I'm still working on these, so be patient with the write-ups as they will soon be changing as I add more commentary and images.

AS 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 and allusions.


BLACKBORED


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.

The 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.

SWEET JESUS

I 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.

For example:

“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.

"Homo 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.

The 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).

The 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 points’ and 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 political party?

As 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?


COLORING BOOK
S

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

Despite 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 only. "What 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.



GOT MLK?

I 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

Black 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 grocer’s shelves. 

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 and trust.

This 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.

Contrary 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.

The 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

This 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 my ass.



A SHADE of INDIFFERENCE

Sad 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.

By the way - this is my wife's favorite painting.



MONOPOLIZED

I 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)

Though 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'.

This 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.



OPTIONS

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.



SUBJECTIVE PERCEPTION

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!)

This 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 Plantation.

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

One 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 works.


RESPONSIBILITY

This 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 artist.

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

This 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 of slavery.

I decided to use naugahyde because of the skin like texture of the surface.


RACISM VS. SPAM

This 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.


LOOKED AWAY...DIXIELAND (Strom's Song)

At 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 Crow south?

Though 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.