After the experience in documentary photography and MFA program. How is photography as a medium for you now? Is it different to treat photographs as materials than others?
Photography no longer my main medium. I still shoot things here and there as I see them. But I don’t think I’ll shoot a doc project anytime soon. At least not one that is linear or solely relies on a flat image to tell the story. Manipulated works seem to offer better information nowadays. At least for me, maybe I will change my mind in a couple of years again, but it’s how I feel.
It is still different to treat my images as materials as I still have rules in mind about what my previous work needs to look like in a finished manner. I think the more I create images that I don’t mind cutting up, or that are intended to be less precious, that bad habit will break. But I usually make work with the materials in mind and have yet to begin to go back into my archives to deconstruct images for reinterpretation. My efforts moving forward will reflect that looseness I hope. I will continue to use the camera in this way now. Although I have been taking pictures regularly, I have not seen or edited anything in almost 6 months. But when I do, I feel as though they will be less about the single image, and perhaps more montage, collage or even as a reference for something else TBA.
How do you feel if the audience focuses more on the resources instead of your approach?
At this point, I don’t mind the focus being on the resource instead of the approach, or even the apparent message or meaning I am trying to make because quite honestly, I am not able to make meaning with them just yet. For example, the best abstract paintings still point to something – internal, external, they serve as monuments, etc., but I am not that keen yet, and I have not been able to get to that point just yet. The meanings of these things are still developing because I am still in awe of the paint itself. Every piece I pick up from my piles of paint is a revelation to me. I am still very curious about the visible colors and how I might be holding a small part of a masterpiece by an artist of esteem. Just this past week alone two important graffiti writers passed away – LAVA 1 & 2 and NIC707. Both of those writers painted on the very train that my surface material comes from, and I think a small part of their work might be sandwiched between all those layers of paint. I take pride in the potential of holding and reworking important relics related to the history of graffiti in NYC. Aside from jazz, modern graffiti is the only other truly American art form in my opinion. I might be more archeologist than an artist in this instance. And I am okay with that. Until the work matures and goes beyond experimentation and offers a voice from the core, I am okay with it just being a bunch of random paint chips glued onto the surface of wood panels that take me days to make.
Considering your background is in education and community building, how do you balance individuality with the service for the community?
I balance by looking at my work as part of the larger solution. Even though I’m an artist I exist within a larger ecosystem. This why other materials are important at this time. I can probably say more now without the camera. If I’m good, then others around me are also good. Not an easy balance but it’s one that I am conscious of for sure.
Your works have been addressing political issues by various media. Now you are experimenting with clay, do you want to talk about it?
I see politics in everything. There are a lot of examples of politics in art. From access to materials to workshop spaces and exposure to certain mediums. I think about the politics in clay. The clay is part of the earth and sustainable. I have found there are few kilns in NYC that are owned or operated by people of color. It’s an expensive hobby that many people can afford. It also has a history in slavery and world culture. Look up someone like David the Slave who was an important potter who was born into slavery and was literate. There are politics in the cultural appropriation of techniques as well. Much of the videos I see online feature outsiders talking about traditional techniques from Asia or Africa.
I find there might be a lane for me in there too. Similar to how I was able to find a voice with journalism that I might have some opportunities in this area as well.
Many of your works have the element of absurdity. For example, you taught birds on the street with a deep prez song, Wolves, featuring a speech by Omali Yeshitela, you made a container that needs three people to hold together. How you will go on with it? Do you have any plans after graduation?
The absurdity is necessary for me. It leads to more questions because it makes no sense. I have another song that I want to use similarly. But this time it’s intended for stray cats. I’m noticing a proliferation of cats in the street now that fewer people are outside. Let’s train them to make better choices starting now. So when they take over after our extinction they don’t copy the bad habits that got us humans killed off. I have more hope in them than my neighbors at times!
I’m not sure about the plan after graduation. Besides going back to work and creating more art, I have no real idea of what I will do. My wife has been trying to get us to leave NYC for years now and was basically waiting for me to finish school. I’m not 100% sure what will happen. I’d like to give my children a healthier place to live. The rest will settle itself.