My work primarily consists of drawing, printmaking and mixed media collages that are built on reclaimed paper I gather around the city. I believe all things deserve second chances and I find a new life for old movie posters, and products of yesterday that would otherwise have no existence outside of the corner store walls. As the paper fades from the changing weather and harsh Texas sun I work all the accidents and mishaps to my advantage helping the paintings reflect the environment of an urban city. I also attempt to inform by working in a personal history and the histories of ancestors, various events of historical and cultural significance and the people that represent them.
My intentions are to expose the rich and diverse culture that make up the very fabric of a nation and more. Being educated in the Texas public school system, I learned, firsthand, that some of the most significant heroes of my cultural background were conveniently omitted from textbooks. Swept to the side and rendered invisible to a bevy of emerging students, scholars and artists. When the history books of tomorrow are written, the blame will not be for the students to bear. The blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of shoddy leadership and failed educational institutions in urban cities around the country.
In an era of information and rapid globalization such as this, where blogs, microblogs, and other social media reign supreme I ask, “How is this possible”? Why can’t the information that we once deemed sacred be passed on through folklore and song, for example? This question is precisely what I seek to address in this work. It is important that the work created be aesthetically appealing, and it is just as important that the viewer understands the information embedded in the work. This information is critical as it serves as social commentary of history and lineage as It is delivered in an abstract language of graphic images, inspired by real events, and presented in dynamic, creative form. In this sense, I play the role of a modern day Griot, channeling the spirit of ancient West African tribes to deliver my history via paintings and whatever form tells the story best, a piece of work must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene.
It is clear that, as a Griot, I must be able to create strong themes through powerful imagery and striking symbology. Always keeping the idea of the West African Griot, I must also be able to communicate these symbolic themes effectively and show praise to our Forefathers. I consider myself a person assigned to carry stories and histories of the tribe, a modern Griot; telling stories orally and translating them into paintings, video, sculpture – whatever is necessary to preserve that idea.
Hip-Hop and oral history are vital to my work because like history, hip hop music references the past and infuses itself to make a new body of work, while doing this new amazing thing. It’s an homage whether in song or linear notes of the album. Great pieces of art have no fear of time and the music re-introduces masters of their craft to a new generation in a new light. These new small collages are all about making work that makes the viewer happy and taking the focus off issues that seemly are everywhere as a black man in America. I wanted some things that make you smile and refocus on the amazing part of our culture that really shapes and provides so much of the American fiber.
(Detail: Fly Thru, mixed media collage on reclaimed paper, hemp thread, 15×13, 2016)