My favorite thing to do is to sit with one person and listen to them tell me their story and then share mine. Through this act of sharing, we are able to touch each other’s lives in ways that we do not always understand completely, but which often have lasting impact. Sharing your story and really listening to someone else’s is a validating process that affirms the humanity of all of the parties involved. How do we understand each other? How do we most effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings and experiences with each other? Why is it that it can be so challenging to be fully present and truly listen to one another?
Art allows me to be creative and disciplined—it gives me space to experiment and do things the way I want to do them, but it also forces me to apply myself—if I do not give the time and energy that a piece deserves, I become disappointed in myself. All of my best artwork has a strong conceptual base. This is not to say that I always know what the concept behind the art is before I start making it, but if no concept ever materializes, in the best case scenario, the artwork is merely interesting to look at.
I have experience with many mediums; I’ve taken classes using exclusively oil paint or woodblock printmaking or photography. I appreciate these experiences with specific media as ways that I can build my skill set. Sometimes, it is good to be forced to work with a limited number of resources. However, I most enjoy working with many mediums in the same piece. There are so many materials that lend themselves to conveying different moods, colors, textures, and styles, that it seems a shame not to use them all. Working with mixed media also allows me to integrate objects from the world around me—the paper that my new dress was wrapped in, or a bus ticket. Over the course of the semester, I tried using many different materials and processes to explore the concept of iconography as it relates to the people in my life. I started out trying to oli paint, and it simply did not hold my attention. Instead, I found myself using found images, photographs that I had taken, and patterned papers. Some combinations worked better than others, and sometimes I ran into problems with adhesives or pigments and the way they interacted. Slowly, I developed a way to portray the people I love through my own marks, but in a way that is also tied to photographs through tracing, layering, and collage.
In the times that I am most “in the flow” while I am creating I don’t think of anything, other than the materials, forms, and colors, and how I can manipulate them. I create almost exclusively for myself, although every once in a while I make something for or directed at someone else. Creation is a cathartic process for me, and so making art is usually about the process as opposed to the product. Practically, this means I have a hard time putting a lot of time or effort into pieces whose ideas or artistic processes do not inspire me. I will spend hours in the studio working on a mixed-media series of portraits of my friends, but if you ask me to do a detailed pencil drawing of a still life, I become an amazing procrastinator.
I draw my inspiration from the people who surround me, the places I have visited (or have imagined visiting,) and the experiences that I have acquired throughout my life. Other artists’ work is no exception to this. Contemporary artists like Kehinde Wiley and Robert Lentz inspire me through both their visual style and their strong conceptual work. Religious art history also has a strong impact on me. In my current work, the ties to traditional iconography are strong both visually and conceptually. The idea behind a religious icon is that you look at the icon, reflect on the person who is depicted and their life, and then imagine that they are doing the same to you. I use this evaluative process in my daily life, not with religious figures, but with the people who are closest to me—my friends and family. My most recent work strives to convey this process visually.
I like the constant problem-solving creating art inspires and also the feeling of allowing myself to be transported into a trance-like state where the colors and forms and textures take up my whole attention. I also like that the creative process can be collaborative if you want it to be, or parallel—you can work next to someone, and even if you aren’t saying anything there is a certain sense of communication and solidarity. The creative process is intrinsic to humans—it spans over ages and cultures and gender and everything that makes us different—it allows people to express themselves whether through visual art or computer code or cooking or dance, and I love that when I am making art, I am engaging in something that ties us all together.