stolen from African-American sharecropper Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells in her cervix and used for a multi-billion dollar industry that supported the first vaccinations for polio and countless other medical breakthroughs. The vast, sculpture was woven together from yards of nameless VHS film. The replication of Lacks’ cells was transformed into the idea of an anonymous, massive black womb into which the viewer could enter, as if entering another world. The environment also emitted a sound that was created to constantly multiply, crescendoing into infinity.
The sound sculpture, Some Impossibility Without A Name,” which uses vinyl records from Detroit as an organic form referencing fungus and the female body. The multimedia work is made entirely of Detroit vinyl records that have been melted and then distorted into a collection of abstract black forms growing out of the wall. All of the albums are rare finds ranging from Motown recordings to Detroit techno tracks and one of the earliest punk bands, Death. These vinyl records appear to be growing and breaking through the foundation of the wall. The vinyl records become a metaphor for captured, invisible time and reference fungus being able to live and survive off the dead matter. The choice to incorporate rare albums from Detroit was a deliberate one – the public forgets and no longer values things until they are destroyed or extinct. A soundtrack accompanies the piece, created from the same distorted and distressed records within the sculpture and echoes an imperfectly beautifully song.
The series of photographic portraits that are present in my application feature several headdresses and sculptural crowns. The images connect ancient hairstyles of the African diaspora and indigenous American cultures with shapes and patterns found in outer space. The audience was allowed to try on the crowns and headdresses and invited to take a free poster with images of ancient hairstyles and historic information that referenced my inspiration for the modern-day crowns.
The headdresses were also accompanied by a series of short films titled Milkman Redemption and The Creation Story. Milk Man references the character in Toni Morrison’s oeuvre, Song of Solomon and the historical revolutionary Toussaint L’ouverture. The Milk Man Redemption film references unrecognized objects of annihilation both past and present, while leaving the audience in the position of choice.
In all its iterations, my work aims to cultivate this vast story of not only resilience but also resounding and sublime vitality in the face of injustice. The meaning and presence of my work seeks not to be validated principally by oppression, but rather by the supreme artistry that has inspired all art forms.
Hunter College. New York, NY. ,MFA, 2013
Parsons School of Design. New York, NY. BFA, 1998
Open Source Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (curator)
Ancient Future, Casita Maria Gallery, NY, NY
Provocative Insights, Skylight Gallery, NY, NY
Possession of Fela Kuti, Pounder Kone Gallery, Los Angeles
Icons, JRainy, Gallery, Detroit, MI
Lynching, JRainy Gallery, Detroit, MI
Survival of the Spirit, University of Texas, El Paso, Texas
Witte De with Contempory art, Holland (collective)
ISE Cultural Foundation, New York, NY
P! Gallery,New York, NY (collective)
Apexart Gallery, Detroit MI
Arts Incubator in Washington Park, Gallery, Chicago IL,
Bronx Museum, NY
Art Contemporain, Guadeloupe
Moving Murals, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, MI
Toonskin, Art Space, New Haven, CN
Black Art 21, University of Michigan Gallery, MI
Wave Rock, African-American Museum, Detroit, MI
Anonymity & Social Media, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, NY
Gentler Intel Drawing Space, NY,NY
Soñado En Color, Rush Arts Gallery, NY , NY
Dirty Sensibilities, CCCADI, NY , NY
Governors Island Art Fair, NY
Homecoming, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Manhattan, NY
Collections, LZ Project Space, NY, NY
Fortune Tellers, Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY
Skylight Gallery. Brooklyn. NY
Dell Pryor Gallery, Detroit, MI
Southeastern University Gallery. Detroit. MI
African-American Museum, Detroit