Throughout 16 years exhibiting in Los Angeles galleries, my path has led through drawing, painting, filmmaking, sculpture, installation, a graphic novel, and experimentation with found and re-purposed materials. Though the works span mediums and forms, taken together my art is unified by its humanity and dedication to social justice.
My Sanctuary project began in 2019 as a visceral response to refugees seeking shelter around the world. The effects of climate change as well as geopolitical pressures and violence are driving extraordinary migrations now. I initially created life-size mixed-media drawings of figures walking to what they believed would be safety. Then I crafted symbolic three-dimensional rafts that escape from a richly textured 36-foot abstract mural across a gallery floor. As I worked to express the desperation felt by refugees, it was also important to me to express their hope. So in 2021 I drew and sculpted families settled in hand-made symbolic tents and I hinted at the possibility of life resuming.
Materials in the installation include charcoal, clay, rope, twine, sticks, wood, acrylic, canvas, paper, toys, cloth, tree bark, plant parts, rusted wires, a chain link fence, found objects and battered coffee bean bags. By re-purposing objects and using natural materials, I incorporate an environmentally conscious approach that underscores the theme of Sanctuary: everyone and everything has value. I am moved by the charcoal drawings of mothers and children by Kathe Kollwitz in 1920s and 1930s, and paintings by Charles White in the 1940s, and these influenced my choice of a mostly monochromatic palette for this series.
Sanctuary has been widely exhibited. The complete display had 50 elements in a 4,000 sq. ft. installation in 2021. That was preceded by a solo at the Los Angeles Art Association in 2020. Art critic Edward Goldman chose a work from Sanctuary for “Art and Hope at the End of the Tunnel” that he curated at the USC Fisher Museum. Large segments were featured at Art Share LA and won a prize at The Next Big Thing at Studio Chanel Islands. Additional awards include Mozaik Philanthropy, First Prize from Women Painters West for “Hope Springs Eternal;” an award from Taylor Bythewood-Porter, a curator at the California African American Museum, for “All Media 2021” at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. In 2021, I also won Individual Artist grants from Vibrant Cities and Repaint History.
Critic Genie Davis wrote in Art and Cake: “This is a passion project for the artist, and it is a fierce, galvanizing, heartbreaking one … an awe-inspiring experience.”
Before Sanctuary, I explored sculptures using plants and other found materials, especially in Artifacts of Grace in 2017-18. Those iconic constructions suggested women as forces of nature and were featured at the Los Angeles Art Show in the Convention Center in 2019. This use of materials echoed some of my Caribbean experience, where I was familiar with making art from whatever was abundant and free and connected the artists to the land.
Highlights of previous exhibits include: The California African American Museum where I had a 6-month exhibit from The Life of Water in 2012, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2009 showing the Sepia series of abstracted landscapes.
At the close of the Sanctuary installation, I felt the figures pressed me to tell their stories beyond what could be revealed in the show. So I embarked on a graphic novel titled Bearing Witness that is now complete. In 448 pages of images the book delves into fictional lives of four families forced to flee.
Now I am expanding to paintings inspired by Bearing Witness. This new artwork adds a universal dimension to the figures and can be appreciated without regard to the context. While the book is largely monochromatic, the paintings bring adventurous use of color and materials. They range from intimate portraits to works on unusual surfaces such as painted silk. I am also re-purposing scraps of torn plastic that have extraordinary abstract design and colors. This recycling of found materials has been present through all my art history. These paintings are the latest step forward in my treatment of this deeply moving subject.