still working on these, so be patient with the write-ups as
they will soon be changing as I add more commentary and images.
AMERICAN AS SWEET POTATO PIE
-Text from art catalogue
As American As Sweet Potato Pie is
a variation on an earlier work by Quashie entitled Render
Unto Caesar in which the artist used the New Testament
parable from the life of Christ in Matthew 22: 15-22. Its
context transposed to modern society, the political, social
and economic legacy of the Reagan era is examined. This
series of coupons, wryly confrontational, imprinted with
images of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Dan Quayle and Clarence
Thomas does not identify its creator as deriving from any
particular ethnic or racial background. However, knowledge
that the maker of this particular image is black lends
new interpretive possibilities and subtleties to its inflections.
Because the Reagan era is often perceived as a crucial
phase in the retrenchment of Civil and Human Rights advances
for American minorities, an added poignancy is imbued to
the implicit accusations in this work. The
integrity of government, reduced to Hollywood glitz without substance, and
further menaced by social problems such as welfare, black alienation, and other
issues, culminates in the image of Clarence Thomas, a symbol of the sacrifices
of African-American assimilation. In this simple image. Quashie
raises the questions
of leadership and integrity, implies social irresponsibility, lack of awareness,
and the perceived disintegration of upper-level government’s social consciousness
in favor of destruction, conspicuous consumption, insider trading, deficit
spending and an on-going series of loaded racial, social and contemporary issues
I never imagined that this piece would command
the stage that it did. The article addressed the fact that someone
wrote a response on the piece, which I didn't mind. As I
stated before, I always leave chalk on the faux sill and
encourage debate, but somehow hoped that the responses would
be wriiten and submitted. After all, there is only so much
room on the painting. The real din surrounding the piece
was stirred by a little old white lady, whom during the opening,
read the text and sought me out. She then proceeded to explain
to me in the clearest of terms why the piece was 'racist'
and why it had the potential to advocate violence in the
community. I specifically remember her saying how art like
mine was not wanted nor needed in their community. I, along
with others who were now gathering, tried to address her
concerns. I told her that the piece was not advocating violence
but rather questioning the use of violence against a fictional
foe. God bless her, she didn't waver an inch and completely denounced
me to all. I later found out that she was a member of the original
'White Citizens Counsel', a group prominent in the support of
segregationist policies that embraced Orangeburg during the time
of the now infamous 'Orangeburg Massacre' when 3 students were
gunned down in a hail of gunfire 2 years before the incident
at Kent State. I am unsure of the specifics of what happened
after the opening, all I know is that I got a phone call from
a reporter asking for my comments about the piece which resulted
in the full page article and served to solidify the appearance
that I was a 'controversial artist'. It is a label, for better
or worse (I'm not sure which), I have not been able to shake.
Even to this day, whenever I am invited to participate in an exhibition,
the first question out of any curator's mouth is, 'who do you plan to
piss off this time?"
BLACK AMERICAN DREAM
This piece is the revisiting of an earlier work. It was
never displayed in an exhibition and when I had the chance, I decided to split
the text into 26 seperate statements and place them on tiles hung with clothes
pins on a line stretched across the gallery space. I wanted it to appear as
though I was 'hanging out' laundry. Airing personal things not otherwise seen.
piece illustrated what I have always believed, that basically,
most of black america wants to be white. Due to the continuous
barrage of negative labels (listed in the background on black
on black text) that subliminally erode black identity, we have
in essence, come to believe that everything associated with white
america is 'good' and everything associated with black america
'bad'. This brain-washing if you will, causes us to want to adopt
the physical and social traits of the society we are in essence
attempting to assimilate. The statements spell out in detail
the areas in which I feel this has occured or is occuring. This
is without a doubt, the most volatile work I have ever produced.
How volatile you ask? The first time I hung this piece in an
exhibition, it lasted less than a day before I was forced to
take it down. The 'Exhibition Notes' details that fiasco.
wanted to address the issue of how homosexuals are forcing the
church to change its doctrinal stance on what has been regarded
as a subject of taboo throughout history. With the advent of
shows such as ‘Will and Grace’, ‘Ellen’, ‘Spin
City’, ‘The ‘L’ Word’, ‘Queer
as Folk’, and most importantly, ‘Queer Eye for the
Straight Guy’, homosexual characters and lifestyles has entered
the mainstream of our collective conscience, mainly through consumption
in the mass media, both socially and politically. This has allowed
for greater social acceptance and the subtle change in populace
attitudes. This shift has coincided with an equally measured response
through the increased political exploitation of so-called traditional
American ‘values’ trumpeted by the Republican party
and their right wing constituents, which on the surface continue
to present a hostile, though tempered, approach to the current
shift. In ‘Sweet Jesus’, I attempted to offer an artistic
bridge to connect these two disparate forces.
Each of the teaser articles were constructed specifically to cross-pollinate
the conservative and liberal perspectives through the use of clever
word play in order to comically highlight serious issues.
“Can The Lord Jesus Christ Be Gay?: Why Christ’s
Eyes Are Focused on Queer Guys” states
the premise of the paintings argument. It in no way suggests
that the artist considers Christ gay, rather, by proxy questions
the level of concern to the point of threat felt by the religious
right upon its established concept of Christian ‘values’. This teaser incorporates
the slang term ‘Queer’.
“Altared Boys: The Confessions of a Pedopriest”, addresses
the Catholic churches response to the recent slate of molestation
accusations leveled by altar boys at parish priests. Innocent children
held under the sway of spiritual authority had their futures ‘altered’ by
clergy using the ‘altar’ as shelter to pursue their
pedophilic desires. Such accusations highlights the argument often
used against homosexuals, i.e., that their ‘deviant sexual
behavior’ makes them more susceptible to commit such crimes.
“Condom User Survey: Lambskin vs. Latex” refers obliquely
to the Christian reference of Christ as the Good Shepherd, continuously
watching over his flock. Lambskin condoms are still widely used,
though they have given up market share to the more popular and
less expensive latex varieties. It also makes reference to the
use of condoms as a ‘safe-sex’ device to help curb
the spread of dangerous sexually transmitted diseases, such as
HIV / AIDS, a so-called ‘gay’ disease.
“Jumping The Groom: Gay Couples Amass Enmasse in Mass.” is
a clever play on words referencing the recent legal ruling by the
Supreme Court of Massachusetts that legalized gay marriage in the
state. With the ruling, many couples ‘amassed enmasse in
Massachusetts’ to marry. Since then, many state legislatures
have amended their constitutions to ban the practice, setting up
a much anticipated appeal to the Federal Supreme Court to settle
the constitutionally challenging matter.
“Nature, Nurture or Nomenclature? Can a Man Be Born (Again)
Gay?” is perhaps the most basic of arguments. Homosexuality
has long been considered a ‘lifestyle’ choice by most
of society. However, with the unlocking of the human genetic code,
sciences will soon be weighing in heavily on the matter.
“Bad Habits: Lesbian Nuns” remains
a minimally discussed issue. Statistically however, a plausible
case can be made that nuns are not immune to lesbian behavior.
After all, despite their vows of celibacy, heterosexual unions
between nuns and priests have been well documented.
Erectus: The Search for Adam",
addresses the continued argument surrounding the Christian version
of ‘creation’ with
the scientific concept of ‘evolution’. Homo Erectus
is the scientific name given to what is believed to be the first ‘upright’ walking
man, also credited as the first to use fire. The wordplay here
is obvious and the most specific to the overall statement of the
painting. It purposely incorporates the slang term ‘homo’.
“Crucial Fiction: Once Upon a Fairy Tail” refers to
the differing views surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. Although
his death is accepted as historic fact, many regard his resurrection
as nothing more than fiction. This teaser incorporates the slang
term ‘fairy’ and alludes to an obvious sexual act.
“Resurrecting Your Lifeless Wardrobe” alludes to the
current cliché of the ‘metro’-sexual man who
has become astutely aware of his fashionable feminine side. It
is also cliché that gay men are fashion conscious divas
whose primary purpose in life is rescuing straight men’s
wardrobes and collecting antique furniture.
remaining teaser titles across the bottom are simply my attempt
to poke fun at topical blends through the use of word play (Three
Otherwise Men, Gaylord Perry, Cross Dressing, 10 Best Communion
Wines Under $10).
block text in the bottom right corner (FROM HIS LIPS TO YOUR
EARS: Mounting HIS first sermon A.D., the long awaited Messiah
opens up about life, death, life after death, retirement, his
re(a)lationship with consort Mary Magdelene,l his passion for
piercings, why he refuses to vote, and who might be surprised
when he sends out invites to the biggest bash since the Big Bang.
pg. 33), mimics the teaser text often seen on such publications
and is the only locale that incorporates any personal statements
(cynical ones at that!) by the artist. It comments on the need
to fill a 24-hour news schedule. I wondered if Christ returned
today, would he perhaps fall victim to the paparazzi and tabloid
rags clamoring for answers about his personal and political life?
Would he have ‘talking
be able to speak in the ‘ten second sound byte’ in
order to ‘get
his message’ out to the people? Would we trivialize his time
worn stated mission of salvation for ‘greater ratings during
sweeps week’ by focusing on salacious gossip about his alleged
affair and possible marriage to Mary Magdalene as outlined in ‘The
DaVinci Code’? Are Republicans really God’s chosen
for the cover image – I placed my version of Christ (the
subject of the portrait is Jeff Moore, a friend of the artist),
on the cover of my fashion magazine ‘CQ’ (A spoof on
the fashion magazine, ‘GQ’ as well as the initials
of the artist, Colin Quashie). What would the ‘Fab Five’ of
televisions ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ do if
they were faced with the challenge to make over the time worn image
of a Christ in sandals and robes? Better yet, collectively, what
are homosexuals ultimately doing to make over the image of Christ’s
institution, the church?
I had an idea for quite some time
but could never figure out how to accomplish it. The idea was
to use a style of art that appealed to children to make social
statements. The first manifestation of the idea was the 'I.G. Norance'
(ignorance) of comic book styled panels. I
rendered a few, but was eventually un-happy with the sporadic
results and soon discontinued the series. Decent idea, bad execution.
Besides, Lichtenstein had already explored the comic book panel
idea and I didn't need anyone thinking I was trying to rip the
man off even though I explored a totally different line of thinking.
Four years would pass and then it hit me, coloring books! The whole
concept is slightly different from the I.G. Norance series which
simply made singular statements. The Coloring Book operates on
three different levels. 1) It allows me to skewer social inconsistencies
in the most cynical of terms. 2) It looks at these situations from
a child's perspective. How? With television being the preferred
baby-sitter of choice, children are bombarded by advertisers and
programming which affect them in ways we may never understand.
Without the benefit of experience that comes with age, their developing
sense of values are ripe for the shaping. 3) The most important
component of this piece is the fact that actual children colored
the images. After sketching and inking the originals, I passed
out copies (minus the text) to friends with children and told them
to do whatever they wanted. I chose the ones that appealed to me
and used their pictures to color in the final painting. Though
not seen on the picture, the children's names are signed below
my name along with their age. I did this to underscore the first
two points. It is by far the most compelling feature of this series.
EBONY: ISSUES (Ir)RELEVANT TO BLACK AMERICA
what my friend Frank Martin wrote about this piece (he
may indeed be right in an intellectual capacity), the basis for
this painting was a phone call. After leaving the Navy in the late
80's, I decided to pursue an art career. Inspired by the illustrations
I saw in Playboy magazine (the Playboy Advisor column)
by Patrick Nagel, I decided to associate my name with a publication
(much like Nagel with Playboy, Norman Rockwell with The Saturday
Evening Post, etc.). I had noticed that Ebony magazine utilized
no graphics. I clipped and re-typset their advisor column,
added a few grapics as an example (it was a professional layout),
and mailed them off to John Johnson, the Publisher and CEO of Ebony
magazine. A month later, I received a phone call at the art
gallery where I was working from none other than Mr. Johnson himself.
To say that I was excited was an understatement. That enthusiasm
quickly ended after he asked me one question and one question
are you trying to do to my magazine?" I attempted
to explain to him that I thought I could submit work but
he soon cut me off and launched into a tirade that I will
never forget. In short, he reminded me that he 'hated artists'
and thought that they were not 'team players'. He went
on to tout his own success by angrily telling me how he
started the magazine and reminded me that Ebony was successful
because they dealt with 'Issues relevant to the Black community.'
Before I could retreat and try to apologize and reason
with the madman on the other end of the line, he quickly
told me that he would put my art back in the mail and hung
up on me. The idea for the painting came after I saw a
cover that dealt with 'Prince and his women'. Hmmm, issues
relevant to the black community? After that, I sat around
with some friends relaying the ordeal and after a few drinks,
I had a list of teaser article titles from which to choose.
I have never read another Ebony magazine since then and
am proud to state that I never will. The first time this
piece was displayed was during a solo exhibition at South
Carolina State University. The Director of the museum was
concerned with the word 'pussy' on the painting and after
lengthy discussions with the President of the University
and the Curator, it was decided that the work needed to
be censored. They typed out a disclaimer (click 'here'
to read) at the entrance and placed a piece of paper over
the 'uss' in 'Pussy' and hung the piece along with another
entitled 'Subjective Perceptions' (click 'here' to see),
behind a specially constructed barrier wall that was roped
off to the general audience. A sort of NC-17 art exhibit
if you will. I fought admirably for the pieces, but in
the end, it was either that or exclusion from the exhibit.
I retreated with grace. This was to be the first time my
work would be censored.
VOICES of APARTHEID
This was one of my earliest paintings dating back to early
1990. It was a part of my first exhibition (Freedom Space) and was seen by Dr.
Myrtle Glascoe (Director of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston).
She invited me to participate in an exhibit curated by Dr. Leo Twiggs whom, during
a studio visit chose only two other existing works to display ('Point of View'
and 'Age of Wisdom'). He commented that the rest of my works were 'foolishness'
and hopefully I would soon grow out of them soon. At the opening, I was so overwhelmed
by the power of one of the artists exhibiting (Tarleton Blackwell), that I immediately
realized what Dr. Twiggs said was true. I went home and destroyed all of the
decorative work I had previously created and embarked on a journey to find my
voice in art. I later dedicated this piece to my friend Michael Conyers who passed
away much too early in life.
had this idea for nearly three years before painting it.
I was in Los Angeles riding down La Cienega boulevard when I
looked up at a Got MLK? ad and all of a sudden, there was the
idea as big as the billboard. I knew that I wanted to render
it large, but had no place to display it until I was approached
3 years later by Linda Fantuzzo with the concept for the 'Second
Story' exhibition. We were given a stipend by the City of Charleston
to buy supplies and had a space donated to us above the IMAX
Theater on the waterfront. An awning maker, Eugene, sewed
together 24 canvas drop cloths measuring 12" x 15' in two
panels for the canvas. It took more than a week to lay this piece
out and three more weeks to paint it. The image is the actual
black and white photograph, but the finished version was in color
(click 'here' to see the photos). How was this accomplished?
I pixelated the photograph in Photoshop and created a grid over
the pixels. After that, I matched the color of the pixels with
paint swatches and ended up with ten different colors. I then
drew out the grid on the canvas and set about the tedious task
of labeling each square and painting them in with a small roller
brush. Yes, it was a major pain in the ass. The finished piece
measured 35' x 70'. It was hung on the side of a parking garage.
My wife and I spent three hours after midnight mounting and securing
it. The city would not allow us to drill into the side of the
garage so we had to use 100 lb fishing line in an attempt to
create an invisible web holding the piece against the building.
It only hung for three days, after which time the wind got behind
it and starting lifting it from the side of the garage and ended
up tearing the canvas. I wish that I has a photo of the piece
as it hung, but I do not. So, what I have done is create
a digital composite of what the piece looked like when hung.
Click 'here' to see it.
BLACK AMERICAN GOTHIC
American Gothic takes a look at the use of images culled from
black America to market products. Aunt Jemimah, Uncle Ben and
the black man on the Cream of Wheat box are the respective historic,
though generic compilations of the sassy plantation nanny, her
emasculated husband doubling as driver and handy man, and the
thousands of unnamed black men relegated to positions as porters
and service personnel. They represent a nostalgic vision of black
America Americans have grown comfortable with and accepted as
part and parcel of their reality. Through the use of crafty marketing
by Madison Avenue, these depictions transcended their fourth-class
citizenships and were placed in positions of influence on our
The placement of such prominent black Americans like Oprah Winfrey,
Colin Powell and Tiger Woods was intended to question the notion
of transcendence. Much like the generic images they replaced on
the packages, this crop of powerful black Americans have transcended
their race and are now seen as influential pitchmen for products,
ideology and agendas with the same if not greater level of acceptance
piece was inspired by Grant Wood’s ‘American
Gothic’, which depicted a farmer and his wife standing in
front of their American Gothic styled house. It reflected his connectedness
to mid-western roots and reinforced the notion that artists need
not look any further than what they see everyday to deliver a powerful
message of the surrounding world.
to popular belief - I do not hate Oprah Winfrey, I admire
her, which is why she appears on the box. Much like 'Aunt Jemimah',
she has become a part of the American household. Whites trust
her and are as comfortable with her as they were with the
black mammies that ran many a white household and raised many
a white 'chillun' in times past. Much like 'Auntie Jemima', she
too has become a brand. From the television show to her magazine
and other ventures she creates (i.e. Dr. Phil), Oprah Winfrey
is in more homes than her fictional counterpart, Aunt Jemima.
title was inspired by Grant Wood's American Gothic. His brand
of 'regionalism' inspired me to seek out imagery that defined
the region I am most familiar with - Black America.
HOW TO BE A GREAT BLACK ARTIST AND MAKE LOTS AND LOTS
AND LOTS OF MONEY
is one of those works that fit into the category of pure
anger. I was invited to participate in an exhibition that featured
the works of Jonathan green. Jonathan specializes in images of
coastal sea island lifestyles dominated by black people painted
in a minimalist style reminiscent of William Johnson's works.
(To see some, click 'here'). It seems to be a popular style amongst
modern day black artists. Faceless, colorful scenes steeped
in nostalgia and scenery familiar with black culture (church,
picnics, funerals, African dance, etc.). To be totally honest,
I have nothing personal against Jonathan, I've met him and he
is a nice guy. I like him and wish him all the success in the
world. What irks me is that the style of art and the subject
matter he markets has set a standard for what the general public
sees as 'black art'. I saw an opportunity to make a statement
rebelling against the status quo and took it. I wasn't sure how
it would be received, but after delivery, the Curator took one
look at it and fell out laughing. He was so amused by the piece
that he placed in on display next to one of Jonathan Green's
works to maximize its impact. Of course, this went over well
with an art critic who saw it as a direct assault against Jonathan
and wrote it in an article dealing with the problems 'black'
artists encounter (click 'here' to read). What is particularly
nasty about the piece (and I apologize in hindsight) is the 'paint
by number' aspect. I once commented that if I wanted to make
lot's and lots of money, maybe I should start painting in this
style and crank out about ten paintings a day. It would take
me longer to stretch the canvas and sketch them out than it would
be to paint the piece. I took my anger one step further in another
painting (click 'here' to see) showing a cartoon Quashie thinking
about selling out and painting images that mocked the style so
I too could cash in on art patrons desire for what I call 'mindless
imagery' with colors that match idiot art patrons curtain and
wall colors. Soon after I painted this piece, a doctor's wife
had the balls to 'commission' me to paint a piece for her livingroom.
No problem. I'll get to it when the pigs finish flying out of
A SHADE of INDIFFERENCE
to say, this piece came out of a conversation I was having with
a friend. I wanted to introduce him to a wonderful woman and
the first question he asked was, 'Is she a redbone?' I told him
'no' and he informed me that he didn't like his women too dark.
He only dated 'red' women.
the way - this is my wife's favorite painting.
fully intended for this piece to be an actual game that sat
on the floor with people sitting around and playing. The board
is divided by the railroads (Mason and Dixon lines) with makes
for two distinct sides. Have and have not (or rich vs. poor,
but not necessarily black vs. white). The cards were 'Opportunity'
and 'Chance' like the real game with one exception; you only
received 'opportunity cards' on the 'have' side while the
'have not' side was forced to take chances. The dice were supposed
to be big fuzzy dice. When moving along the 'have side' you
play with real money, but the 'have not side' is played with
food stamps and money. I explained this to a patron at the opening
and her comment was telling. "ou can't win the game playing
with food stamps against real money." Exactly. I
didn't have a chance to complete everything before the opening.
I must state that of all my art pieces, creating this was
perhaps the most fun.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME (The 'N' Word)
I refer to it as 'The'N' Word', the official name of this painting
is 'A Rose By Any Other Name'. (Thank-you Shakespeare). This
is actually the longest running painting I have accomplished.
I don't mean in length as far as words, I mean in terms of revisions.
It started with a painting called 'The Black American Dream'
(now destroyed), which contained a mistake. I silkscreened the
words on canvas using plastisol inks and after seeing an error,
I tried to paint it over and re-use the canvas only to discover
that when the paint dried, the ink from the previous silkscreen
showed through. Ahah! Mistakes are our best friends sometimes.
The result was a subliminal 'black on black' image that could
only be seen at the proper angles in the right light. I took
that process and soon rendered 'Subliminal Society' (click on
the title to see it). A few years later, that painting soon rekindled
the idea to re-vamp and re-create 'The Black American Dream'
in another format (click on the title to see that). I used the
same 'gloss black ink on a matte black background' to create
the work on tiles.
Now that I had the technique locked, I used it here again. This time,
the word 'nigger' is seen under the right light subliminally, in the
background (click on 'view details' under the image on the previous page
to see), though it is never used and only referred to as the 'N' word
in the white text in the foreground. This was done to underscore the
fact that the PC term 'N' word means 'nigger'.
painting grew out of the what I felt was the hypocrisy surrounding
the term 'N' word. I am a firm believer that words are words
and lack no significance without intent. Over time and with usage,
meanings change (one only has to look at the use of the word
'gay' to see that). This hypocritical view started with the first
two lines and over the coming weeks grew into the spoken word
piece you see here. This is actually the fourth version and I
hope the final one. Many people find this piece upsetting (both
black and white), but cannot seem to offer up a valid counter
to the truth it states. Feel free to offer your opinion.
These images were straight out of the Warhol text book. While I was working
on them for this exhibition, I was also working with a rap group called
'Da Phlayva' designing their CD cover. During a meeting, one of the guys
suggested we use the color variation on the cover to market the group
as a southern rap group. (click 'here' to see the layout). The marketing
machine behind the group also used the image on t-shirts. When a young
lady wore one to school, white kids were offended by the implications
and complained about the image. She was asked to remove it, refused,
and was subsequently suspended. Click 'here' to read the article. The
NAACP became involved, as well as a few politicians and the lawsuits
started flying. The whole episode played itself out in the national media.
Unfortunately, the controversy didn't help CD sales and the group faded
after their first release. The image was soon turned into the 'New South'
logo and spawned a short lived business. I ended up donating the pieces
to South Carolina State University.
The title of this piece came from a quote
by Sol Lewitt ("perception
is subjective.") which I though appropriate. The inspiration
was a gallery owner in North Charleston who told me that he considered
any nudity in art, pornography. Even the wonderful sculptures of
the Renaissance I asked? Pornography. Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus'?
PORNOGRAPHY! So inspired, my thoughts soon shifted to the way various
forms of nudity are portrayed in art and by the media. It's taboo
to see a white woman's breast but we can see African and Pacific
Island women's breasts all day long in prime time on educational
shows like the Travel Channel and National Geographic. (See 'The
Coloring Book' series - Hoke and Caitlin' for a painting on that
topic). The final take on 'art' was for the gallery owner. This is
not the first draft of this piece. The first were seperate images
and included a fourth featuring a nipple ring that had a tiny cross
dangling from it and titled 'religion'. I though it too rude and
never displayed it. I was going to destroy it but one of my friends
ran off with it before I could.
PLANTATION YO-YO (Run, Nigger...Run!)
piece was created in response to the southern trend of naming
affluent housing developments (Hilton Head?), 'Plantations’.
The name implies to the buyer a unique sense of southern
nostalgia, a romantic lifestyle that encapsulates the serene,
idyllic and gentile image of the South so prominent in books
and movies. Unfortunately for slaves, that lifestyle was
the by-product of their forced labor. Plantations represented
to them nothing more than a labor camp where their suffering
and meager existence was held in stark contrast to their
owners excess. How ironic; 150 years ago, slaves endured
hardship and uncertainty risking their lives to escape the
Plantation. Today, class conscious blacks who have successfully
overcome hardship and uncertainty now strive to live on the
image of the fleeing slave was taken from a woodcut by the famous
Harlem Renaissance artist, Aaron Douglas.
BLACK PEOPLE LOVE PORK, BECAUSE AFRICA IS SHAPED LIKE
A PORK CHOP
thing you can bet the farm on with me is that the more humorous
the piece is, the deeper the thought behind it. It runs in the
same vein of the stand-up comic, the funnier they are on stage,
chances are the more screwed up they are off-stage. This painting
started out with a penny. Yes, a penny. I noticed that the penny
was the only brown coin. That it had a President in left profile
where the others were right facing and the President was Lincoln.
So, in my twisted mind, I can up with the theory that they put
Lincoln on the penny because he freed the slaves. (Not true,
but - ) That piece went on to become 'Wee The People'. Click
'here' to see that one. Anyway, that thought eventually led me
to the title of this piece. When I was in the Navy, I took a
psychology course and the Professor, Dr. Roddy, opened the door
to Aristotle's enthymemes. This one deals with non-sequitor which
I believe is the underlying tennent behind many of the social
stereotypes held today (non-linear thoughts often combined to
produce faulty assumptions). This was the first mixed media piece
I ever attempted. I wanted it to look and feel exactly like a
pack of pork chops you bought in a grocery store. The chops are
made from styro-foam, and wrapped in plastic. The labels were
silkscreened on adhesive film and stuck directly to the packing,
just like the real thing. The addition of the little pig face
is not a reference to the official logo of the Piggly Wiggly
grocery chain (even though that's where I got it from).. I added
that later as a tribute to my favorite artist, Tarleton Blackwell,
who often uses the image of the pig as a recurring motif in his
painting marked a turning point in my career. Admittedly, I was
an 'angry artist', making statements and questioning social conventions
recklessy. The problem with that is that it's easy to dismiss
the art if the artist is perceived as 'angry'. I learned that
it's okay to be 'angry', but to make that point of view effective,
you have to learn to channel, communicate and transfer your anger
to the viewer and arouse 'your anger' within them. Make them
feel what you feel. It's a dificult thing to do. If you succeed,
the viewer has to deal with issues they sometimes would rather
avoid which is the point. They question themselves and not the
first time this piece was displayed was at the African American
Gallery in Charleston, SC during a solo exhibition. It was by
all account a success until a black woman entered and saw 'Responsibility'.
She made a bee line for me where I was engaged in discussion
with a few other patrons, interrupted the conversation and launched
into a heated admonition. She stated that I as an artist had
no business creating images that was disparaging towards the
black community. She felt that my work was not a comment but
instead a glorification of the fact that black men were disproportionately
'dead beat dads'. I found her tirade ridiculous and amusing and
when asked to comment, simply asked her, 'How do you know that
man even knows that woman?' Where others found my remarks humorous,
she did not. She started cursing at me and was soon escorted
from the gallery. I came to the conclusion that there was some
issues she had dealt with or was dealing with that was awakened
by the image. I turned a corner with that experience and realized
that I had succeded in the effort to transfer emotion through
the canvas. That ability would soon become a trademark of my
work and the scene would be replayed by other patrons in the
years to come.
SCARS AND BARS
artwork was inspired by the famous photograph of the slave whose
back was a tangled web of scars; payment for a lifetime of slavery.
However, the visual goes further than remembrance and questions
the nature of men as commodity. Merchandise to be sold and traded
(hence the bar code which reads ‘nigger’) from cradle
to grave (please recycle), disrespected in life and more often
than not, disrespected in death with not so much as a head stone
to mark their passing (if not, dispose of properly). Constitutionally,
a slave’s life was once again a tool of capitalism. Madison’s
justification in the Federalist Papers for the counting of a
slave as 3/5 of a man (40% off) for census purposes (a compromise
of sorts balancing concerns of Northern taxation and Southern
representation in the House of Representatives in order to get
the Constitution ratified), made complete the curious dilemma
decided to use naugahyde because of the skin like texture of
is the result of an over abundance of cynicism. I can't even
begin to tell you from what depths of the subconscious this piece
came from. Much like the 'N' word piece and the Black American
Dream piece, it all starts with an observation that just flies
into your head. This time, it was the first line and after a
few days, grew into the full text. The first rendition of this
painting was text only. After doing about 10 different layouts
(I hated them all), I finally rendered the one least objectionable
and after creating it, absolutely hated it. So it was back to
the drawing board and after much internal debate decided on what
you see here. I actually enjoyed painting this piece and am seriously
thinking about using the other versions of SPAM cans on the market
to relate to other issues. Something inside tells me not to do
it and until I feel better about it, I won't.
AWAY...DIXIELAND (Strom's Song)
the time this image was created, the battle over the flying of
the confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse was in
full swing. The scene is taken from the infamous photo of a crowd
gathered after the lynching of two innocent black men pulled
from their jail cell. The casual nature of the gathering in contrast
to the vicious nature of the crime mirrored the perspectives
argued for and against the flying of the flag. Is it a historic
symbol of pride that should be flown to pay homage to defenders
of the southern cause? And if so, exactly what was that cause?
Or is it a symbol that has been co-opted by subversive elements
that have committed untold crime against humanity under its name
and therefore tainted its true meaning? Or is it strictly a symbol
of mental autonomy since the physical effort was defeated? Lastly,
is it a symbol of continued support for the policies of the Jim
not an indictment against them, the personalities represented
in the mob scene were selected for inclusion because of their
prominence and stated positions (or silence when leadership
was needed), on the flag. They are (from l-r), Sen. Glenn McConnell,
Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, Sen. Robert Ford, WTMA Talk show
host Dan Moon, Sen. Fritz Hollings, Sen. Courson, Governor Beasley,
Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Congessman Tommy Hartnett and
Governor Carroll Campbell. Senator Strom Thurmond bears the greatest
burden of this painting because of his political prominence in
the debate. Of all the politicians, his political life is synonymous
with the ebbing and flowing of attitudes surrounding the flag.
If there was one man who could have put the debate to rest, it
was he. But, he opted for silence. Now, like the flag, he is
faced with a ever diminishing legacy that may be unfair, but
one he has lived with and will soon die with.