The past 18 months, for me, has been a process of constantly adjusting and responding to external forces in an attempt to remain in balance. The results have been mixed, the variables constantly moving and my endurance waxing and waning. This has been perhaps the most trying time in my life, not because of the events that we have all experienced, but more because of what I have been cut off from. The world seemingly and slowly began to recede. I am not my own best company. It made me realize how much I depend on the external for inspiration and the experiences that fuel that inspiration. Like the man said “ all things are contingent and also there is chaos” which is to say… “Shit happens”
Balance in these times is both difficult to maintain and the margin of error narrow. We live in a time of consequences. I suppose this is a collective test of wills. I wish you all balance, some solace and all the required endurance.
This is something I think almost everyday, primarily because in retrospect it has been one consistent truism throughout my life. Almost nothing about my life was predictable, at least not by me. It has always evolved and changed as often as circumstance and environment. It is both a comfort and a warning. Moreover, it is simply an acceptance that all things are uncertain and always have been. In my mind, to get too far ahead of myself is futile because my predictions will almost certainly be wrong. This idea simplifies things for me; it forces me to start everyday where I am and be open to experiences that may seem to be interruptions of whatever I may have planned. Those “interruptions” are often actually catalysts. I’ve found paying attention to interruptions often leads me to places that my limited imagination had never conjured. The idea also reassures me in shit times that all things are temporary, and in good times that nothing lasts forever, so be present and enjoy it.
The piece itself is made from unintentional things. The background consists of butcher paper used to mask overspray; it was utilitarian, never intended as a work itself. The image was an outtake from another project that had nothing to do with this concept, a discarded image. Both were basically refuse. Also, I had planned on writing the title across the bottom in French. I have been studying French for a few months now and I thought it would be apropos to look back on this piece years from now and laugh that either I was a fluent speaker or had given up on French shortly after making this.
I asked a few friends to help with a reasonable translation and even that evolved over a few days. With different opinions and different phrasing and a lot of disagreement about an accurate translation. In the end I just wrote all the various notes at the bottom to demonstrate that even the translation, like the piece itself, had become something other than what I imagined.
So whether I am absolutely at the end of my rope or feeling invincible, I generally pause and tell myself “Wait. We’ll see what happens…”
I’ve been asked why I chose to make the above piece regarding racism. I didn’t exactly. I made a piece called “The Residue of Arrogance” which was mostly about my growing discontent with the United States and my choice to spend most of my time abroad. That decision had a lot to do with the direction in which my country has moved post 9/11. Certainly racism plays a role in those objections, but it was a much broader view of many consequences. The thing that I find most interesting about the piece is what it has shown me. Many people have concluded that the piece is about racism. I imagine it has to do with my choice of using an African American model. Had I used a white model, I assume people’s reading of it would be different. However, based on people’s reactions, it is entirely clear how most people view the United States. Juxtapose an American Flag and an African American and the conclusion many people will make is that it is, of course, about racism. That’s how connected the image of the United States is to racism, it’s something people assume. What I was trying to convey was an erosion of freedoms and self censorship in a post 9/11 America. However, even in 2017 (which is when I made the original piece) the simple addition of a different skin color leads many people to assume an entirely different meaning. So, in it’s conception it wasn’t focused on racism, but in it’s reception it has become very much about race. This is how the piece talks back to me about it’s context. As an artist, you begin to see the complexity of representation. In my mind the figure in the piece was simply an individual, an American. Yet because the figure is African American, to many people, the “individual” becomes a representation of an entire race of people. Isn’t that exactly what racism is? When people’s individual identity is eclipsed by their race?