Location: Tucson, AZ, United States
My practice focuses on researching historical and contemporary narratives of stereotypes, representation, identity, and heritage through portraiture and vanitas. I make photographs referencing the long history of racial inequality while being modern in their desire to move into the future with honor and grace.
Weary from cultural negativity around Blackness, I felt called to create reverent images of people who look like me. As I began working on The Golden Age (2017), I recognized how uncomfortable I was in art spaces; that in so many non-spoken ways it was obvious we didn’t belong. This pained me as I spent hours in museums admiring the lighting in European Renaissance paintings but feeling how removed the whole experience was from my own reality.
It was important to create work honoring Black culture while addressing how we’ve been mostly omitted from art history. The Harlem Renaissance was our age of enlightenment and I wanted to bring attention to the connections between the two time periods. The Dutch Renaissance arose in Haarlem, Netherlands from the Eighty Years’ War with Spain as the Harlem Renaissance was birthed from the remnants of the Civil War and Great Migration. To pay homage to Harlem Renaissance while recognizing 17th century Dutch portraiture, I named the portraits as saints with a street name or landmark from Harlem as a way to memorialize this time in the midst of gentrification (i.e. Saint Madison, Saint Monroe).
This series is comprised of two archival pigment print sizes (24”x36” and 32”x48”) and has a hand-varnished finished. The varnish adds to the already painterly feel of the prints and allows for each print to be unique. Varnishing also allows the prints to be framed without glass lending an immediacy to the work and inviting the viewer to engage the portraits unguarded. I’m hoping the viewer will feel a sense of vulnerability when viewing these portraits.