Art Comes First turns 10yrs old.
I believe there’s a difference between seeing and looking. The distinction lies within understanding that when we “look” at something we are forming our first perceptions or concreting the existence of the object, act or person being gazed upon within our minds. When we look, we have taken the subject of our gaze out of the realm of ignorance or the imagination and allowed it to exist as a part of our reality, or our truth. To see on the other hand is to attribute a value, a meaning or weight to the initial act of looking, to move past the original and accepted objective truth of the existence of what is to form a personal hierarchical notion of importance that in turn shapes how we see and understand ourselves in relationship to the world around us. To both see and to look is to be in conversation with the world around us, and I believe in many ways this is the best way to describe my work – as born out of conversation between myself and where I have looked, a documentation of the relationships born out of the conjoined experience of looking and seeing.
This in essence forms the basis of the body of work that is interior/exterior which is simultaneously an examination of the self (interior) in relationship to society (exterior) and a reference to the formal compositional elements of the paintings themselves as comprised of a foreground, midground and background and the usage of techniques of photorealism, abstraction, occlusion and the literal physical space between the viewer and the observed painting to reveal and obfuscate different elements (and thus meaning) within the image.
When we look at George Floyd lying dead under the weight of an officer’s knee – when we look at images of communities set ablaze, towns and cities divided by class and race – when we look at riots, violent police and peaceful protestors – the frustration, fear, pain, sadness and anger we feel becomes the palette by which we paint a picture of reality, of the truth. Seeing is inherently proactive, indivisible from the act of living itself and reality is an amalgamation of what we allow ourselves to take in, of how we educate ourselves. In this way I believe COVID and George Floyd birthed in many of us a sense of agency and awareness of our place and participation in society at large and the difficulty of but necessity of change in manifesting a fuller, brighter and more cohesive portrait of this world we all share.
Though I believe we all have our own roles and ways to help and give, I encourage people to support Black Artist Fund, a fundraiser dedicated to providing Black and African American artists with grants to help support their work and practice. Founded by Claudia Eng of 10011 Magazine, I am a part of a board that consists of 12 members that assist in nominating recipients voting on public submissions and sourcing funds. We accomplish this through a mixture of direct donations, philanthropy, collaborations with artists, companies and institutions. To date we have raised upwards of $62,000 and distributed $10,000 in grants.