Wow. This Old Work Is.... Well, It's Old

I walked into Dayton Technology School on First Street downtown to take photos of the old work that was still displayed there.
Students were nice to say that I didn't look my age, (17 really? C'mon now!) but the snorting at the "valley girl accent" will never end.
Alas, I no longer care anymore.
I sound how I sound and that won't ever change.
Anyway, back to the art.
These twelve pieces need to be taken home very, very soon.
But one can't haul large pieces of work to and fro on these hour long journeys...

"The Darkest Tree in the Neighborhood," 18" x 24," acrylic, oil pastels, Mod Podge, and deco markers on canvas, 2006.

Long ago, I had an obsession with language and writing on paintings.
Stemming from a maddening desire to weave my loves together, this was just another attempt.
A dominating headless figure over a sideways landscape.
The repetitive statement, "I am the darkest tree in the neighborhood" is in an abstract tree form at the top and between the legs.
Dark depressing poetry and created during freshman year, I was trying to find my place at art school and in a new city.
This painting simply reflected my feelings in this unusual fragmented world.

"Betrayal of the Two Mothers," 54" x 54," oil pastels on paper, 2008.

In sophomore year, (so long ago!) we had an intriguing assignment project in drawing class: create a self-portrait in an artist's style and write an essay about the experience.
Naturally, I chose my woman, Frida Kahlo and this was a loose replica of her "Dos Fridas."
I worked this very large drawing to death on my apartment floor with Holbein Oil Pastels (at 99 cents per 2 inch stick it added up!) for several weeks and got important feedback during my in progress.
It's layered upon layered with pastels, the chunks similar to paint on canvas.
Originally, there were not going to be hands.
My drawing professor said, "look. This may be the time that you start working on them. You don't want to be known as the artist with no hands. Trust me."
End result- hands are too small, but at least I made an effort of some sort.
"Betrayal of The Two Mothers" features a lot of iconography.
Symbols that tell a personal narrative.
By this time, I had transitioned my hair from relaxers (had been kinky hair straightening since age 7) to just being natural, but there was a nasty, ugly perception about it that always stung deeply.
Growing up, "nappy" was deemed as "African" and that wasn't a great thing.
Hence the Mother Nature aspect in the portrait.
Her giant green face is in the background- left her hair is black, spirally, and knotted while on the right her hair is blond and straight.
With the continent serving as a visible heart, the left "black" side is holding onto strong, African pride and beauty, but the right "white" side is brainwashed by American beliefs.
Yet the both of them are connected via severed neck cut cords to a celestial portrait of a saddened mother.
One question asked to me:
"Why Africa? You're not from there. Why make art as if you're an African when you're just an American?"
I don't think she got what I was trying to address.

"Rubber Duck Race," 18" x 24," oil pastels on paper, 2009.

Another oil pastel double portrait, this is less intense.
No metaphors here.
Of a tender, lighthearted nature, it's about daydreaming and wondering if childhood would have been better if numbered rubber ducks had been racing in a filled bathtub.
Adult me is in the background while the child version takes full stage.
Yes, I really do have a big shiny forehead.
Well aware of that.
This drawing was the first and last time I entered into the AAC's year end art competition, but as it's not real realism or particularly interesting in a classical sense, it lost against the many others that participated.
Plus there was that little tear in the right corner.
Perfection a must! An Academy rule.
Speaking of duckies and their cuteness, I so miss my first music video from freshman year- it was about rubber ducks starting off in a bathtub and their travels all over the world. Very bad pixelated images, mediocre instrumental music, and crappy editing, but I loved the effort!
Too bad I didn't get to save it on CD. :(

"R.I.P. Jamaal Newland," 15" x 15," acrylic, oil pastels, and Mod Podge on canvas, 2009.

When Jamaal Newland, a former middle school classmate of mine died, I felt that I had to honor him in art.
Tall, dark, handsome, smart, and eloquently spoken it broke my heart finding out that he passed away.
He was one of those people, not a friend, but a kind confidante that I shared thoughts with.
Often he made me laugh and smile.
Middle school was a horrid experience and not one that I remember fondly.
Yet he helped me get through it.
One memory, I'll always recall. We were at the library. This man kept passing gas rather loudly. We couldn't stop laughing. Three times the security guard told us to be silent- mainly me. So of course the man kept right on breaking wind, I got kicked out, but Jamaal graciously followed me outside where we let our laughter roam freely.
I painted his signature bright white smile on a happy face. With his arms outstretched across powdery blue skies and green, lush grass, the white, fluffy winged angel is escaping into an enlightening place that is far beyond our reach.

"The Bathroom Door," 16" x 20," acrylic, oil pastels, deco marker, and Mod Podge on canvas, 2007.

An awesome artist friend of mine gave me this fascinating, crescent moon faced mirror, which was in "Betrayal of the Two Mothers."
So of course I decided to incorporate this beautiful object into many sketches, drawings, and paintings over the years.
In this painting, a shocked, mortifed woman holds her hand up protectively to her chest as a white man enters.
Handwritten words are everywhere, questioning identity and privacy.
I was told that this seemed a bit sensual and risque.
For her mouth was parted, her hand is poised almost seductively, and the amount of her visible bare skin invites viewers to look at her though she acts completely innocent.
What is she doing in the bathroom?
Why wasn't the door locked?
Is she fully clothed?
The intention is not really to read the words, but some people have and it's delightful to watch them because my handwriting is microscopic! Haha!
As for the other seven pieces, they're commissions and Aaliyah portraits.
These five were the ones that communicated
I hadn't seen any of this work in a year or so.
Viewing it with refreshing eyes, I took a few pointers from this old body of work.
Bold, vibrant color, narrative, and language are still at the top of my hierachy.
The next series of art deals with Africa and integrating the continent's aesthetic into the human face.
In my sketchbook, there are the Prismacolor colored pencil and Sharpie marker drawings. Also I have cut through "Essence" magazines for collage ideas through a friend's suggestion.
Ready to move onto the next phase, switch gears just a teensy bit.
But I can never forget how far I've gotten.
Art is a growing experience.
So much one can be taught. Not just from prior artists of the past, but from our own art history.
It's the residue that tells us to keep being creative!


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