Black Bird Gelatin printing, Conte, Acrylic, Relief, Lithography, Hand-stitching, Decorative Papers 39 x 50 2016
Working from Oral traditions, vintage and family photographs as a source of inspiration; my work explores the power of the narrative impulse. My process of layering various printmaking, drawing, sewing, collaging, and painting techniques allow me to create portraits that fuse the real and the fantastic. In these works I combine signs and symbols to create a visual language. By fusing this visual language with oral storytelling I can offer other identities and other narratives for women of color.
“Night Women” mixes myth and traditions between layers of mixed media to create portraits of Black women with an array of haunting gazes that both captivate and command attention. In my layering of materials and varied techniques-printmaking, drawing, painting, sewing and collage which are in part about the complexity surrounding race, gender, and beauty, each image in some ways deals with empowering transformations. The color blue used throughout the work places the women in a “night” space. this space explores a time and space that fosters change, prayer and healing. Each woman becomes something that mends the split between the spirit world and cultural identity, allowing her to engage in her own form of storytelling.
I Come From Women Who Could Fly
As a child I was surrounded by story tellers and quilt makers. It was not until much later that I came to understand these as forms of art and appreciate their importance and impact on my work.
Growing up, I loved listening to my grandmother tell stories as she quilted. She referred to the process of making a quilt as “piecing together”. It was in these skillfully stitched pieces of old school clothes, baby blankets, work shirts and torn jeans that she carefully pieced together our history. Her stories were so intricately woven with detail and with such passion I would be left in awe and surprise. Each character left to replay their role long after the story had been told.
My favorite story was that of the Flying Africans. A story of African people whose black wings spread across the sky taking them to places I could only imagine. After had finished telling her story she would smile and say, “You know, you can fly too”.
As I look back on those nights of storytelling and quilting; I now realized my grandmother was flying. She held me tight in words and spread her wings and soared through the sky.
I have used her stories to create a series of mixed media drawings that explores the piecing together of oral tradition and both personal and cultural histories. Throughout these works I have used a variety of drawing and printmaking processes to interweave layers of texture, pattern, and portraiture. Each layer symbolizing complex histories and magical stories deeply rooted in oral traditions. These early experiences and memories had the deepest impact on my work and indeed taught me to fly.