How did growing up in Washington DC contribute to your social consciousness and growth as an artist?
I grew in the heart of Black Academia in Washington DC, where my father worked at Howard University. Living at Howard University I was introduced to the philosophical thoughts, writings and art of African American Intelligential such as Alan Locke and W. E. B. Dubois. I was raised in a family that understood the importance of exposure to history, art and culture. I attended he King Smith Art School where I studied visual arts, music, dance and piano. I saw images created by black artists at Howard University and the local YMCA and also enjoyed going to the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian. All of this impacted me in the early years of my life. All this provided the impetus for my journey to become a visual artist.
How did living in greater Los Angeles throughout the 1960s contribute to your social consciousness and growth as an artist?
In Los Angeles in the 60’s a cadre of fantastic artist whose work reflected the changing mood of the nation surrounded me. Included where artists such as Charles White, Betye Saar, Bernie Casey, Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge and many others. It is in Los Angeles that I begun creating Liturgical art working with my ex husband a Methodist minister I produced a series of series of collages that helped white and black congregations grapple with the issues of the Civil Rights movement. The challenges and influences of black life in Los Angeles shaped my ever-evolving style worked by the depiction of contemporary black life in the urban enclaves of the United States with a subtext of Ancient African cultural spirituality and folklore.
When and why did you move to Dallas? Why have you remained there?
In 1969 my ex husband accepted a teaching position at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. My life changed dramatically with the move. I eventually divorced and supported my son by teaching African American history, art and culture in Dallas public schools. I was given a position to develop an African American Cultural Heritage Center at the Nolan Estes Plaza in the East Oak Cliff sub district. After a decade of running the cultural Heritage center I retired to become a full time visual artist. My artistic career had its beginnings in Texas, in Houston and Dallas with my work exhibited and included Nationwide in Museums and private collections including the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Art, and African American Museum of Art.
Are you more Hannah Hoch or Romare Bearden?
The artist I connect with is Hannah Hoch a Dada artist from Germany who created bold political collages attaching the crumbling Central European military monarchies.
Why do you like to repurpose materials? What found materials do you favor?
I particularity enjoy finding street trash, objects discarded by people such a bottle caps, crack bags, nail fragments of metal and glass, torn paper. Each object has its own story to tell, its own beauty.
What do you collect, and how does that shape your art?
I have collected black memorabilia for now 30 years. These relics are to me like guardians of the past. They summon up a past history of what African Americans had to overcome and endure. Both negative and beautiful they have provided social commentary and provide the central themes of much of my work such as the “Mammy”, “Jim Crow”, “Sambo” and many other archetypes.
Was your big 2009 show at the Tyler Museum of Art a kind of "summing up"? Where do you go from there?
The Tyler exhibit was not a summing up as such but it did provide me with the inspiration to continue to focus my art on current social, cultural and historical themes including the global impact of Hip Hop culture. I want to remain on the cutting edge.
What did John Biggers mean when he called you "the poet of the city"?
I am a city person in the true sense of the word. In my work I try to capture the pulse and plight of black life in urban America. I suppose John realize that the urban aesthetic characterizes much of my work poetically and narratively. He always felt that I could capture the urban environment even better than he could. I leave that up to viewing public.
You told Alan Governor (in 2005?) "I take images of things that are derogatory and then turn them around and find the spirituality behind them." What are some examples of such images and things?
I have used empty bullet casings found in the streets near my house and used them as receptacles for receiving messages of hope. Crack bags become flowers.
How has hip-hop culture inspired you?
Hip-Hop figures prominently in my work. I see the artifacts of rap culture, the sneakers, gold grills, caps, hoodies, graffiti and drug paraphernalia as markers of a sub culture to be examined and documented in art. Hip-Hop has a great impact on contemporary Afro, American and International culture.
How did you come to be a stained glass designer?
Rev Zan W. Holmes, Jr. a friend, and neighbor and colleague of my former husband asked me to design a series of stained glass windows to complement the newly constructed St. Luke’s “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas. Rev Holmes was aware of my work with the Untied Methodist Church Diocese in Los Angeles, California. I was eager to explore new mediums when Holmes asked me to design 51 windows. I lit up immediately and accepted the challenge to design a comprehensive series of windows reflecting the history and struggle of black people through time.
Why do you want to do a Book of Hours?
I want to capture the day-to-day lives of people whose struggle is borne out in their survival. I am inspired by their deep and abiding faith.
Which artists have meant the most to you?
The artists who have meant the most to me include John Biggers, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Joseph Cornell, El Greco, and Goya.