In her memoir “Negroland”, Margo Jefferson observes, ”Being an Other, in America, teaches you to imagine what can’t imagine you. That’s your first education.”
As an African-American artist, the symptomatic, incoherent and persistent pull of the undertow from an unimaginable existence has molded my perception and shaped my vision. Within the canon of Western art, portraiture, and in particular portrait painting, has been a vehicle of substantiation, substantiation of desire, power and influence, of what should be and what could not be imagined; an interlocutor in the cultural dialogue concerning beauty, identity, representation and social status. One of the unfailing functions of a portrait painting is to validate and give permanence to the world it describes and to the persons that inhabited that world. A portrait fixes in the mind of the viewer the immortality of the profiles, ideals and attitudes it depicts while, at the same time, marginalizing and suppressing any irregularities or competing traits. Never seen as possessing the humanity, dignity, status and/or inner life commensurate with the objectives of portrait painting, throughout history images of Black women, Black men and Black children have largely been invisible or reduced, without ambiguity or uncertainty, to the characterization of a stranger in the world of the white man’s imagination. My intention is craft an alternative parable. Using the mechanisms by which Others have historically been rendered absent or apart, the physical collages and stereographic devices I construct coerce bifurcated images from seemingly contradictory and dissimilar points of reference to share their domains, features, traits and dividends in the eye and mind of the viewer. Influenced by the individual viewer’s background and experience, the images that result from these mergers are not easily categorized, comfortably resolved or completely clear in consequence. Simultaneously juxtaposing disparities with communal values, both superficial and profound, the amalgamations that are formed imagine strange bedfellows sharing moments of time, space and reason.