Most of us have experienced art and craft at an early age, but describe getting your start in art. When did you start calling yourself an artist?
There are a lot of creatives in my family. My grandma was a seamstress and she made ceramic dolls. My uncle was a carpenter and my dad, before choosing to be an engineer studied art. He taught me the basics of portraiture and figure drawing and ever since, I’ve been hooked on making figurative work. I would practice drawing classmates in school and at gymnastics practice. When I got to high school I started selling portraits to people in our community, local hair salons, my classmates, and some of my teachers commissioned drawings from me. I’ve always been an artist.
Do you feel moving to New York has benefited you or gave you certain advantages as an artist?
I definitely feel like I learned a lot about what it takes to be a professional artist when I moved to NY. I’ve met so many people, some good some bad lol. I learned something from every experience and encounter. I needed to be in NY to grow as an artist. I needed to be challenged by my peers, I needed to be around a community of artists and creatives, which was very different from my hometown in Cincinnati.
Does your gymnastics background contribute to how you paint? (The energy, and flow in how you render)
My mom is the first African American woman to own a gymnastics school. She was my coach growing up, and when she found out that she was going to be a grandma in 2017 she wanted to give her grandchildren a piece of her that my brother and I were able to experience. So she wrote a book and I illustrated it. My Flipping Yaya is a fun and inspirational book about a young girl named Zuri who learns gymnastics from her grandmother. I drew many references from my childhood photos and it was really fun to work with my mom again and to recreate some of my childhood memories.
Gymnastics has been a huge influence on my art practice, especially when I think about the body, movement and mark making. I’ve had to study bodies and lines within the body so much as a gymnast and a coach that it’s embedded in my work.
In your latest paintings you use more than the typical paintbrush to create the figures. Talk about the ‘tools’ you utilize, and their importance.
My latest body of work has evolved from drawing. I’m interested in the microscopic marks that make up the figure, the energy we possess, and how our hair is an external form of that. I use many tools outside of a typical paint brush like afro picks, various types of combs, bobby pins, and some ceramic tools to mark into the paint. They’re important to me because they visually and conceptually represent energy and I am able to make those uniform vibrational lines. It’s interesting that the tools that I once used on my hair are now being used on my canvas. My hair journey has also been a huge influence on my practice.
Your paintings with inkpen compared to the newest work with hair comb sgraffito are handled differently, but the line work feels similar. Talk about your style of mark making.
My style of mark making is very gestural. I like to build up the figure with different layers of color and marks. My pen drawings evolved into these larger scaled paintings. When I was doing mixed media paintings with ball point pens I was interested in the copper reflection of the ink based on the mark buildup. This made me think of electricity in the body. Overtime, I grew tired of my pens constantly running out and I needed a smooth surface to maintain the flow of the mark, so I thought about the layers of a painting and the body more and revealing this internal energy within the figure. The sgraffito technique was not only about being able to make those marks but also creating an impression or a memory within the painting beyond the surface level.
Your project Hidden Dimensions involved interviewing women of color about their insecurities and rendering that in an artwork. Talk about the importance of that project and the experience working with those women.
Hidden Dimensions allowed me to talk about the pressure of beauty standards amongst black women and the lack of representation of distinct black features. It addressed the issues we have with black physical features in our society. These women and I had a chance to really bond and connect based on our experiences. It was very therapeutic for me and I am so grateful for their honesty and vulnerability.
The process of this work was all about layers and dimensions to the person. I used gesso as a way to erase and highlight these features in their portraits which allowed me to tell their story through painting. I was the first Black woman to graduate from my BFA Painting program, the only Black cheerleader on my collegiate team, and the only Black woman in my MFA graduating class. I was seeking that comradery and level of understanding when I made this body of work. Their stories are also my story and because we are often overlooked and underrepresented, I believe as an artist that it is my duty to represent us.
Tell us about your recent residency and what that experience with the program and workshops was like.
I recently did a residency with Dreamyard for their Black is Beautiful AIR Program. I had the opportunity to recreate a painting series using projection mapping and install the work at the Andrew Freedman Home during their annual Dream Festival. Being able to talk about energy through this augmented medium is really enlightening. I had so much fun learning and incorporating a new medium into my practice.
I also did a mural with Dreamyard for a separate project located at the Tremont Health Action Center.
Both projects allowed me to connect more with the local community in the Bronx.
I collaborated with other Bronx based artists and we hosted a variety of print-making and community building workshops.
What do you hope your legacy will be as an artist?
I will say what I heard Jack Whitten say in an interview once. “I just want to go down in history as one of the boys” lol
I want to be recognized for my work but I also hope my art can be a light to someone. I hope that when viewers experience my work they take away something that influences them to look a little deeper at themselves and others.
What can we look forward to from you in the future? (Any shows, talks,etc.)
You can look forward to a solo exhibit at Kente Royal Gallery TBA
What does the statement Living Life Fearless mean to you and your practice?
Living Life Fearless means living and creating your truth unapologetically.