Why do you choose to work and live in Philadelphia? In your experience, what makes this arts scene distinctive?
I live and work in Philadelphia because it is a city of genuine interaction. Folks here are direct and, for the most part, transparent about how they feel, almost to a fault at times. I desire and require this sort of interaction in my work and personal life, so when I moved to North Philly from Atlanta in 2006, it was a conscious decision to move here for this kind of interaction with Black folks who are the center of my work, figuratively and conceptually.
Philadelphia has shown me, as a city, what it looks like to truly be invested in art. This city has several large art institutions as well as significant funding options that provide artists and organizations the means to push forward ambitious work. Philly is distinct, in this moment in time, in that an artist can afford to really have a studio practice and exhibit work at a reasonable pace, and access a community of art goers who are not just the typical art collectors. So in this way, the city keeps me accountable to what my work is about, and aware of how it can affect others in a real way. I have run into folks from Philly while traveling in other cities and I've been able to have really thorough conversations with them about my work.
What drives you to create work that explores issues around gender, race, historical archives, and social change? What are you trying to convey with your art?
Operating from these intersections mimics my lived perspective, so it allows me space to explore these experiences through form, as well as to critique them. I think the formula [these intersections] create together is never the same for me. I learn more about the topics I’m interested in by making my work, and often times I start out with a focus and end with another because of the level of discovery in the intersections that I explore. I’m trying to convey this discovery and also make a statement. More specifically, because my work is centered on Blackness, I am trying to complicate the monolith of how Blackness and Black folks are seen and explored with film and visual art.
What is perfection to you, in the context of your work?
Creating work aesthetically and conceptually that will let me sleep at night. Honesty is perfection in my practice, and moving from a place of honesty is how I can sustain the stamina needed to produce my work, as it takes years at a time to produce.
What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?
Images from films that I love, notes to myself, other artists’ stills that I admire, books, and sketches of sculptures I plan to produce. I always have fresh flowers. I also have my cameras with me, and pieces of cameras that don’t work anymore.
In reflecting back to the beginning of your career, what is the most useful advice you ever received?
Get a hold of your materials and tools, and that way you can be as wild as you want with the concept. Concepts are often not strong enough to carry poorly rendered work. You can’t produce something that will literally fall apart. With film and video I try very hard to master the tech around the cameras that I use, as well as the ways that they are projected, installed, etc.
If you could collaborate with anyone alive today, who would it be?
[Photographer] Thierry Le Gouès, [writer] Percival Everett, [pianist and composer] Matthew Shipp, and [visual artist] Nancy Grossman. All of their works do a particular thing to me, and I would like to be able to create something with and for them.