How do you represent issues of gentrification and displacement in your work?
At Artpace, I’ve worked on two distinct, yet narratively connected bodies of work. In my studio, I have three large-scale drawings/collages that are inspired by my family history. On the Artpace rooftop is a to-scale replica of my grandmother’s house, which was located on Paul Russell Road in Tallahassee. When she passed away, her children sold her property to a developer who built a gated suburban community on the land. A part of the city that was once considered ‘country’ had become prime property for developers. Though my family wasn’t displaced, the purchase and redevelopment of the former homestead made me think about gentrification and its impact on community.
Gentrification, displacement, and neighborhood renewal affects communities differently, especially neigh- borhoods that have historically not had access to city resources. In Paul Russell Road, the homestead has been created from memory and photographs, and is turned onto its roof, exposing a homogenous suburban neighborhood of ranch houses and bungalows, symbolizing the shift in property ownership from a single family to a housing estate. My original intention was for the house to be installed outside of Artpace in the San Antonio community. However, for a variety of reasons, at the county level, this work could not be installed where we intended. The neighborhood we initally chose has been impacted by the very concerns the artwork critiques.
The origin of much of your work is your grandmother and the land she owned. Why is this part of your family history so impactful for you?
I frequently draw nude bodies—often, a corpulent black female figure—as isolated figures on a white ground. Their relationship with the world is signified by the colorful adornments they wear and the culturally loaded objects they embrace—among them, southern landscapes, suburban housing and sports gear.
My current drawings are populated with trees and nature to give context to the body and its relationship to a particular kind of landscape. In the large-scale collages produced at Artpace, I depict landscapes growing out of women’s bodies. This dense, lush landscape references my grandmother’s homestead and the land she owned during a time when women, let alone Black women, did not own property. That home- stead was a place that family lived, visited, and held meetings for generations.
Tell us about your imaging process from stickers and drawing to large-scale, complex murals.
I source much of my imagery from what already exists. I use stickers, which generally have a decorative function, to narrate in my drawings. The playfulness of the stickers becomes more surprising and absurd, with a shift in scale. Stickers function as visual shorthand. The way an image is generated brings content – both in the form of the images and its style. For instance, I collage trees using multiple styles of stickers – photographic, illustrative, painterly, etc. This conflation of styles alters how these images are read. Neither the images nor the styles in which they are made are value-free.