I created the following paintings since graduating from college in 2008. The first pieces of this series were birthed while I was living in Brazil in 2009. That year initiated the start of my conscious spiritual journey in this lifetime and my orientation to my art and politics shifted a great deal. As I referenced in my artist statement, I became less interested in illustrating a political ideology, and more engaged in reflecting on the resilience of humanity across dimension and space. In my spiritual practice, I began to invite the love, protection, wisdom and guidance of enlightened ancestors, and many historical ancestors showed up in my paintings. I also became more grounded in Afrikan and North American Indigenous philosophies that honor the cyclical nature of time, the interconnectedness of all life, and the presence and power of the spirit world in struggle. These paintings span a seven year period in which I began a career as a high school humanities teacher (which left very little time for art making) and went through a two year initiation into the Sacred Feminine. Through this time I have explored the intersection of spirituality and politics, and my work is a reflection of my attempt to bridge the particular material struggles embodied in Black history with universal themes of Love and Resilience.
Interestingly, I created this painting months before I consciously embarked on a spiritual journey. My reference image for the piece was one of Emory Douglass's illustrations of powerful warrior women depicted in the Black Panther Newspaper. Now looking back, I can see how I was tapping into the elemental forces of nature, perhaps in unconscious preparation for the next leg of my journey.
This piece is really a continuation of Spirit Guides, though I don't think I had that specific intention when I started the painting. I do know that I intended to honor my Afrikan ancestors ability to transmute experiences of brutal oppression into bonds of solidarity and spiritual resilience.
In the visual vocabulary I created for my senior thesis project "Beyond Simple Equations," I had used the diagrammatic Black bodies represented on images of slave ships as a way to represent how white supremacist logic essentializes Blackness. I now was interested in the reclamation of Black humanity through struggle. What did it mean to not allow one's consciousness and understanding of self to be confined to the simplistic mark represented on those diagrams?
This is a tiny painting (6"x6") and is simply a tribute to one of the most powerful and courageous women in u.s. history. The cowry shells honor her as an enlightened ancestor.
Sankofa, an Adinkra symbol from West Afrika, represents the importance of understanding our past to make sense of our present and future. This concept became particularly important to me in my reflections as a humanities teacher and as a spirit seeker looking to make sense of the continuum of personal and collective evolution. I had the opportunity to travel to South Afrika in 2013 with three students, and was inspired to honor Steve Biko's legacy.
I created this piece right after a terrible relationship that ended in an act of betrayal. However, the incredible blessing of sister solidarity emerged from this painful experience, which reminded me that the sacred connection among women is one of the most powerful forces against patriarchy. Our relationships are the anecdote to hierarchy, division and competition that comes from living in an oppressive, unbalanced society.
In my continued exploration of sankofa, I created this series. I wanted to represent the apocalyptic realities that we are facing--with all the historical and contemporary factors present--while also showing a key to continued hope, embodied in the strength of women, young and old.
This piece emerged from a drippy underpainting. I didn't have a clear vision for where it would go, but I became inspired by both Leroy Clarke, a Caribbean painter of the orisha tradition, as well as my experience working on the Dearly Beloved quilt. Reoccurring themes of ancestral remembrance emerged as I continued to paint.
This piece came to life pretty intuitively. It echoes the portraits of the Reclaiming Our Legacy series, as well as the hauntings of white supremacist violence. Yet there are seeds that will never die.
This tribute to Octavia Buttler was a simple gesture to honor her visionary work that has given me a grounded, yet expansive sense of what is possible in the midst of the unspeakable violence and oppression that is the status quo of our world. Blue sky can alwaysl exist in our spirits.
This painting came from my experience in a sensory depravation or "float" tank. In this womb-like environment consciousness and the dreamworld merge, and time and space collapse. It seems like it could be the closest parallel to what a caterpillar experiences in its cocoon as completely transforms to become a butterfly. It is also the space where we can meet our ancestors and descendants and see ourselves as a spiraling continuum.