What is my work about?
It’s a non-linear narrative about a band of aliens, hybrids and ghosts who navigate an in-between multiverse. I’m interested in three main things: story telling as an peculiar combination of lies and truths, cultural hybridity as a result of migratory or nomadic tendencies, and last but certainly not least is the freedom to invent and play.
I draw. On the one hand, it’s a very analogue and archaic practice, especially given the immediacy of this digital era. But on the other hand, it’s some combination of other worldly magic…
I didn’t realize how important magic was to me- the ability to invent or shift space. Ultimately that’s what drawing is. With these drawings, I participate in the creation of this world or multiverse. I say participate as opposed to author, because I can’t possible do it alone. Drawing is interactive, an intuitive performance; a dialogue between me, the paper, the materials (graphite, glitter, fluorescent acrylic, metallic enamel, day-old ink left on an unwashed brush…) and of course, time and space. There is a back and forth exchange in which a certain amount of control is relinquished to the inherent nature of the materials, while actively making decisions to either initiate marks or respond to happenings. My drawings evolve, rather than are ‘made’. They talk to me. They talk to themselves while I’m away. They participate in deciding what they want to become.
Introducing ada the Alien (slide #6, #11, #16 and more). Physical characteristics: fluorescent yellow skin, a female human likeness. She was the first one in the narrative because I needed her to be my voice. In 2012 I was in Nigeria, living there for the first time, and I needed to tell stories of belonging and non-belonging. What does it mean to simultaneously be an alien and an indigene? I needed someone who could embody me without being me…someone through which I could piece together these stories. audre the Leopard (slide #4, 7, 14 and more) came next. audre is a hybrid. They present as male, but it’s not important to know whether they actually are or not. audre is a care-giver: they braid hair (slide #2) and comfort baby aliens (slide #14). audre and ada are platonic lovers. Together they are essentially the same. You can see them appear as somewhat of a parental unit in the family portrait (kindred slide #1).
After them, came the rest: Twin (alien)- a headless yet acrobatic, childlike duo with fabric skin that appears African but is produced in Holland (slide #17 and more), Merman (hybrid)- a studious, peach colored male/fish combination whose identity is connected to water as opposed to land (#12, 16), Pidgin (alien)- a sparkling green pigeon/human combination named after Pidgin English- a Creole/broken version of English that despite it’s poetic inauthenticity, is quite unifying (#9 and more) and an all female band of bodiless ghosts -some strangers, some known (#4, 8, 18 and more). For each of them there was a process in their creation…
I am most free in that space of invention, but has imagination become obsolete? It’s not particularly important that you know this, but I’m Black- African, to be precise- Nigerian to be even more precise. I was born in Nigeria and grew up in England before moving to the U.S. It’s a constant struggle for me to advocate for my freedom to play, when so much of the expectation of “Black Art” in America is that it must reflect, often in a didactic and spectacular way, some type of Struggle, Politics, Identity and History. I’m a part African-English-American woman who draws on giant sheets of paper. And by draw, I mean that I lie, steal, imagine, blend and borrow memories, mythologies, fairytales and ofcourse, some version of the truth. I’m not trying to tell you something about the wrongs of our world, firstly, because there are many worlds (including worlds of beauty and make-believe) and secondly, because I can invent one.
With that said though, my work isn’t absent of politics, history, identity etc. It just isn’t consumed by meaning in a way that I need the viewer to see. Slide # 18 references a 1974 black and white photograph by Malian photographer, Malick Sadibe. The photograph is of two African couples relaxing on the beach. Such imagery of Africans, at a time heightened by the second wave of many African countries receiving their independence, was revolutionary because it symbolized a new kind of freedom- the freedom to enjoy a day at the beach with friends and lovers. In this 6 x 8 foot borrowed landscape, ada the Alien and a ghost are embraced by two unidentified male aliens. Alongside them, inspired by a true encounter, audre the Leopard kneeling in a hammock is learning to pray- both by cradling an infamous Ife head symbolic of Yoruba culture, and by laying prostrate (as is a universal mark of humility). The two audres suggest an ability to be in two spaces at the same time. A past and a present perhaps, or maybe just here and there. Surely, it’s not all serious if there is a scuba diving ghost with hot pink goggles, giving audre moral support…
There are people that live in-between. People who are a combination of being from nowhere and everywhere: perhaps a mother that is from here :: a father from there :: born there :: raised here :: lives there :: speaks the language of here :: knows the language of there :: passport from here and there, homes in there and here. For these people, “where are you from?”, is a question riddled with complexities. This isn’t to say that life is difficult or there is some type of conflict or angst. It’s simply an acknowledgement of a different kind of space (slide #3, 5, 13 and more)…a way of being that is constructed, less from a singular geography or a particular connection to land, and more from the idea of fluidity. Or being an alien, a hybrid, a ghost.
My drawings are a story. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle or an end. It goes left first before it goes right. It circles on top of itself, overlapping times and spaces. The seemingly empty spaces aren’t voids: they’re charged expanses of limitlessness. The stories are fragmented. They are pieced together, yet they are whole in their authenticity. Things are fluid, magical, not trying to be- they just are. Content. This is a world where these creatures thrive in the invention of their own beings; beings that shift and define for themselves’ a home that is simply a space where they are free to play.
2004-2006 Masters of Fine Art, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI.
2000-2004 Bachelors of Fine Art, Summa Cum Laude, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
a story. in parts., Tiwani Contemporary, London
Two-Person Exhibitions (*upcoming)
astroturf rooftop picnics, Morgan Lehman Gallery, NY, NY
*Magic, Omenka Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
Telling Truths, Speaking Secrets, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
(e)merge, Nomad Gallery, Belgium, Washington D.C.
Waiting for the Queen, Dyker Gallery, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
2006 All the Things I Never Said, Forum Gallery, Cranbrook Academy of Art, MI
Selected Group exhibitions
Speaking Back, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
No Such Place, Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery, NY, NY
In Sheep’s Clothing, Gallery 220, Brooklyn, NY
BRIC Biennial, Volume I, Bric Arts Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Mutations, Tiwani Contemporary Gallery, London, U.K.
I See You; The Politics of Being, Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte, NC
Drawn Truly, Corridor Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Select Fair – Art Basel, Rush Arts Gallery [New York], Miami, FL
Six Draughtsmen, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY
no one belongs here more than you, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria
Crossing The Line; Contemporary Drawing, Mixed Greens Gallery, New York, NY
Department of Fine and Applied Arts Faculty Exhibition, UNN, Nigeria
Neither Here, Nor There, Brooklyn Public Library Flatbush, Brooklyn
Artists who Teach, Pierro Gallery, South Orange, NJ
Artists-in-Residence Exhibition, Cooper Union, New York, NY
Causey Contemporary Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Wagmag Benefit Exhibition, The Front Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
The Salon, Greenpoint Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Black Pearls, Garfield Parks Art Center, Indianapolis, IN
Paint&Print; a Portfolio Project, Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier, The Netherlands
Exchange VI: Contemporary Prints; West Gallery, Purdue University, IN
Multiplicities of Syntax; Cora Stafford Gallery, University of North Texas
Transforming Technology; SGC Philagrafika 2010 Print Conference, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
One Night Stand; Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA
From Taboo to Icon; Ice Box Gallery; Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Works on Paper, [Juror’s Award], Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia
Victory for Tyler Painting Exhibition, Ice Box Gallery; Crane Arts, Philadelphia
Works on Paper, Muse Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Works on Paper, South Shore Art Center, Cohasset, MA
Seams and Surfaces, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Here Now, Please Touch Museum; Philadelphia, PA
M.F.A. Graduate Thesis Exhibition. Cranbrook Art Museum, MI
All About Me, Open End Gallery, Chicago, IL.
Residencies + Fellowships
Fountainhead Residency, Miami, Florida
Workspace Artist-in-Residence, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY, NY
Artist-in-Residence, Bric Visual Arts Residency, Brooklyn, NY
Faculty Fulbright Scholar, University of Nigeria, Nsukka [UNN]
Artist-in-Residence, Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ
Artist-in-Residence, Cooper Union, NY, NY
Artist-in-Residence, Better Arts Residency, Redwood, NY
BRIC Biennial Volume I, exhibition catalogue
Short story: I charge you to leave this body
Manifesta Journal 17: Etude
Article: The Forgotten Art of Drawing, Africa.com
Article: ‘The Underdog; an Ode to Drawing’, HYCIDE journal