As an artist who deals primarily with the human figure to tell stories, discuss history, and convey feelings/emotions, I have always utilized the adult figure – both male and female – to address my concepts. Recently, however, the gravity of the American condition, particularly in her tendency to either dismiss or consume her own children – her black children – has caused me to shift gears in my current works. Children and teenagers, along with a new way of seeing the world in black and white mediums, have overtaken my thinking space, and my studio walls.
When Black Boys Fly
A curious poetry sketch – the result of an artistic exchange between myself and the acclaimed poet Tongo Eisen-Martin – has worked in concert with a series of winged creatures and beings that have appeared in my recent sketches. Tongo’s remarkable writing has also inspired a developing series of images that I find to be a challenge to fix into any one category at this time.
Collectively, I am currently calling these works A Conversation with Crows, though there is a strong possibility that I am actually working on the beginnings of several new separate projects, that are all interrelated. For one, I am certain that a number of these images are part of the Ten Little Nigger Boys series that I am developing as a complement to my collection, Ten Little Nigger Girls.
These are works that speak to the curiosity and miracle of flight, and to the question of black boys and flight. An interesting cast of characters accompany these themed works – in one image, Zeus in the guise of his Eagle avatar flies away with Kalief Browder, who is represented as Ganymede, the boy who is abducted by the powerful deity to become his to use sexually. My interest here is in the eagle as a symbol for America, and the story as a metaphor for the abuses that ultimately led to Browder’s demise.
In another work, a winged black boy finds a baby phoenix with a broken wing on the ground, and gently cradles it in his hands. The fiery energy of the mythical bird connects with the fire in the boy while he is holding it. There is a communication of familiarity between the two subjects, as if they see themselves, each in the other. The general theme in this work is the promise of future potential in all little black boys, regardless of how greater society chooses to view them.