Being Black and gay in the U.S continuously has placed me in positions of activism and resistance to power structures. My work serves as an opportunity to look at Black and Queer identity with a lens of interiority. My art narrates how I engage with my Blackness and Queerness in private, through culture, and how these identities inform how I engage with the world. Ultimately, my goal as an artist is to explore the distinctions I experience through Blackness, Queerness and Black Queerness.
The basis of my work is inspired by Black folks’ history with moisturizing products for the hair and body, and my being conditioned to hold value in my hair, skin color and the objects that go into the care of my hair and body. Being considered physically ashy (white and dry skin) or socially ashy (wack, lame, ignorant) are lingo among Black folk. As a result, products like lotion or coconut oil have become a staple in the Black community, so I create objects that concretely elevate and immortalize this relationship unique to Black culture. I expand upon this basis to create narratives about my own Blackness, Queerness and Black Queerness.
Occasionally, I will also employ animal narratives to tell my stories similar to the process of folklore. The buffalo references the Black male soldiers that were referred to as buffalo soldiers. The gazelle references the animal’s historical place as the symbol of femininity/womanhood. The sheep represents those who are not confined to the binary gender system and/or are Queer referencing the idea of being the black sheep of the family and reclaiming this ideology by proudly not being part of the “norm”. While the rabbit/hare is an encompassing motif for Black folk inspired by Br’er rabbit.
*Black is used as a way to be inclusive of the Black experience in case anyone who is not African-American finds relatable moments within my work; however, when making my work I am primarily regarding my experiences as an African-American. The same applies to the use of Queer as I am speaking from the perspective of a gay man.