I finished the first piece from my new series this week. Some other smaller ones are either done or very close to it. It feels a bit like I just climbed over a fence and now I can walk around, see what’s over here, in this place where paintings actually get done.
As you may know from my previous ramblings about artist statements, I am not a big fan of intellectualizing about my work. But I do think it is important to share what it is inspired by.
In the past, I have been interested in mythologies and fables, basically the stories through which we see our lives. Sometime after my father died a couple of years ago, that transformed into pursuing family history, and then the story of the United States, especially that period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
I have never been a particularly literal artist, so I will not be painting anything specifically about the fear of slave revolts and the subsequent series of laws limiting the rights of free people of color in North Carolina. But my work right now comes from these stories, these questions about who we are, about when we started defining ourselves by color, about what purpose that serves politically, emotionally. What would it feel like if we could change that story? What determines who we connect with and who we don’t?
I don’t have any real answers for these questions, of course. But in asking them, I hope to remind myself over and over of the power of stepping back from self-imposed boundaries, the power of rewriting the story a little bit each day.