In the Large scale portraits of family and friends I try to aggrandize ordinary people by painting them on a monumental scale. Although I have used various references while painting, I am most enthusiastic about painting from a live sitter. There is an incredible energy when I am painting directly from another person and I love the challange. Sometimes there is conversation and at other times silence but always there is a feeling of sharing a small slice of life together. I hope these paintings not only celebrate the sitter’s beautiful facual features but also sends the message that ordinary people, who may not be great in society’s eyes, should be of paramount importance to us.
I have also been painting my grandmother’s quilts as a way of depicting and celebrating a African American Quilting tradition. Working from these quilts are like a musician making new music with new instruments using old records as a reference. In fact, I consider myself more fortunate than the aforementioned musician because I am using the actual artwork as a reference and the musician would be using a reproduction. Sometimes I see the quilts as the African American Women’s “jazz”. The women would sit together making quilts in a different kind of “jam session”. The group was composed of a circle of women, conversing , improvising and making rhythmic beauty together. Some of the Quilts are about seasons, marriage, our family lineage or God. Although many of the works are about more than what they appear at a first glance some are simple a beautiful melody. The quilts with meanings are similar to the old “negro spirituals” that are about things like mighty rivers, winds, trees and rain. The songs are usually never about what they appear to be about on the surface and the quilts follow this same pattern because many have more meaning than just abstract beauty. Instead they are about deeper convictions.