My work evolves from my experience, including from my childhood. Growing up in Oxford, Mississippi during the civil rights movement, I learned at an early age the feeling of being under attack as I became acutely aware of issues of race and social justice. I sat on the front steps of my home and watched the tanks roll into “Oxford town” to assure that James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi. While helping defend Meredith’s civil rights, the father of one of my close friends was almost killed in the melee.The army camped on our school playground for months after the riot. In short, we were under siege. Now, living in Capitol Hill, nine blocks from the US Capitol, I continue to know, both on a personal and political level, that feeling of being attacked. The experience ranges from strident neighbors, who conspired to have my studio in the back of our house demolished, to, of course, the January 6 insurrection.
America Selfie (detail -- Self as Freedom)
In addition to my politically-charged, large-scale installations such as "America Selfie," (which was commissioned by that same institution that refused to recognize the rights of James Meredith), I have developed the self-portrait-as into a distinct genre of figure painting that embraces the complexities of contemporary life. My self-portraits-as First Ladies, which I have been making for over 20 years, are, perhaps, the best known.
By dangling between the images of First Ladies and my own reflection, an inherently performative act of painting, I explore the American riddle. Subsequently, I have added other personae to my self-portrait-as portfolio including Christine Blasey Ford, Frida Kahlo, and Leigh Corfman in The Pussy Paintings. Through these self-portraits-as, I explore hot-button topics such as social justice, abortion, handguns, and abuse of power. I embraced the persona of Greta Thunberg to explore global warming during a residency in Seaside, Florida just before the pandemic tightened its grip.
Heart of Dixie (Self-portrait as Leigh) in The Pussy Paintings was included in the 35th Anniversary Exhibition at the Space One Eleven in Birmingham.