Drawing From The Lifeline: An Artist Abstract
As an artist, I have always been driven by the need to communicate. Becoming a professional artist meant discovering the most efficient method to convey my message to any and all people who would brave the challenges and issues that drive me to create. I love drawing the figure and discovered early in my life that it afforded me the opportunity to talk to other people from our shared humanity. As written by Publius Terentius (c. 195/185 – c. 159 BC), playwright and once enslaved African, “I am human, nothing human is alien to me."
George Wallace, Alabama was not an ideal birthplace for traveling the path to an artistic career. The only influences I was afforded was my sister copying a magazine image of a woman with the instruction “Draw Me” written beneath it. Creatively hungry, I did as the photo instructed. I drew. I later meet and was greatly influenced by a family friend who studied Art Education at Miles College. My desire to be a part of a creative environment was born.
Being fascinated by the human form, I have tried for many years to understand its nature as well as its anatomical makeup. Throughout my career, the human form has been the mechanism that makes it possible for me to speak my truth about my life, beliefs, and the varied and colorful histories of my people. Early in my career, I believed that the more realistic the style and technique, the more significant and profound the statement; that the ability to communicate experiences was greatly improved by a well-rendered figure. Nigeria changed that notion.
Living in Africa from 1979 – 1987 profoundly transformed my life and work. The richness, color, and complexities of the Nigeria’s people and cultures showed me that creative interpretation combined with relevant ideas were also important factors. I began to push the personal limits of my approach to the figure, exploring the use of multiple lines that have always been a natural outgrowth of my drawings. The boundaries of realistic interpretation began to morph and expand freeing me to create at a new and exciting level. I moved from the influence of the pure geometric shapes of Islamic art and began using and adapting torn paper as a free hanging collage element as well as incorporating overlapping edges to create motion and mixed media.
Drawing From The Lifeline is the culmination of many influences and years of study. Its themes originate from an earlier concept, Purgatory Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues. In my work, “purgatory” is defined as a concept that carries emotional weight that is generational in scope rather than functioning as a traditional religious doctrine or belief. It is analogues to the crushing, over-powering reality of the blues of which there are many — the “I ain’t got me no money blues,” “my baby done gone and left me blues”, “another man done gone blues”, “I need a job blues.” As BB King so eloquently put it "If you ever been mistreated, then you know just what I'm talking about.” The “purgatory of the blues” is ever present and speaks to the human condition.
Purgatory Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues uses all aspects of African and African American life and culture as themes for the subject it explores. Series within the Purgatory collection include Black Face; Black Works; Dark Angels; Survival; Mask; Ghetto Angel; Ain’t I A Woman and Living In The Light Of Hell’s Shadow, to name a few.
Studying and painting the figure has given me the tools to created the rich, textured world that I see and imagine beyond my windows. I thrill at how the body wears the joys, the blues and history of its interior. I strive to show our strengths, our value as humans and to restore the dignity that is so often stripped from us. My life long goal is to depict our lives and bodies as grand monuments of something other, and much more, than their suffering.