The body of work that I have made during open studio comes from my interest in the existing genre of Afro-Futurism, which seeks to take elements of the past, compare them and analyze them with our situation in the present and seeks to reimagine the future of black within the fabric of time. I’ve been trying to rediscover my past as a black person living in America; Afro-futurism combines science-fiction and African/African-American narrative. In my work I have to create a narrative because that touches on the ideas of Africa’s past and combines them in a way that makes sense to me. In reality, Black people in America have been the real victims of an alien abduction and continue to be plagued by oppressors. The art I create almost has to be sort of escapist because It’s difficult to come to grips with the realities of the past and how they affect us now.
One of the influences I used to piece together a sense of black identity is W.E.B. DuBois’ book The Souls of Black Folk . In his book he talks about the duality of the American Negro. The Black American has a mixed consciousness because of the system of white supremacy and the need to control the minds of enslaved Africans. The Black American looks at himself from two different perspectives. One is from the lens of his oppressor and the other is from that of his ancestors. The negro intellectual has a harder time dealing with it because they are educated on these subjects, therefore are more aware of them in everyday life. DuBois talks about Black people in America living underneath The Veil. He says, all black people in America live underneath the veil. This is the racist system that has been in place since the dawn of slavery. The veil is more dangerous presently because it is hidden. In fact, one would have to possess a certain perspective and a specified amount of background knowledge to even come to see the veil. Its as if the black intellectual has two souls in one body. This allows one to move through the veil and seek to tear it down if one so chooses.
Throughout the term I have been looking at Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Kara Walker, as well as ancient Egyptian/African iconography/artwork. The collages I have made become more like excavations. They are like digging into history to find messages or the meaning behind the pieces. Before I start working on a piece, I’ll try to do some visualization; this could last minutes or I could be doing this for a couple of days. I just think about the piece itself and how I might want to execute it. When in the studio I go to make a collage, I sometimes come with a specific idea in mind; other times I kinda just start working on the canvas, building up layers of magazine clips, different kinds of paint and other random things I might have lying around. I start a painting by first starting with a base layer of paint. I either have one color or combination of colors. Initially I try not to think about what I’m doing; just let the process occur; I just want to be present, just “do”. Then, I would begin laying down images from magazines; These images speak to me. Some of the collages deal with black identity, others simply provide for a more fantastical storyline. I tend to use comic book strips to add a fictional element but this contrasts because these ideas are very real. In the one piece called 144,000 I use egyptian iconography and some specific images to indicate a certain idea. There is also this feeling of digging and trying to find some truth in some of religious type texts.
I want to take a minute to talk about the influence of Hip-Hop and sound within my work. Sound is simply vibration, and when I think, I hear sound, and the sound of words transforms into images in my head. Nothing could exist without the word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Sometimes the drawings and words I write down are from songs, representations of ideas, or drawings from my sketch book. Because of my training in Hip-Hop, I approach making collage in the way that I write lyrics, especially when it comes to drawing and placing images. Much of the time I think of the associates there are between images. I sometimes ask where these images connect, do they even relate? Can I come up with a relationship based on my prior understanding of the two images? I feel that working this way eventually leads to a more inner personal narrative for me when a piece becomes considered done.
The sculptures I have constructed during open studio I would look at much like collage. In collage I’m finding images and things that might fit together on a panel or canvas, and when I make sculpture I think in a similar way. The collages become found partly readymade, partly found object sculpture. I think of each of them as a product; whether they are usable or unusable, I feel they are products made from remnants of a fallen civilization. I guess this is where the future part comes into my work. The future of America, not just Black people in America, is unclear. The way I approached making these sculptures is pretending that I was making “working” products that would appear in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic society. These pieces are about rebuilding the remnants of society after the fall. Upon making a sculpture I’m mainly thinking about how well the materials fit together. I seek to build interesting form and make a cohesive piece that looks like it is actually functional though most are. I took the liberty of incorporating sound into many of my pieces. Sound is a very important medium for me because I find it interesting to be able to take something that is completely intangible and manipulate it to create moods and certain types of experiences with it. I made a few sound collages during open studio that encapsulate mood, get a message across, or just have you enjoy the various sound bites that I use; sometimes all of the above.
Afro-Futurism seeks to rebuild a narrative for Blacks by combining elements of the past, present and reimagining the future. It’s about trying to understand what happened? Why am I here? Where I will be going? If we do not create our own narrative we then surrender our destiny to the will of the oppressor. I will be aligning my knowledge of art history, along with my skills in painting, sculpture and spoken-word to bring forth a greater understanding and better positioning of Black identity.