I continue to emphasize the female presence in my art work. Here is an example from a show now on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen, LA. This is a show of washboards that highlight the importance of Black women as entrepreneurs during and after slavery.
The Black female presence haunts me in art. Black women were often portrayed as either servants or concubines in many early paintings [of Caucasian artists]. It wasn’t until [Black artists] became [accepted into the] classical history of art that Black women were portrayed with complexity.
As a Black female artist, I feel it is important to establish the multifaceted nature of the Black female experience in past and present reality. For that reason, I often step back into the past to open the discussion about the lesser known realities of women. The fact that struggle was often juxtaposed with beauty is a part of the veracity I express in my work. The beauty I speak of is not the preconceived notion of beauty, but beauty in its elemental form. To express this, I incorporate plants and nature that anchor women to the environment and give them courage to continue despite the negatives. This is a lesson I learned from watching my mother and grandmother living difficult lives but holding on to simple wonders.
The evolution in my work stems from the need to encourage women in general and Black women in-particular to be among the change makers in our world. Thus, my latest work often leans more towards a political perspective. As seen in this piece from my 2018 show: Threads of Kinship.
One of the important themes within your work is the universal experience of suffering but through the feminine lens. I am thinking about a painting we have here in the gallery titled For My People as it depicts a kind of poetic African diaspora progression along the center panel with several femme figures. What other ways have you tried to creatively interpret this experience?
In my work I try to maintain a reminder of where we are as a people, where we have been, and where we need to go. I also explore this concept in my poetry.
I tried on the dream again,
it does not fit.
Mom says I will grow into it.
It sags around the waist,
the shoulders droop
over my small arms
like a too big coat on an orphan.
Dreams can’t come true
until they fit, she explained.
If a dream sags
you haven’t grown into it yet.
It’s secondhand I complained.
She replied, all dreams are used.
Do you know of a dream
that no one has worn?
Tie the thing around your waist,
pin up the shoulders,
practice walking in it
with a bucket on your head.
Don’t be embarrassed if people laugh.
They used to dream too,
but when their dream
did not fit their reality
they pulled it off, hid it in a draw
under the pressed linen,
planning to try it on again
when they reached that right place.
The dream dried up under the linen
forgotten like an old scarf yellowed with time.
one day you won’t have to try it on
it will be cozy on your person.
No one will know
It was a hand-me-down dream.
From ASCENSION: 2016 Broadside Lotus Press