The complex and unconscious process of navigating a social and cultural identity while managing predetermined expectations of personal identity often comes with a high level of anxiety. The impact of this state of perpetual self-inquiry instills a deep sense of doubt, fueling an ever present feeling of impostor syndrome. As an artist, educator, mixed-race woman and mother, I find myself linked to a complex overlay of multiple identities. Each pulls me to choose who I am meant to be; defined not by myself but by society. Without being allowed room for growth. I’ve been conditioned to question who I am and where I fit within the world.
However, a change is coming. Through the constant movement towards a more globalized society, I am finally discovering a common ground. I have a sense that I am no longer alone. Women artists have begun using creative practice as a means for social justice and historical revisionism.
For my part, I have created an on-going series of portraits, begun in 2017, entitled Painted Stitches. It pays homage to dynamic women of color who have worked towards implementing and influencing socio-political shifts. These women, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala Yousafzai, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, have had a lasting impact on my artistic practice giving me a newfound sense of empowerment.
Worked in cotton embroidery thread in a wide array of skin tones on raw, recycled muslin—historically used as a test garment often discarded once the pattern had been perfected—these thread paintings are stretched onto simple wooden embroidery hoops. Others are created on primed circular canvases. The thread, employed in a painterly manner rather than utilizing traditional embroidery techniques, becomes a tool for mark making through the vehicle of the stitch. I’ve left the background without ornamentation or decoration, allowing for the full focus of the viewer to be purely on the subject.
Linking the history of political portraiture and the traditional role of the feminine in fiber arts has given me a chance to deeply explore how the relationship of medium to context invites the viewer to interact with a work of art.
I have simultaneously worked on two series of digital line drawings and Risograph prints - A Woman’s Place is in the House (2019), featuring the forty-three women of color serving in the 116th U. S. House of Representatives—the highest percentage serving in US history—and Motherhood Mindset (2019), a first person view of raising children in today’s complex world. These works will be transformed into intergenerational coloring books, providing printed matter that highlights women who work towards creating community.
A lifetime of othering can feel as though the world is taking what makes you special and turning it into something that makes you feel like a fraud. My practice celebrates the collision of identity and materials and redefines a cultural landscape that is inclusive, creating a sense of belonging and agency.