Artist Statement Essay
As a child I created art for enjoyment. Nothing can quite replace the freedom of some jars of finger paint given to young children wearing smocks. Not much thought went into my creations and I expected every adult who came in contact with it to be so amazed that they had to have it on the nearest refrigerator to proclaim its genius to all onlookers!
Now that I am older, my art has become a means to document or validate my culture and heritage and experiences. In the mainstream African-Americans are often ignored, judged or devalued in many ways and I rarely see enough positive images of my culture to counter the many negative ones I see in the media. As I have taken sociology courses such as, African Americans in Popular Culture, I understand the value of having balanced viewpoints. I must question everything that I see and hear and do the appropriate research to comprehend the everyday occurrences that are portrayed in the media. The news was once viewed as a source of reliable information but has evolved into biased entertainment.
My experiences at Agnes Scott have also helped me to broaden my views and I have become more socially aware of the importance of speaking up for those who have had their voices silenced. I know the significance of having factual information to support and maintain truth. Therefore, I am more conscious of what I select as content as well as the context. I am more focused on technique and trying to present a snapshot into an everyday scene or event from my surroundings. I create art as a visual time capsule.
My current project is a quilt project is entitled, Lynchings, and Witch Hunts and Injustice!, and it’s central theme is “bullying”. Some victims portrayed in the quilt have been bullied by social inequalities such as racism, by vicious media attacks which aim to skew the public’s view rather that focus on facts, and other victims have fallen to cyber attacks by peers and digital tools such as facebook, Twitter, or MySpace.
Each quilt square is dedicated to a victim and contains a collage of text and images that pertain to that person. For instance, the log cabin square for Patsy Ramsey is composed of 17 pieces. The center red square simply states, “for Patsy” and is surrounded by 16 fabric strips that contain photos, hateful words and news articles surrounding the tragic events that negatively impacted her life and the lives of her family members. She was a victim of vicious media attacks therefore, I chose to dissect images and text from newspaper archives to assist me in telling her story. Each completed quilt block has been digitally manipulated in Photoshop to create a collage. Some strips contain fabric strips which were directly printed on and others have images that were applied with special heat transfer papers. I have used metallic gold and silver markers to write additional text as well as draw in many of the blocks.
The purpose of this quilt is to serve as a memorial and is my effort to pay homage to these victims and to encourage us to become more than viewers but informed participants who challenge and change the social climate of today so that the same atrocities of the past will not burden future generations.
The materials proved to be quite interesting and, at times, problematic. I learned to work with each fabric and make adjustments in my approach and treatment of them as opposed to trying to force them to do what I expected them to. This meant having to use the iron at a lower heat setting in some instances which meant a transfer that normally would take three minutes could take as long as twenty minutes. Also, I had to abandon ironing each square as it was completed as I would in a typical quilt as the images and text would either melt or smear so I had to settle for a few wrinkles and weird angles in the completed quilt. After settling on the idea that this is more of a study for future quilts, I was able to relax and enjoy the process of creating. This was a pivotal moment for me because up to this point this project was proving to be quite a thorn in my side.
I am delighted to once again be inspired by the creative process and to be able to think ahead to future projects. I am looking forward to continuing this memorial quilt project. I want to try creating quilts with one person as the focus so that each square will tell a part of her/his story. I also want to capture past eras such as the Harlem Renaissance or pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen who risked their lives to save others as they used their planes to shield gunfire and fight off attackers of their white counterparts. This senior project has been empowering in that I now seek to cheer for the underdogs and become active in supporting anti-bullying organizations such as Students Speak Up and applying the information I learn both in my classroom with my young students and in future quilts. I hope to continue in the tradition of quilt artists such as Faith Ringgold and capture poignant moments that are so captivating that they serve as a time capsule of injustice that “used to be” but is no longer.