Being born in a subsection of America where the past and present seem to blur together, I believe that time is a prevailing influence on our perception of truth. That by looking at the events through the ambiguous lens of time we are capable of fictionalizing parts of those experiences.
Through introspection, I’m able to cope with and negotiate my own coming-of-age story within the reality that it was heavily influenced by struggles with race, observation of the black female body, and the residual trauma that exist in many African American households in the South, post slavery and Jim Crow.
My video, photography, and mixed media work relies heavily on the act of piecing my own work with sourced imagery as a way of developing a new structure, cutting and alternating the experience to fit the way I would have desired or imagined it to be. In my most recent mixed media project title Corpora IV, I sourced found imagery from vintage National Geographic magazines from the early 1950s to late 1970s. Embedding the images within the form of a looping animation of a black man posing in a studio portrait setting, reminiscence of the early work of West African studio portrait photographers: Malike Sidibe, Seydou Keïta, and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere. In this series, the animated loops become more intricate as I begin to investigate ways imagery and the human form might be merged together to create a new body, one that is both documented and constructed.
I see my artmaking process as moving collages, where nothing is ever as it appears and every image has the potential to merge into another, seeing time as a clay like substance that is formable. This for me allows the past to not be determined by its proximity to reality but through the fog and fiction that is viewing a moment in reverse. Through the act of looking back I am crafting a false memory that resembles a real experience.
I gravitate to artistic inspirations that explore human’s relationships with their environment, the way experiences and emotional reactions to circumstance might be represented conceptually. I owe an immense portion of my focus and study to the work of the filmmaker and artist Maya Deren, whose work has been the earliest driving force to my experiments in storytelling. Her film At Land, presented an experimental narrative that was neither controlled by sequence or space but allowed character and the human form to be the propulsion to her abstract journey through spaces. In my own work, I explore the way that the human form and the environment work together to create highly stylized whimsical moments, as if our daydreams had found a way to thinly layered themselves over our everyday lives. The human forms relation to space is such an essential aspect to Deren’s narrative work, and has inspired me to look deeper as I consider how other aspects of color, form, and environment have a direct relationship to the experience of time.
Three years ago, I stumbled upon the book Life & Afterlife in Benin by the Nigerian art critic and writer Okwui Enwezor. I found the book by chance in a dusty sea of half priced books on a stand somewhere in Boulder, Colorado. The book presented images of black bodies of all ages from the 1960s to 1970s, in studio portrait settings but others depicted images of funeral processions, disfigured faces, and young man striking poses in chorus with one another. Every image seemed so carefully orchestrated with the intent to show how far removed these documents of the real were from reality. The illusion that was the backdrops to the portraits seemed to root them within a fiction, using portraiture as the main tool to reveal fantasy.
My exposure to the work of West African portrait photographers has had an immeasurable influence on my work, I recently was able to take this muse and apply it to my curiosity in conceptual documentation in the remote section of Southwest Uganda. I split my time between interning with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and evolving my own personal project within the community that I was living in. It was during my time in the community that I began to navigate how the human form works in conjunction with the environment around it. I sought to embed my conceptual interest in color and form as a motivational impulse to the exploration of the fantasy that exist within the everyday. I captured the lush landscape of the Buhoma side of Bwindi, searching for ways that people naturally began to create visual discourses with their environment.