For the summer residency in Berlin this past August, I showed to projects I had been working on. Both projects were portrait-based but instituted juxtapositions into my work. Both projects had a philosophy behind them because I had come to believe that art needs a philosophical backbone in order to make it relevant. Just yesterday, I was applying for an exhibition grant and, while reviewing successful past proposals on the exhibition grant’s site, I read proposals discussing displaced peoples as a result of climate change, proposals dealing with transgender awareness in Brazil, and proposals dealing with preserving The art of African Americans who live in the South. By the wording, it was easy to tell that the artists were neither displaced peoples, transgendered, or, themselves necessarily African American. Yet they adopted these issues and created projects around them.
This is the type of work I brought to Berlin:
A project using Greek pottery image to “elevate the portraiture of black and Latino gay males whose stories and paradigms get lost in gay culture dominated by gay white males”.
And a project of drag queen portraits using comic book design to make a point about “how diluted cultural phenomena become when it is rustled into pop culture earning large companies millions of dollars”.
My reviewers in Berlin were Jean-Ulrick Desert and Nathalie Bikoro
Both reviewers had the same message for me:
The philosophy must come from inside. “I don’t see you in the work”, was their lament. The art, they insisted, should be about the artist. I am still wrestling with a direction to go in as a result of this feedback.
Transart is an institute that demands a change of direction in your practice—experimentation outside your comfort zone.
Yet, ironically, the two reviewers agreed that the strongest pieces I showed that afternoon were the two basic, no-frills, no-gimmicks, no philosophy, portraits I showed at the beginning of my presentation to show the reviewers my starting point: the type of work I was doing before joining Transart Institute.