My work is deeply autobiographical. I parallel my experiences as a Queer, Black boy growing up in rural Ohio to those of my direct male ancestors. My process begins with genealogical research. I collect stories and support these narratives with records from archives and special collections. I then source vintage collage images from books printed between 1965-1999, specifically nodding to my grandfathers’ generation and my earliest memories of them. The vintage images I source are of natural scenes and elements, as well as space, stars and mysterious heavenly bodies, intentionally manipulating space and time. I compile them within the Black male figure on canvas.
These figures are avatars of me, but meant to represent specific male ancestors. They are rooted in self-portraiture, however, by using images of my brothers, my father and my grandfathers, I change different physical features creating an entirely new being. Using a thick impasto technique with oil paint, I recreate scenes from my childhood farm. I found solace from constant racial and homophobic attacks in these fields and forests that surrounded my remote home. I connected to my ancestors in these fields, they guided and strengthened me from a very early age. If they could survive the impossible, surely, I could pull from that very strength, which must still exist in my veins. This enters my practice through varying brushstrokes that speak like a language or a script.
I use old brushes to lay down and move paint across the canvas as I retell the chosen narrative over and over in my head until I’m satisfied. It is within this investigative process that I am finding a way to heal from my own generational and personal trauma.