Artist Statement

I believe that art is practice, not in the sense of “practice makes perfect” but rather that art emerges from ones practice; that an artist’s art and life are intrinsically linked. How I come to a finished product is more fascinating to me than the end result; the finished piece becomes a physical documentation of the process, the art. Through my practice I search out different modes of exploring my mixed-race identity and family history. By drawing from the languages and traditions of my European ancestors and blending them with notions of race and West Indian culture my work strives to create objects of beauty.

With my textile based projects I imagine the histories of the items scoured from local thrift stores.  Picturing how someone’s grandmother or great-aunt spent endless hours carefully crocheting the lace edges of table runners, place mats, doilies, and napkins. Perhaps they were wedding gifts or perhaps for her own home?   How had items of such love ended up in the thrift store; hours of work discarded, sold for less than a dollar?  Had the recipient of the gift not recognized the labour, had the owner passed away and her descendants given them to charity?  The unknown histories of these items lead me to remember similar textiles from my family’s past and question their roll in our relationships. How I compile the found items can change the conversation. As a table setting they speak of domesticity and an intimate connection to my foremothers, in more formal, almost museum like presentations, they speak to a culture of collection and display, of colonial links to how histories are recorded and exhibited and which are excluded.

My earlier works borrowed imagery from my European and African tribal ancestors searching for the common threads. Often these paintings and mixed media works manifested as masks, evolving from ceremonial artifacts to masks of my own identity. Other series sourced images and documents from archives to be incorporated into mixed media paintings. Ultimately I found that images were becoming inadequate to express the stories I wanted to tell. I became too attached to the images and as a result the questions I wanted to ask were overshadowed.

While my encaustic works may have a visceral feel, notions of beauty are integral to the pieces. Using various flesh tones and the skin-like texture of wax, these paintings reflect on European painting traditions which I colour with broad spectrum of participants. As with my larger canvas works, I build layers of information and textures. The canvas works are built up slowly and lovingly, each layer concealing information and adding texture and pattern.  There is always a sense of trepidation as I build up the works. Did I conceal too much, was too much lost? I quickly and anxiously remove potions of the top layer in an attempt to reclaim what was lost. The physical act of building the works, acrylic or wax, mimics my emotional attachment to traditions and family past. As the layers blend the end result is more beautiful and richer than the original, even if some things are lost.

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