ART STATEMENT 2017
Writer, artist, and research consultant. My writing is about the evolution of African and African American art, and I make art that refracts the struggles of African Americans. My intention is to counter the American propensities toward forgetfulness, on the one hand, and historical revisionism, on the other. Each work is historically based, expressed with strong color. and provides layers of information through the use of symbols and universal icons.
I was surrounded by creativity from birth. The inventor of the traffic light lived on one end of my street, and there was a sculptural garden of famous white men on the other end. In my family, there were story tellers, musicians and singers, quilt makers, basket weavers, creative cooks, spiritualists, and mystics. As early as first grade, but certainly by the third grade, teachers had begun to notice my doodlings and encouraged me to make drawings. I was given pictures of medieval English knights in armor and Victorian women dressed in Elizabethan royal gowns with ruffled collars to copy. Then I was advanced to drawing classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art summer art programs where I drew landscapes and cartoons. In my Glenville neighborhood, I painted signs on businesses and murals of trains, baseball games, and picnics in the basements of houses owned by Jewish residents and the newly arrived black middle class. Although I was encouraged to continue with art after high school graduation, I did not pursue it for another 35 years. Around 2000, I began to do art again. Today art is about my racial history.
Some of my earliest influences came from picture books, and later from famous paintings, specifically, Picasso's Ani-war Guernica and Louis David's Rape of the Sabine Women. At that time, I was not yet familiar with African/Egyptian art. In the 1990s, I began to study and collect African American art after which it became a major influence, first through successful African American jazz, blues, gospel, and hiphop musicians, and then through visual artists like hiphop artist Jean-Michel Basquiate, vernacular artist Thornton Dial, and the Gee's Bend Alabama quilt makers. European primitives such as Jean Debuffett also can be called influencers in that I found their deliberate efforts to rid themselves of the sterility of European academic art, heroic. Add to that Norman Rockwell for his paintings of the struggles of African Americans to get a decent education.
My work is successful when it brings ideas to life on the canvas or in sculpture and when each work speaks of itself, and for itself.
I do not have a set process for creating new ideas. I am an avid reader of books, newspapers, and magazines and pick up ideas from travel, and from the three places I live - Ohio, Florida, and Ontario, Canada. Some of my ideas come from studying the work of other artists that I admire, while others are generated from my personal experimentation or improvement of earlier works. When I integrate these ideas into my art, I hope to become a participant and commentator on my African American culture and history on behalf of the ideas I believe in and care deeply about.
Audience implies a collection of people with expectations of being pleased by the work. It also implies some type of wish fulfillment to please on the part of the artist. For the most part, I have created my work in solitude, not aware of having an audience, or feeling the need to please an art critic. I do believe the minute artists begin to make art with the expectation of an audience in mind, the work is compromised. My work is grounded in the African American struggle which I am a part of, and which I believe all people can identify with as a universal experience. I would hope it proves capable of evoking responses such as curiosity and confusion, or insights into our past and future. However the work is perceived, I hope it represents another example of individual self-expression.