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Paintings

Black Portrait Series
2020 - Present

What is the Black Portrait Series?

Is an ongoing series of paintings and drawings I began in 2009. exploring how narrative is created through portraiture and the removal and marginalization of the black figure within western visual culture. I'm interested in the effects of colonialism on depictions of African Americans and other marginalized peoples in western visual traditions. Using traditional art tropes of portraits and still life, I incorporate numerous metaphors, images, and allusions to make connections between the states of social invisibility that marginal representation creates, and westerns arts’ tradition of positioning the black figure as peripheral; serving only to assist in establishing the elevated image of the central white figure(s) and gaze depicted.

Addressing a lack of authorship

This series is anchored by a few concepts – 

  • Identity  (the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks, and/or expressions that define how we see ourselves and the way others see us)

  • Culture (the way of life of a group of people)

  • How culture shapes and informs a person’s identity

  • How culture and identity change over time

Black Portrait Series Objects: 

My wife and I love vintage picks below are some paintings based on our combs and some reference images from our collection of picks.

Pick #1
Pick #1

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Pick #2
Pick #2

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Pick #4
Pick #4

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Pick #1
Pick #1

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Muhammad Ali Picks
Muhammad Ali Picks

These are new additions to our pick collection

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Folding Pick
Folding Pick

I used to have one of these as a kid. I haven't gotten a new one yet

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Gold Pick
Gold Pick

3KINGS Legacy Gold Hair Pick (my wife bought me this one as a present)

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Muhammad Ali Picks
Muhammad Ali Picks

These are new additions to our pick collection

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Some important references:

In 2016 the project Next Rembrandt development team analyzed about 346 paintings of the famous artist. They created an algorithm that can accurately replicate the style of Rembrandt as a 3D print.
 

The team decided on their algorithm:

1. a portrait of a white man with facial hair

2. aged 30-40 years,

3. in a black dress

4. with a collar and a hat

Rembrant.gif

Images curtosey ofhttps://www.nextrembrandt.com

The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between: ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis

Images curtoseru ofhttps://www.nextrembrandt.com The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between: ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis

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Images curtoseru ofhttps://www.nextrembrandt.com The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between: ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis

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Images curtoseru ofhttps://www.nextrembrandt.com The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between: ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis

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Images curtoseru ofhttps://www.nextrembrandt.com The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between: ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis

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“It is worth remembering that when you look at old paintings you are looking through the eyes of men, by and large… The art of, say, the Dutch golden age gives the powerful sense that we are spying on a real-world: but we are spying with male eyes, except for those exceptional women who defied their  culture”

- Jonathan Jones, Men, women and the art of exclusion, The Guardian, published on Fri 27 May 2011

Some books used for reference:

Recovering Identity: Nineteenth-Century African American Portraiture 2006

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Recovering Identity: Nineteenth-Century African American Portraiture 2006
Recovering Identity: Nineteenth-Century African American Portraiture 2006

Duchess of Portsmouth, Louise de Keroualle Pierre Mignard I (1682)

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The Rhetoric of Perspective
The Rhetoric of Perspective

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Recovering Identity: Nineteenth-Century African American Portraiture 2006

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Historically artists created images of black bodies positioned them solely to enhance the rarified white bodies who had become rich off transatlantic colonial expansion and a new global economy based on triangular trade in sugar, rum, and human flesh

Black Male Portrait Series 
2009 - 2011

My focus is the black figure; its form, shapes, and coded presence in American culture. Combining some iconography and emblematic elements from blaxploitation posters. Blaxploitation is one of the first platforms to feature blacks as central even hero characters.  The centering of the subject is meant to position the black figure outside the limits of biased social constructs inherent in western arts depictions of people of color.

A few more important references

Black Caesar 1973
Black Caesar 1973

Artist: George Akimoto

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The Mack 1973
The Mack 1973

Artist: Robert Feliciano

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Disco Godfather
Disco Godfather

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Black Caesar 1973
Black Caesar 1973

Artist: George Akimoto

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Some imagery or themes that repeat in my work

Man with Halo
Man with Halo

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Man with white spots (vitillgo)
Man with white spots (vitillgo)

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Man with Portal
Man with Portal

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Man with Halo
Man with Halo

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I’m really interested how the meaning of Blackness changes over time and space.  In the book Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology, author Michelle M. Wright argues that although we often explicitly define Blackness as a “what,” it in fact always operates as a “when” and a “where.” 

 

Some Key Questions I’m Considering:
 

If Blackness is not biological in origin but socially constructed how has the Black figure existed within the frame of art and cultural representation.

 

How can I explore the notion of and ever shifting relationship to identity?

Patterns, layers and Outer Space:

I often use layering as a way to suggest the nuanced experience of dislocation that comes with a constantly fluctuating relationship with identity. I want to reflect the vastness of space; either psychological, physical, conceptual that the Black figure exist in.

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Classical Still Life Series
2006

What is the Classical Still Life Series?

The Classical Still Life series consists of painted facsimiles of 19th-century style still life paintings. The subject of which, are trade items once used by early European and American painters to create representations of class and status.  Commissioned paintings of decadent table settings depicting elusive trade items such as game birds, fruits, and teas commonly promoted the wealth of the ruling class.

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Still Life with Silver Candleholder Pieter van Roestraeten (c. 1694 - 1696)

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Image Credit: Soul Food Is Slave Food, Nature Beings, January 29, 2015, Brightsistahblog.wordpress.com

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In this photo from University of Maryland associate professor Psyche Williams-Forson's collection, a man holds two watermelons as a chicken passes by, circa 1904. (Psyche Williams-Forson) (Psyche Williams-Forson)

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Sweet Potato Pie

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Image Credit: Soul Food Is Slave Food, Nature Beings, January 29, 2015, Brightsistahblog.wordpress.com

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In this series, I fuse these trade items with images of soul food based on recipes created by slaves. The inclusion of this food that was developed from the literal waste of the upper-class serves as a reminder of the Slave labor that helped provide such extravagant displays of wealth. Furthermore, the addition of these low-class delicacies into such lavish settings is a humorous attempt at placing these items back on the Master’s table.

Some Images from Classical Still Life Series

Classical Still Life Installation