Early on in my career, I encountered the art of the Ndebele through a book, about a unique tribe living in South Africa. The women of this tribe paint the exteriors of their house with vivid reds, blues and yellows, enhanced by sharp black and white outlines and graphic patterns. Neither the fact that women created these exterior paintings, nor the artists’ prevailing perspective (art belongs to the greater community) were lost on me.
In my work over the past four decades, I’ve been concerned with the ways walls can be used to shape the feeling of space. Whether designing scenery for theaters, curating private residential spaces, imagining exhibition design for galleries and museums, or creating public works of art, I work to bring movement and energy to the surface, often creating intricate designs and texture with hand-cut stencils, allowing repetition and multiple layers of patterning, color and imagery.
This aesthetic is central to my artistic vision, which views the arts as part of the community’s collective consciousness. In a current mural “Embedded; Artist as Citizen” (2018) created through a residency at the Hyde Park Art Center, several stencils were created and used throughout the mural to emphasize Afrocentric ornamentation, along with corrugated cardboard cutouts that reference protest signs. The piece also highlights the value of local Black cultural Institutions (South Side Community Art Center, the poet Haki Madhubuti). Through art spaces generated by and for the public it serves, we inspire the next generation of Cultural Keepers.