Textile Artist Sews Story of Race in America | KQED Arts

Textile Artist Sews Story of Race in America | KQED Arts

The history and the roots of slavery in the South is strong within my work. When I was diving into this practice of using the sewing machine,
I wanted to figure out how to take these symbols and bring it into the conversation of
cotton, in which we were brought here for, and
reclaiming that material. I am a multidisciplinary artist from North Carolina, Greensboro. Made my way out to California
about six years ago. – How you doin’? – I’m doin’ good. – Another one in the books, yeah. When moving to the Bay
Area I had this moment of reflection of where I came from. I had to leave it in order figure out what I wanted to speak about
through my artwork. I was first introduced
to the sewing machine seventh or eighth grade,
Home Economics class. My mom, she would always assist me. She was very hands on with crafting, even made me and my
sister Halloween costumes. Coming up in North Carolina,
one of my main jobs was delivering pizza. You’d just know blatantly like how someone would stand with
like a Confederate flag at their front door. And then it’s like, “Hi,
I got this order for you.” I just use that energy
in a more productive way in my artwork. With my background in graphic design, I like designs that are simple and bold. My work is also influenced by
American traditional tattoos. I take these images as
a reference and then I just flip them into my style. This crawling panther
destroying this symbol of hate. The Confederate flag, turning
the stars upside down. This motif of ropes. Chains. Reclaiming that and
manipulate it and twist it. I’m trying to create
this conversation that America hasn’t evolved as much
as we would like to think. Even when I first came
to California, initially I had this idea of this
utopia, progressive thinking. Eventually came across racist encounters. Somebody, they had thrown
out the n-word at me just like through this
heated conversation. And coming to terms that this
is pretty much everywhere. I’m making work that
speaks to my experiences. Holding a mirror. – That looks beautiful. I was reached out to display in a show in San Francisco “Vanguard Revisited,”
based around photography of the Black Panther Party. It’s a little bit of
weight on my shoulder, but I get great pride in participating and pushing this story
line of Black power. It’s been a mixture of reactions. Some have been very
reassuring that this is something that’s needed and they felt very empowered by it. But some have been put off by the work. Last year I was working on a mural and as soon as I got off the ladder, this black older man approached me. He was like, “You know
these are triggering to black people, right?” I was able to disarm him and his anxiety with the work, but I
can only imagine other people of color that walked past that were triggered as
well by these images. It also provokes a lot of
emotions within myself. Just creating it can be
spiritually draining. But it’s also very healing in a sense. And it just feels comforting
to be in a studio space now that’s in Oakland and
just having that safe space to create artwork with a tribe of fellow black people in the Bay Area, in this
time where so many of us are getting pushed out. It’s something that you hold onto and you don’t take for granted.

1 Comment

  • Thia Jackson says:

    Loved seeing your work. I also do multi media art. And am hoping to aquier an embroidery machine one day. I have sketches of quilts I want to do like Muriel style on fabric. I am very honored you shared. Much appreciation, Thank you.

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