I had the beautiful opportunity to be apart of an extraordinary exhibition of artwork at Wavepool gallery curated by Maria Seda-Reeder entitled New Images of Humans. In this article, I will provide a response to the selected artworks I exhibited. At the end of this article, I will share a video of Sea Dax, Nikita Gross and I responding to New Images of Humans. My intention in this article is to give you insight into my process on how I arrived at creating Born Again, Happy Birthday, and Homecoming.
I find direct inspiration from family. James Davis obituary was found in a pile of obituaries in my grandmother's house. Through hours of research and other relatives, we found his relation to our lineage and has been added to the family tree. This obituaries intrigued me and stood out because in the pile of hundreds of obituaries James' was only one which had a full body portrait printed on the palfit.
The obituary of Anne Jefferson was sent to me by my grandmother on my wife's side after asking for geneology info. Anne was my grandmother's cousin. When I got the obituary, I couldn't take my eyes off the cover. I enjoyed the cover the most because of the portrait. It was her birthday! A day to celebrate life; a day full of joy. The emotion that radiated from photograph was so familiar to me.
I had the privilege of studying fine art at Parsons School of Design. During my studies, I learned about the work of David Hammons through books. Hammons used found material to create and form is works. This way of making has resonated with me in my practice from vernacular photography to revitalizing a community garden through found material.
Hendricks deptics full body African Americans on solid and textured fields of color. I am in dialogue with his visual aesthetics. I would spend a half hour starting at the work below when I visited The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Hendricks, Barkley L. Lawdy Mama (1969). oil and gold leaf on canvas.
I use to think I was a grand theft when I stopped creating photographs to archive them. Majority of the time I have not idea who took the photograph, so I give credit to the "unknown photographer". In some case, I discover the identity of this photographer, but that discover is not at the forefront of my work.
I consider myself a vancular photographer. I find photographs. I reproduce then, archive and contextualize then through artistic forms. This practice I compare to Hip Hop or to the art of sampling. There is much to say about this comparison, but I will save it for another blog.
Born Again is 70 inches by 31 inches cardboard box. Five oil pastels over the surface of the brown box: black, red, white, yellow, and brown. The cardboard is encased in glass and framed in wood stained black with red accents on the corner and edges. On the cardboard are three lines that hug the perimeter of the canvas. At the top of the canvas the words born again are written out in a black letter typeface. A male figure is the subject of the work. His skin: brown. His clothes: white and yellow. He sits in a red african style wicker chair. He is wearing a suit and penny loafers. He sits relaxed with his legs crossed and hand folded over his knee. A gentle laugh causes him to smile in his chair. The strokes are loose over the ripples in the cardboard, allowing the color of the cardboard to show throughout the image. The work hold a sense of dignity and authority, due to its size and depiction.
Happy Birthday + Homecoming
The same five colors are used in Happy Birthday and Homecoming with the additional colors of orange and purple. The material used is also found material–packing paper I found in the garbage. A woman is the center focus of both works. This woman is engulf in a field of red balloons. The strokes more blended in comparison to Born Again. The woman's hair is white, her dress yellow with streaking swirls of red and black. The found paper floats behind glass with a small margin of matte that is the same color as the paper.
I believe death becomes a celebration for those that put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savoir. Death becomes a homecoming, where child of God go home to be with their Father and friend. My faith is why I used imaginary of obituaries as sign of life and reason for celebration.
To be clear, I am not a fan of death. I see death and sickness as an adversary and enemy. Who can overcome death? I believe the Messiah done that through resurrecting from the dead. Those that have faith in his accession are made new essential being born again, having the overcome death through faith. I created the artwork Born Again to celebrate the new life of reigning with Jesus Christ.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17
In conclusion, I thought my work to be truly in conversation with Sea and Nikita by showcasing depictions of New Images of Humans. If want to learn more about the show and the other artist's, check out this artist talk!
How has images of humans changed over the last 50 years?