The common thread being that they’re all mediums and artists that either create from what’s available and/or take what exists or has existed and put a new spin on it, they transform it into something new – whether that’s samples being used and remixes into new singles, dapper tan taking (expand on this because I’m not 100% on it), Picasso and the cubist movement essentially deconstructing and reconstructing portraiture and how an object or person is both represented and perceived etc.
My creative process is usually a little less linear than I’d prefer, but it usually takes two tacks – short term and long term.
I keep a notebook with me, that I stuff with post it notes about bigger themes and ideas I want to explore in a piece which can take months to get started or create and archive images, ideas, materials I’ll need to include.
Short term, I go to bookstores, drug stores, vintage bookstores when we’re allowed out again and pick up anything that has either a theme I’m interested in or just interesting images: fashion magazines, design & art magazines, national geographics on occasion, flower compendiums, books about old kings and queens, armor, war machines – usually 4-7 magazines at a time and 2 books at a time per collage output
And then I cut out any images that I find interesting, poses, people, sometimes just various body parts, faces, part faces, fabrics, jewelry, armor, art frames, classical art pieces I’ve always loved like the girl with the pearl earring etc.
Then, once I’ve done a massive cut, I group the images into themes or ideas that I think will work on my desk and take a break, let it sit in the background of my mind for a few days then get back to moving them around and seeing what sticks, usually once a piece tells me when it’s done and then I put it to a canvas, scan it and post
I think my art aims to excise some of the things that eat at my body and to have slightly bigger conversations about the things I’m passionate about. I love fashion and I love economics, but I’ve never found a career or job (even within fashion) that allows me to look at the bigger picture, globally beyond the purpose of consuming. In this medium though, I can mix it all together – ‘talk’ so to speak about fashion and what it is and has been, not consumption.
The below piece I made is called “Too Slow” from Nina Simone’s “Mississippi, Goddamn” about the civil rights movement and the frustrations of being told the fight for freedom and equality was too fast, too much and if black americans could just ‘act right’, ‘slow down’, ‘educate themselves’ then they would achieve progress ‘eventually’ but the rage and frustration of being forced to jump through endless hoops where the goal post is always moved as a means of keeping the oppressed oppressed while also blaming themselves for lack of movement forwards. It is my take on those emotions being roiled up with the global BLM movement that caught fire last summer and the historic role of fashion and black bodies in the build-up and maintenance of capitalism through cotton and slavery, the industrial revolution and child labor all the way to now where capitalist institutions are what continue to keep progress from being made.
I can talk about colonization and the anger and grief I carry about it, same with police and prison abolition, the prison industrial complex, the blue wall, the needling issue of privilege including my own, the detachment I feel from my own culture having grown up in a different one and never particularly fitting in either.
And on the other hand, my work is about I think portraying the joy and beauty I don’t see reflected back at me, that doesn’t look like me or feel like me when I look at existing media and what is popular/promoted.
I want to see soft colored bodies, I want to see bodies in movement, faces made up of features like mine, my friends, my family and joy that looks like me.
I would say in terms of visual artists, it would probably be Basquiat, Banksy, the Cubist & Surrealist movements, and then I’ve found Black artists like Jeff Manning & Gavin Benjamin are also inspiring because of how wholely and vividly they’ve created an identifiable style and how they portray black men and women.
I look up to artists whose subject matter subverts societal notions that we often take for granted. For example, Banksy and his art often questions who is actually violent, what is the value of police and monarchy, what is violence? Questions about power, who holds it and how the hands of power dictate the narrative. Cubism & Surrealism question perception, reality and I think in that subversion of a face or portrait or landscape painting, again question the narratives that we consume, question what is value and why is something of value. Manning & Benjamin’s works put black bodies and profiles front and center in a way that they rarely are, not trauma porn, not suffering, not only struggling and only struggling for freedom, for peace. These bodies have the depth of softness and power in forms other than violent that black bodies are rarely given, if portrayed at all.
Basquiat is an influence, especially his crown and use of primary color. To be honest, it’s difficult to put into words for me, I simply have visceral reactions to his work.
Graffiti art also, Banksy particularly – the way he uses contrary images to make sophisticated critiques on society.
I think art is exclusionary, in terms of who gets a voice and a platform and always has been. The history of what is housed in museums and private collections, and the subject matter is but a percentage of what has been created and how much has been lost, and the voices that were never given a platform or even a canvas because of their race, their class, their gender, their sexuality and religion. There is a lot of gatekeeping, and a lot of barriers to entry at every point in creating a piece of art and getting it out there.
I think art doesn’t necessarily promote inclusivity, I think it is one of the few global means of dissent and that that is what is inclusive. It is a way for anyone, with any materials, regardless of resources or status to create something and say something about how they’re feeling, coping or not coping with all of the insanities of the world we live in. It’s a means of tearing down the veil, and letting anyone say this is the truth of my experience, this is what is ugly, this is what I struggle with and this is what must change.
By just existing as a means where anything can be made into art, by anyone, is how art as a medium can bring awareness to social justice because everyone has a voice, everyone has something to say, and with social media – those voices find each other, amplify each other, and allow them to build communities where they can thrive and advocate for each other and themselves. They can build their own table, rather than beg for a seat where there is none and no incentive to be one.
In terms of just practical frameworks, art promotes inclusivity and social justice by creating compelling works we can’t turn away from, by creating slogans and ads that are unforgettable and can be shared within communities and amplified. Art allows us to put a face so to speak to a movement, and that is one way to amplify and grow movements for freedom and equality and one way to fight against the hegemonic power.