LA VIE BOHÈME EN BLEU
InParentheses Literary Magazine, Summer 2016
Published August 11th, 1026
As I tell you that I am an artist first and a human second, I mean that in all senses. My hands and I are as interchangeable to the touch of booming colors as my ears might see the dance before the cab has a chance to stop. The brain does not allow the passage of idle time when the city around you provides so much to play with. The trinkets and neon of New York City, though complex in ways that you didn’t know were possible (until there you are in a Canadian tuxedo doing the walk of shame across the Williamsburg bridge with a brand new set of keys and a lost wallet), provide the real time equipment for making it on one’s-own.
Independence in the 21st century context is a novel idea. The rudimentary programming of the American dream has worn off and freedom is both the question that plagues and the answer that glorifies. As an artist, I have no choice in taking the characters and fabrics of my surroundings and regurgitating that fact onto something, anything for the sake of life. As a human I find myself submerged in a sea of cerulean.Taking the waves as they crash and sooth in the peace that I may live to tell the tale.
What started as a christmas gift for my father, turned into my first series of exhibited paintings. Currently holding residency at Pisticci Restaurant in Harlem, NY, with selected pieces on view with The Glint in San Francisco, CA, The (Re)Birth of Cool” is inspired by the sounds and means of jazz, blues,bluegrass blues, soul and funk. Using each color to mirror a note on a scale. Where degradation of a hue is faint or bold, the decrescendo of the music that my brush efforts to illustrate is made tangible. From the pieces put together through creative intent. Allowing the negative space to serve as the score on which my testament be made whole. I usher my emotions onto something-claiming them to be mine sans influence of others. Solvent in the rhetoric of your steps and way of thought is the true dream; the human dream. The notion of controlling your limbs and what they can propel you to do while sovereign to take any path that gets you there. Within the funnel of my creative incubator I am able to shut down-if only for a moment-the clamorous roars of today and simply create.
When I am asked why all of my paintings are blue, or “ Is this like your blue phase?” my answer is always the same. Out all the colors in the palette, it is my belief that blue is the only one that can express each and every facet of the human emotion, and remain a variant for everyone. It is not an argument I would take to a critic to be handled with pompous academia-it is simply my own belief. A given right that is as strong to me as sitting in prayer with whomever deity may grant you joy, or letting your heart decide who to love and finding pride in that.
At every turn of a calendar image I am stunned at the caos, and brightened by all the realities of this world. The polar opposites that exist within humankind do stupify the days and make happiness relative and aware a profitable constant in the art of living.The privileges that I have experienced as as citizen of the world in both culture and it’s liberties have brought me to the humblest of minds when acknowledging the absence of such in another. I find myself removed from the pandemic filter of nostalgia on this millennium and honestly embracing what is fact and what is not. What once had been romanticized by the vaulted Disney tales has now been unleashed to three dimensional vantage. I am not free as an African American male yet my artistic passions made solid have no arms to chain down and a heart that no bullet can kill. The call to action that rings now, lingers a faint echo remnant of those in the 1960’s & 70’s with the serious fashion efforts of the 1990’s, still. In truth to hope that expression is the vessel to the soul, I remain ever direct in my creative desire to make people feel-anything.
Earlier this July, while back home in Oakland, CA for my ten year reunion from Skyline High School I was forcefully addressed with the realities of change. As a poet, I take any opportunity to make metaphor of the time stamps and and their contrasts. The trip was coated in deep thought. Both my personal progression through a decade, and the city and state of the Union that I once and no longer reside.
The results of that time would leave anyone with a moral code or any empathic effort anesthetized. Within one weekend I bore witness to the ground zero of pain and peaceful rebellion. The back to back murders of Alton Sterling (37) & Philandro Castile (32) engrossed the Bay Area to a breaking point that rose from all sides to stand in solidarity. The call was too loud and so penetrated into the grains of Bay love and Bay history that no one could turn away, as the blind eye is the death of all mankind. With just one phone call and the direction “We on the freeway!”, I was about face to OPD holster and the bright white headlights that did cast a historic shadow on the Interstate 880 on July 8th, 2016.
How resonating the images of self sacrifice and unification of community, that they too have been ushered into my brush and onto the surfaces in which I illustrate. The testimonies of freedom and the choices within that right are examples of the resilience of the human spirit. A chronicle of emotions that rival the rise and falls of the Matterhorn or The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Just as the first sets of collected expression had birthed its way through, my second series of work is inspired by the sounds of testimony in all the blues. “ Strange Bleu”, emerged from the depths of the Atlantic as an ode to the lost souls of the Middle Passage. Those two million and more who either by murder, suicide or sacrifice were given to the wet degradations of salt water burial. Falling into the deep blue while ascending into the American narrative are the images and reflections of ourselves. Drowning as a people, being held beneath as we transverse into an age of awareness. It is a theme and subject that dives closer to the truth in humanity, whether distressing or heureuse, it is infectious.
Almost as binary as the MTA announcements of “ See something! Say something!”, and as powerful as the Oakland Natives & #Blacklivesmatter movementshutting down a freeway, are the responsibilities of artists. To use the gift that the senses can create to therefore create sensory responses in other. This fact, is the only reason my pen is filled with ink, my feet will always move and my hands-a constant stain of blue paint. Such is a reality of my own making that it did take the effortless destruction of my people and claim to my own voice to see. The lesson that looking back and not forward, is only dangerous, when the place that your feet stand now are not foundational and fact. Without history, a lone future is as dark as the cosmos, and less still in its mounting. With honest intent and carless wander into my craft, I explore the shades as they come and find the solace of knowing change comes when you make it.