The Black on Black Project, Anchorlight, and my time as the inaugural Jo Ann Williams Artist Fellowship recipient

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     A few years ago I had a strange eating habit where I would look at my plate and section off the food, deciding which corner of each piece or serving of whatever was going to taste the best. Sometimes I would change my mind and decide that the bite that was ordained to be the second to last bite should be switched to being the last bite because of COURSE I just knew it was going to be more delicious. In all reality there is no way that I could have known. But I did enjoy the feeling of being right on the times that I was.

     When Mike Williams decided that he was going to come up with some way to honor his mother--from everything I've heard of her she was a wonderful, caring, and change-creating woman--there were so many decisions to make. Perhaps one of the most important was who he was going to pick.

     When I got the call from Mike that he wanted me to be the first fellow, I was shocked. First of all, I didn't realize that he was calling to ask--I was on the other end of the phone offering up my willingness to help with whatever admin stuff he needed me to do to make the residency happen! Secondly, I was stunned that out of all of the incredible people in his world he asked me.

     Since I met Mike about two years ago (at my art mama, Linda Dallas' house; in the same meeting I met Carly P. Jones and Kyma Lassiter). There was time for him to become familiar with my art, see my journey as an artist, and to get to know me as a person. Mike choosing me to be the first recipient, in my head, like picking which corner of the chicken is going to be super great, or deciding that this edge of the sweet potatoes has the most heart and soul in it, if sweet potatoes had emotions and didn't want to let the person with the fork deciding, down.

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     Mike didn't know whether or not the time that I spent there would have been great or a wash; it's almost like taking a gamble on the corner of food that is going to be the most delicious. You win some and you lose some, and sometimes all of the food is gross. This was a first for so many things, for all of us involved. But for whichever reasons that he did choose me, I'm so happy to be the decision that he landed on, and I’m grateful that the product of that decision was some good food—there was soulful art created, there were smiles, there was joy, there were tears, there were so many hugs, and there were wonderful conversations that happened in the space of the gallery and my studio. And the relationships that formed during my time there? I was in a building with friends, and that is not the way it goes for everyone. To ALL of my Anchorlight people, you surrounded me with love. Thank you <3  

     My time at Anchorlight was more like the last chip-full of some amazing beans and queso (just for example, of course 😉); it was a delicious start, like an appetizer—and of course that chip gets finished before the meal arrives, and you get to be excited to know that there are even more delicious things to come.  

     

Special Thanks:

Mike and Jo Ann Williams for everything that this meant, to Shelley Smith (for so SO many things, especially your patience); to my Anchorlight family (there are SO many of y'all!!! But particularly those of you who I laughed and cried with in my time there, and for those of you whose work inspires me and hugs and smiles charged me); to Christine Brenner and Elissa Colón for letting me put heads in your ovens and being so wonderful anyway!; to Ana Howard for taking so much care in making sure my pieces are fired safely each and every time--thank you thank you thank you; to Holly Fischer for starting the fire for sculpture in me in the first place; to Lucky Buttons whose comment in a conversation at Artsplsoure sowed the seed for the concept for this show; to every single person that spent any minute of time at Anchorlight to come see me and my work; to Precious and André for answering the SOS call that Mike sent out while things were rocky; to Trent for being there in so many ways; to JP and Flux for coming to make art with me and all of the good feelings that those visits gave my soul; to my family and friends who spent their time and money to come see me and my show; Junito and the coach for coming in with the drone! And to Ron, Junito, and and of course to Captain Mom, Shay, and Sisi for loving me and doing all that it took to coordinate getting everyone here. 

Enough with the food puns and thank you's, here goes the main course of this post: a collection of images and videos from my residency.

 

Exhibition statement: In this life we start from scratch. We cast our trajectory and take off into the world to see who and what we will become. Before we take that leap, anything is possible. But as we prepare to jump we are faced with the voices of others telling us who we can and cannot be. This is an ode to the moment before our toes leave the ground, where the impossible doesn't exist and we remember that we don't have to limit ourselves because someone else couldn't fathom a dream so big. #RightBeforeWeFly

 

"Right Before We Fly" is a sculptural installation and the first exhibition created through the Jo Ann Williams Artist Fellowship. The fellowship provides studio space and resources to emerging artists. Learn more about the fellowship here.

 

 

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The Matriarchs

A big focus for me and my works has been women as guiding figures. The matriarchs are the ones who gave birth to entire bloodlines and I find that to be incredibly significant. I would argue that their role is the most important in a family, and wanted to create pieces that honor that role and all of the women who have filled it.
Ceramic, fabric, and acrylic
6400 each

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Matriarch I

The wings on this piece are a mix of two African butterflies. The Yellow Banded Acraea has a host plant that is usually considered to be undesireable. Since its host plant is a “pest,” it is generally removed from domestic gardens, leaving the population without a vital life source. However, in areas where the host plant is not removed—or is easily accessible—the butterfly population actually thrives! It also obtains trace amounts of cyanide from the host plant. The eventual buildup of the cyanide in its body makes it poisonous to predators, and becomes a source of protection. The parallels are reminiscent of vital resources that black people and minorities are denied; in situations where there isn’t a deficit, we do thrive. And the resourcefulness that we gain by having to “make do” or “get by” become a survival mechanism that help protect us in a world where our necessary resources are routinely discarded or withheld. The second butterfly is a cousin of the Acraea Horta, which feeds on peach blossom—it is a reference to my grandparents who lived in Georgia (the peach state) for 40 years.
 

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Matriarch II

The wings on this piece are a mix of two African butterflies. The Yellow Banded Acraea has a host plant that is usually considered to be undesireable. Since its host plant is a “pest,” it is generally removed from domestic gardens, leaving the population without a vital life source. However, in areas where the host plant is not removed—or is easily accessible—the butterfly population actually thrives! It also obtains trace amounts of cyanide from the host plant. The eventual buildup of the cyanide in its body makes it poisonous to predators, and becomes a source of protection. The parallels are reminiscent of vital resources that black people and minorities are denied; in situations where there isn’t a deficit, we do thrive. And the resourcefulness that we gain by having to “make do” or “get by” become a survival mechanism that help protect us in a world where our necessary resources are routinely discarded or withheld. The second butterfly is a cousin of the Acraea Horta, which feeds on peach blossom—it is a reference to my grandparents who lived in Georgia (the peach state) for 40 years.
 

 

Rebirth Series

The stage in development when a larvae turns into a cocoon is the most important moment in its life. Inside of a chrysalis (generally butterflies come from a chrysalis and moths from a cocoon, though both terms are the same idea) a caterpillar essentially digests itself with enzymes, turns into a liquid, and rearranges itself into an entirely new being. The points in life that we reach where we transform we essentially do the same things. Occasionally we re-write ourselves entirely. Sometimes, we look up and discover that we’ve morphed without having realized it was coming. These pieces are a full circle from my first solo show of sculptures. They, too, have transformed and become pieces with a different purpose….just as people do, sometimes.

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Rebirth I

Rebirth I
Ceramic and Fabric
6400

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REBIRTH II

Rebirth I
Ceramic and Fabric
6400

Working in the Shadows

Stage productions have a main performance, but back stage a whole different production is occurring. In order for a successful show to happen there is a whole tech crew behind the scenes making sure that everything happens just right. Angels and ancestors are like that—they are in the shadows working behind the scenes for your good. This piece creates a visualization of those figures.

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 Photo by Jenkins Paisley

Photo by Jenkins Paisley

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Working in the shadows

The faces in this piece are two important sculptures to me. The male face was made after the shooting of Tamir Rice. It was based off of a sculpture of a young man named Patrick. I saw a video by Unreported World about Patrick, who is deaf. He lives in a village in Uganda where no one knows sign language, and as a result has more or less spent the first 15 years of his life trapped in his own mind. The frustration and difficulty of Patrick's life dynamic reminded me of what it felt like experiencing the frustration of not being able to put together or explain the complexities of my feelings in relation to experiencing the repeated deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers.   

The female face was cast from a piece that I made for the Submerged artist show. The piece was created after a strange incident involving slang. I was on Imgur surfing through an album of old photos, and noticed that the author of the album switched to an uncomfortable attempt at AAVE when captioning the images of black people. I posted a comment about it, to which someone replied that I shouldn't take it so seriously because the author didn't mean it. There are lots of things that people do that harm in ways that they "don't mean"--and that lack of intention does nothing to change the outcome of what happens as a result. The sculpture was paired with two drawings of black children; one was the captioned image from the album, the other was a little girl holding a goose. The 

Cast in Hydrostone

Faces 95

Hands 155