My work is in protest for plurality of black female identities and diverse representations of blackness. It is a fight against damaging ideologies and stereotypes and is a demand for recognition and acceptance. Painting vulnerability through personal experiences my work is a voice of anyone who has felt marginalized or has been victimized through misrecognition. 

Of Becoming Mottled

Oil on Canvas

42" X 42"

2014

Viceroy

Oil on Canvas

42" X 42"

2014

In attempting to move throughout society less hindered, like the Viceroy, Black Americans have absorbed and integrated Eurocentric aesthetic ideals and traditions to equip themselves with the defense of social mimicry. In most cases, this strategy of protection is indoctrinated during the developing stages of childhood. Young black daughters are conditioned to dress, speak, and even walk as the dominant other. Hair is straightened, dresses are pressed, and pearls are placed. In most cases the method in which socioeconomic status is able to outwardly transcend connotations associated with certain ethnicities becomes more available with prosperity. However once affluence is achieved and projected, the social mimic’s position in her community may become compromised, engaging the complex history of hierarchical systems in American black communities. 

Pastor's Wife

Oil on Canvas

40" X 40", 40" X 60", 24" X 16"

2016

As religion plays an integral role within black communities as a spirituality tool to escape the physical and mental violence of oppression, it is also a complex sight that issues institutional scripts for roles within a patriarchal structure. Within black churches, women are traditionally relegated to roles of servitude while male officials act within roles of authority. Not only are women expected to follow closely in the footsteps of male counterparts, but they are also expected to ignore deviations in doctrine when it benefits male officials. Pastor's Wife plays with scale and fragmentation to represent the disproportionality of gender roles within the black church.

Death Via Affluence

Oil on Canvas

46" X 46"

2016

Death via Affluence is one of the few oil paintings in the exhibition. Matching the couch and pillows from the watercolor paintings, the furniture and accessories are painted with a level of detail that the watercolors do not possess. In the middle of the painting, a satin white dress from one of the girls sticks out from a mountain of pillows while the girl is buried underneath the overbearing luxury. Adjacent to the modern subject of the black middle class, I engaged the historical representation of black bodies in oil painting. Simultaneously, the painting carries on and accentuates the social conditions and conventions that accompany oil painting and its representation of high society. The rich and silky quality of the oil paint mirrors the material of the fabric and gold embroidery.  While the textiles are at the forefront of the painting, the little girl is secondary. The desire to acquire and consume material goods is closely related to racial presentation since the ability to obtain luxury items is to publically display economic power and social status. In Hip Hop culture, the growing obsession with materialism and excess is a product of bling culture. For youth within low-income black communities, bling culture is synonymous with achievement. Consequently, these youths grow up to make illegal short cuts to obtain wealth such as theft or drug trafficking. For those of the middle and upper-class materialism can also become problematic as the number of objects replace self-worth, evoke envy and can potentially create alienation from other black economic groups. With the oil painting, the associations and visual canon underline the prestige and privileges upheld by class question ideas of consumer culture in regard to how the intersection of wealth and blackness is presented across diverse socioeconomic groups. 

The image of the oil painting depicts two black girls just at the cusp of adolescence wearing white fluffy church dresses. One girl, dawning slightly more mature attire and hairstyle, lies draped on a luxuriant, gold-threaded couch surrounded by matching fringe lined pillows. A small pearl necklace hangs around her neck as she buries her pre-teen face in plush cushions. Behind her stands a slightly younger girl, characterized by the youthful twists of her hair. She is frozen as she stares at one of the two, framed paintings. The room these girls are situated in evokes ideas of middle-class culture through familiar icons. Paintings on the wall and the topiary can be seen to symbolize education and culture, while the lush excessiveness of the furniture represents financial affluence. Adjacent to the modern subject of the black middle class, I want to engage the history of oil painting to elevate subjects that have not been typically depicted in an eminent regard. Simultaneously, it carries on and accentuates the social conditions and conventions that accompany oil painting and its representation of high society. Within the oil painting, the associations and visual canon underline the prestige and privileges upheld by social stratum to create a stoic mood as I question ideas of racial presentation.

Pearls and Peril

Oil Paint on Canvas

42" X 50"

2015

Ideas of agency and authority surrounding the black female body are of interest to me in my practice. I use subjects of different ages strategically to bring out associations surrounding the behavior of the young adult, teen, and child. As age increases, the subjects are able to take ownership of their identity through their choices and actions. On the reverse end, the child as a subject functions as a body that is constantly in a state of regulation. The Pearls & Peril Series was the series that launched my exploration of black middle-class children  Situated in a living room that depicts black girls just at the cusp of adolescence wearing white fluffy church dresses placed on and around a luxuriant gold-threaded couch surrounded by matching fringe lined pillows. These girls are in a room that evokes ideas of middle-class culture through familiar icons. Via paintings on the wall, the topiary and the lush excessiveness of the furniture, conclusions may be made about the family that occupies this space. I used the fluidity of watercolor in contrast to the rigidity of gold ink to draw attention to privilege while focusing on the unobtainable perfection of racial presentation as peril simmers silently beneath the surface. The girls take part in a frolicsome pillow fight leaving the room in disarray. Amplified by the gestural act of painting and the boundlessness of the watercolor, these girls are marked as unregulated bodies misusing pretty spaces. The playful act of a pillow fight painted with vibrant color portrays a lighter image of violence while the treatment of the skin resembling acid burns points to a different type of disorder. With little regard to biology, the skin is rendered at the mercy and majesty of the material, metaphorically signifying a possible psychological struggle.

Pearls & Peril Watercolour Series

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 56"

2015

The series Suburbia is where the Wild Thangs Are is a continuation of Pearls & Peril. In this series, however, things become more visually chaotic. The couch that the girls play on becomes more disheveled and their actions become more violent. Dresses are hiked, girls are buried and cushions are flung all around the room. As in Pearls & Peril, the girls are engaged in a pillow fight. In contrast to the normative images of black children on the streets in urban communities, this series depicts black girls from the suburbs. The context surrounding this painting places the black girls in opposition to a white childhood growing up in western social paradigms. The act of the pillow fight functions as a ritualized form of play often reserved for privileged white society since stereotypically, it is portrayed that most black children come from broken homes and do not have the luxury to take part in leisure activities. The line between play and violence becomes blurred in these paintings and it is undetermined which girl is the aggressor and which is the victim, recalling the ongoing history of black on black violence that operates both socially and physically. 

Suburbia is Where the Wild Thangs Are

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 54"

2016

All the Ghetto Boys Hang Out at My House

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 60"

2016

All the Ghetto Boys Hang Out at My House is horizontal in orientation and depicts a young woman lying on a luxuriant gold patterned couch in a semi-fetal position surrounded by matching pillows. With her back toward the viewer, the subject is seen wearing black sweat pants, one fur-lined house shoe and a white crop top with a peephole exposing a lace bra. The short length of the crop top reveals a large decorative owl tattoo on her side. Although her body position is casual and she faces away from the audience her identity is in conversation with the sexualized black female bodies within the canon of Baroque painting and onward. With this painting, the figure and her context are ambiguous. It becomes unclear if she is resting, has just experienced a trauma, or if she is defiantly turning away from the viewer. Although there is not a physical presence of black men in the painting, the title All the Ghetto Boys Hang Out at My House places them into context, however, it is unknown to the viewer at which moment they were/will be present. The opposition set up between the image and the title goes further than gender relations but also characterizes a class distinction between the plush couch and the associations of the term ghetto.

Are You Even a Belieber Tho?

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 60"

2016

Mirroring All the Ghetto Boys Hang Out at My House, Are You Even a Belieber Tho? is the reverse image. This time the figure faces the viewer with a confrontational stare.  Her features and body position are androgynous. The attitude of her expression, white crop top, and black sweat pants, places the figure in a space of urban blackness. However, the lavish background and title referencing popular white culture challenge the rugged/dangerous image associated with black bodies. The classification of the figure as a follower of the pop star Justin Bieber is another method of disputing stereotypes of normative blackness. 

Cali Bama: Portrait of the Ugly Nigger is a self-portrait. In the painting, I am seen standing against a white metallic pattern painted on a white background in a black hat and a white lace dress. My arms are wrapped around my body as boa constrictors and my hair flows downward weaving over and under my arms. The skin is rendered abstractly within anatomically correct forms. As a result of watercolor processes, earth-toned circular formations pattern my flesh as wounds.  The expression on my face is one of vulnerability, however, the treatment of the skin renders my appearance as grotesque. Influenced by the story of the stoning, Cali Bama: Portrait of the Ugly Nigger characterizes some of the ideological contradictions and misconceptions associated with ethnic bodies. At the moment when the story took place, it did not matter to the boys throwing rocks if I was physically attractive or not: black was synonymous with ugliness. Through media and beliefs passed down over generations, society has positioned black women as coded signs of undesirability. Certain perceptions of beauty are influenced by racial stereotypes about skin color; the African American journalist Jill Nelson wrote that "to be both prettiest and black was impossible." Blackness and beauty have never been equivalent in dominant culture. The disparity between the title and the image helps point to these social contradictions. Even the title itself is a contraction. Bama is a term that generally refers to a black from the South but it gained popularity in Washington DC as a reference to someone who is a ‘fashion misfit’ or unsophisticated. Since California has a stigma of being progressive, liberal and inclusive (essentially having the opposite mentality of the southern United States), I wanted to see what meanings pairing the two associations would create.

Cali Bama: Portrait of the Ugly Nigger

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 60"

2016

Ivy League has a similar theme that operates within ideas of perception. The figure is dressed in urban attire and flaunts a gold chain and large gold earrings. Commanding her throne her curled lip exposes a gold grill as she throws up hand signals. She rests her left hand on the on a hat with a Harvard “H” on it. My goal was to question how assumption and judgment allow us to overlook or discount value within the individual. Ivy League also challenges our executions of association. While there have been numerous black scholars, artists, and scientists that have contributed to ivy league legacies, black bodies are often displaced on prestigious campuses and experience institutionalized discrimination based on their appearance and communicated signals to white colleagues, professors and administration. 

Ivy League

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 48"

2016

Blooming from brutality, 

perseverance is defiance 

as we continually move forward 

boldly wearing markers of difference 

as resistance 

and perspire the desire 

to defy ideology, 

defy social roles and 

dismantle boundaries of race, gender, sexuality 

and expectation is an execution

of spiritual restitution

 

Through the patterning of skin, I aim to exemplify the realities of continual disenfranchisement and the consequence of volatile social conditions worn as markers of power and displays of resistance. Orchid personifies the desire to seek hope and live through possibilities versus brutal realities. It is the desire to be more than your social positions and is an act of defiance by wearing social violence as scars of triumph.

Orchid

Watercolour on Paper

24" X 36"

2019

High Top Lace and a Lamp from Wal-Mart is a portrait of the/a high yellow. Planted and poised on a modern couch with a yellow pattern she stares at the viewer with authority and assertiveness. The figure wears a softly painted long luxurious black dress with detailed lace covering her elegant neck and chest. Positioned on a golden yellow damask patterned chair, she holds a fan in one hand and sits upright with her chin tilted upward and masculine legs crossed over each other. Painted to the very right edge of the image is a generic standing lamp with a featured reading light. With this painting, I engage the theory of the social mimic in relation to race and class. On one hand, the mimic engages in a complex strategy of refinement, self-restraint, and policing, which replicates the dominant other as it conceptualizes authority; on the other hand, the mimic is also a sign of the inappropriate. As regulation is increased, the mimic becomes an inherent hazard to normalized knowledge and disciplinary power in both communities. 

As a portrait of the high yellow, I also aimed to question stereotypes that are commonly associated with this identity from the viewpoint of others within the black community.

The act of looking becomes violent; it becomes a way to silently disvalue someone’s identity while judging his or her authenticity. The exchange of looking between the figure and audience will be distinctive depending on the viewers’ backgrounds and personal beliefs about certain identities.  As the figure looks down upon you the lines between who is looking at who becomes unclear. Who is judging and who is responding? 

Although the figure looks to be of a certain status, the title of the piece describes a lamp from Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has a notorious history for primarily marketing to members of the black lower class, which creates a stigma of being lowbrow. The inclusion of the lamp throws a wrench into the expectations of the high yellow. Perhaps one may not so easily be defined if they possess both differences and similarities to those who alienate them.

High Top Lace and Lamp from Wal-Mart

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 56"

2016

Opulence & Mettle

Watercolour on Paper

18" X 24"

2017

Tatting & Mettle

Watercolour on Paper

18" X 24"

2017

Chains & Mettle

Watercolour on Paper

18" X 24"

2017

Through the patterning of skin, I aim to exemplify the realities of continual disenfranchisement that is known conditions while displaying these markers the power of resistance through skin as well as the consequences that emerge from minoritarian identities. The "& Mettle Series" is a self-portrait that blends the organic formations of watercolor on skin with the rigid and repetition of ornamentation to characterize internal and external conflict As the drama of the skin clashes against the exaggerated forms of adornment.

Assume the position they say and you did and you do,
Even when they don’t say.

Assume the position.
Assume you’re worthlessness
Assume you’re powerless
Assume your doom, assume

before they can, before they do, assume
before you think,
Think and build walls, build barriers, build broken relationships
before they can bloom,
Assume
the position without cause, without provocation
exercising false justification by your own proclamation.

You’re stuck on auto-pilot as you auto-consume
Assume the position and stay there.
Stay put.

Frisk yourself
Regulate yourself
Pause, and realize you’re standing by yourself
Teasing, breaking, and destroying yourself from within
The very place you desire for people to see most.

Position assumed, now choose:
Assume the position and loose,
you die
or
refuse the position and win,
You fly.

Assume the Position

Watercolour on Paper

42" X 84"

2017

Assume the Position is a self-portrait in which I positioned myself against a patterned brick wall with my hands above my head, wrists crossed with a quivering palm grip. My frail bruised body is seen wearing a micro-pleated gold dress. Forced and tucked into position, undulating fabric exposes my panty saddled left hip and right lace-covered breast as my chin points to sky begging God to be pardoned. Assume the Position represents a specific moment in which I was forced to assume the position physically as a protocol at the mercy of a corrupt police officer. Stopped while walking back to my dormitory room in the mid-evening, I was pulled over by a police officer in his squad car fully dressed in his uniform. Frustrated that I refused his generous offer to escort me across the street in his squad car, he decided to correct the social order via correctional sexual assault. With raw emotion emanating from my trembling brow, Assume the Position seeks to illuminate not only the faults of the justice system but also highlights a hierarchical social position defined by the intersection of race and gender. While there is no opposing force present in the painting, it aims to depict a psychological position solidified by social conditioning that leads to a constant defensive state, stagnant paranoia and a hyper mode of self-policing. Additionally, Assume the Position becomes a position you may habitually put yourself in because abuse is your normal.

Suits

Borrowed phrases from Strangers, Friends & Lovers

162 Playing Cards

2015

Suits explores a psychological space of the feeling of being neither here nor there, belonging but displaced, being black, being white, French, Creole, Native American, female, a fetish, a threat, a dream, a reality, an ideal, a hybrid, a sellout, suburban, the little yellow girl, yellow, whitewashed, minority, mixed, a mimic, as well as how these categories are embraced or rejected. I want to interrogate the space between these identities and highlight the overlap while investigating how experience characterizes the transparency or opacity of these identities.  Since the compilation of these experiences does not lend themselves to orderly categorization, identity becomes fractured. New personas are then created as self is re-evaluated and these pieces are reordered, deleted, and replaced. The issue faced with these new personas is they still offer themselves to authentication based on the authority of the other, leading to further fragmentation and re-evaluation. 

Patterned on these cards are words, questions, exclamations, and social labels spoken to or prescribed to me by external perspectives of varying degrees of relationship. Using the format of a deck of cards, a global social symbol, I translate the participatory act of playing evoking the vulnerability and surprise of an unflipped card as well as the gamble of the bluff. As a deck of cards becomes randomized and reordered with each shuffle, the combination and order of the labels and phrases creates a different grouping of meaning between each viewer.  Displayed on a white coffee table atop a brown rug surrounded by plush black pillows, I invite gallery guests to interact with the piece and observe as their internal beliefs and perspectives decide the tone of the presented content as they reconcile emotions, of humor, guilt, horror, shame, sympathy, and enlightenment.

Click cards within the deck below to bring new labels to the surface.

Grandpa’s Chair

 

No one was ever allowed to sit on grandpa’s chair before, especially children.

 

One Christmas grandpa eats all the chocolates I made in kindergarten. To make amends, he lifted me up to join him on his chair and showed me his drawings. Via a few cracks of his knees, grandpa left me alone with them. Enchanted, I made discoveries between charcoal lines and fell in love with the movement of gestural figures as they played and danced across the surface. My gaze plummeted off the paper and I noticed my older sister fiddling with nothings on the floor.

 

My arms flailed above my head shifting atmosphere to invite her to join me on his throne. Her plumped legs sprang upward propelling her as she rushed over enraptured by the opportunity. Hoisting her up by the seams of her sleeves I saw comfort seep into her being while she dangled ashy ankles off the edge of the cushions.

 

Blanketed by pride she adjusted her body to settle in.

 

We looked at each other in contentment exchanging smiles. No words were needed. The stomp of grandpa’s feet closed the curtains to her exposed teeth. He rushed over and yelled at her to get down, yanking her by the arm to the floor.

Grandpa's chair

Oil, ink, charcoal on canvas

42" X 56"

2015

Pastoral Celebration 

Oil, ink, charcoal on canvas

72" X 56"

2015

In this series, I incorporate the mix of well-rendered figures in oil paint, with charcoal figures and lines on raw canvas with exposed areas.  The un-rendered areas leave the paintings open to the viewer’s perception, enabling room for interpretation. Similarly to the contrast of light and dark, areas of raw canvas question what pieces are missing from un-rendered areas. The areas of raw canvas characterize an important gray area that mirrors the content of tonal difference and racially charged experiences as the black and white binary is investigated while representing the middle ground and the psychological space of identity fragmentation. 

Family Portrait

Oil, ink, charcoal on canvas

36" X 50"

2015

Is Her Father White?

Oil, ink, charcoal on canvas

42" X 60"

2015

Select Exhibitions

Post-Grad Residents Exhibition | Target Gallery 

Alexandria, Virginia, 2016

High Yellow | The George Washington University

Washington DC, 2016

Inside My Alabaster Box Solo Exhibition | Nanjing Go Ahead Art Center

Nanjing, China, 2013

Wisdom is Justified by Her Children Solo Exhibition | California College of the Arts

San Francisco, California, 2013

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