Art In Conversation
Derrick Adams with Amanda Gluibizzi
“It has to deal with strife and challenges and trying to be optimistic in the face of adversity. And you take all those things into your studio, and you try to do something with them, as an ingredient.”
On ViewThe Flag Art Foundation
I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You
January 13–March 11, 2023
Derrick Adams’s new show at The FLAG Art Foundation, I Can Show You Better than I Can Tell You, is a tribute to the artist’s commitment to color, pattern, and the conditions that make up everyday moments of Black life in America: an expressive melding of form and content. Adams cites the influences—both in terms of narrative and painterly choices such as palette and flattened collage shapes—of Emma Amos, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence. As I walked through the exhibition, I also felt the evocative blending, in the painting Onward and Upward (2021), of Faith Ringgold and Alex Katz and perhaps more esoteric references like the plotting of a Uccello in the composition of JUST (2022) or the minimal tones of an A. Quincy Jones home in the panels of Man (2022). On a brutally cold February day, I met with Adams at FLAG to discuss his warm and vibrant installation, what happens when you dress African export sculptures in Barbie clothes, and the power of shifting our understanding from fragments to facets. What follows is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.
Amanda Gluibizzi (Rail): Why was it such a busy day for you?
Derrick Adams: Mainly because I am leaving to go to Baltimore, where I go often, because I have a nonprofit, The Last Resort, that I started there. It’s a lot of work. In a good way, but just checking in on people, accountability stuff. It’s always a challenge with artists who start nonprofits because you start them because you want to have a continuation of communion with your community, but you can’t as much because you are in a different level of accountability: other financial things are happening, and people are donating stuff. Money has to be allocated for certain places. And although you have people in place to do those things, it’s still you. You’re still the person who started it.
Rail: You’re the face of it, but also you wind up being kind of the rainmaker, right?
Adams: Everything. I go often, and I’m really immersed in the creative community in Baltimore. Although I’m not going to move back to my hometown, I have the possibility of social engagement and opportunity that differs from here. One reason why I kind of started it was I thought that it just felt weird that I had so much opportunity here, and when I went home, other people didn’t. But it wasn’t because they weren’t good, it was because it wasn’t the same type of environment where opportunity is just all around you here. In places like Baltimore, there are a lot of creative people who usually leave for opportunity. But I’m thinking maybe now’s the time, because of the virtual world and the internet, that a lot of artists might prefer to stay in their hometowns if they had someone to advocate for them. It’s a lot of work, but it’s gratifying, you know? But a lot of work.
Rail: It’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I’m from the Midwest, I’m from Cleveland.
Adams: Oh, I love Cleveland.
Rail: I love Cleveland, too. All of these downtrodden cities are trying to build up their art scenes because it’s one of the things they can offer: we have tons of cheap housing, and we have great museums, and we have people who care, but they don’t have an art scene. And so how do you be an artist in Cleveland or Detroit, or Gary, Indiana? It is a really difficult question. What do you do? Whom do you sell to?
Adams: It’s really complicated also, because when you’re in cities like that, when everything is about what is necessary versus what people believe is extra, they don’t think of art as being necessary. But art has proven to be more and more necessary, even building economies and cities that are downtrodden or challenging, economically. When you give over space to the artists, which is also very much about trust, you often end up with a great result. And I think that you have to just create a culture of trust with the creative community, because I think it’s more about control.
Baltimore is a place I’m surely inspired by. It’s exciting to bring people from Baltimore up to New York when I’m doing projects—that could include performers, musicians, visual artists, or fashion designers or all types of creatives that people have never heard of, but who may be really well known in the city of Baltimore. And people are like, “Wow, why have I never heard of this person?” I’m like, “They’ve been around.” I love to think about ways I think could be beneficial for just building the city and building creative community in Baltimore.
Rail: It’s kind of about exploding the parochialism of New York.
Adams: Yeah, because I kind of want to see new stuff too. In New York, new doesn’t always last. New doesn’t shine for a long period of time here. So it’s really interesting to bring other people here, just to shake things up, and really surprise people in a way that I feel a lot of creative people in Baltimore can do, and have done, and are doing. And I love to go there just to get a little energy boost every other weekend.
Rail: You said something about when people realize that art is necessary for them. And I’m curious about that for you. When did you realize that art was necessary for you?
Adams: When I saw the benefits of how people who encounter art, even people who are not in the art world, or who are savvy when it comes to kind of interpreting art, how they respond to things in their spaces that are created mostly by creatives. Even a design or fashion or, you know, signs—art somehow conducts people to do things, and to respond in certain ways, even subliminally. I think that’s interesting. And I think, if anything, being an artist has taught me to look at things that I didn’t look at before, and really understand aesthetics, and how they influence the way that you navigate through life, and the way you see yourself, and the way you see people around you. It’s almost like being an artist, or understanding what art is, is like what people think about the Garden of Eden, like biting the apple or something. You start to see everything so differently. Red is different. Blue is different: it has a different meaning; it has a different context. When you’re not really understanding it from that point of view, they just look like colors. I like that part about art. There is art of expression, which I think is really the most important, but there’s another part of art that has to do with the power of communicating through understanding principles of aesthetics and content, and how to fuse that in a way that you can get more from it than you expected you would.
Rail: It’s interesting to hear you say that because your style as an artist is so apparent. It’s pretty consistent across your series and very clearly you. When did you start developing this idea of the fragment?
Adams: Actually, it’s funny, we had a talk here the other day with ARTNOIR, which is a tour group that brings people around to talk to artists. And I was reflecting on some of the geometric formations of my work. My interest in the geometric form came into play when I was at grad school at Columbia. I was making this sculpture installation that consisted of some Kenyan Maasai tourist sculptures that I purchased at an African import store in Harlem on 125th Street. I may have purchased like fifty or more, a big bundle of them. They are relatively the size of a Barbie or Ken doll. Then I went to the Disney Store, which was also on 125th Street at the time, and I purchased a ton of Barbie and Ken’s clothes, and GI Joe, and stuff like that. Because the shape of the sculpture is carved from one piece, I altered them by splitting the hands from the body, and I was able to dress all of the sculptures. Then I put them on a rug that I purchased from a kid store of a landscape, a cityscape. And I would just lay them on there. In between classes, just as kind of a therapeutic thing, I would take the clothes off and change the clothes and then take photographs of them. I have some Polaroid images that I would take of them, almost to mimic a club shot or something that people would do. But I started to realize, as I was doing that, why I was really interested in them: I was interested in the geometric forms of the sculptures. Because they were all made by hand, they had similarities in form, but they had distinctions from the hand that carved them. They were crudely carved because of, I guess, the production quality of making them mostly for African American tourists, and people who kind of want to have some relationship to the continent. But these pieces weren’t really for African-born citizens; they were really for people born here. I thought that by including the Barbie and Ken clothes, it gave them this other life that spoke to the experience of being Black and being African and being American: these things that may appear to be for you but really aren’t for you as a cultural object, but more as a consumer object. And then to explore how some consumer objects can take on cultural representation, but also how individuals can desire cultural objects, meaning consumer objects as representation. And so, looking at the mash-up of the geometric, really rigid structures that sometimes would snap and break when I was putting clothes on them, and the loose gesturing of the clothes that were more fluid and more organic—because they were gowns and sweat suits and stuff like that—I started to understand the idea of form in a very particular way as it related to identity, but also the idea of pushing both identity and form as ingredients to make art, instead of thinking about a literal outcome of what you should expect from these two things being joined together. I think it became part of the basis for the way I construct images, where the figures are usually very structured in a way that is very much about angularity. The environment around them is usually something that’s a little bit more organic, rounder, fluffier, more soothing in some ways. It kind of softens the figure in a certain way.
From that one installation, which was more like an experiment, more of an exercise, it emerged into making collages. I was making them out of contact paper. To make the woodgrain pattern, I was just using woodgrain-printed contact paper to build the face and build the body. And from there it kind of went to where I am now with the work. But I think it started from my interest in really trying to resolve some of my issues with tourism and tourist sculptures as a representation of Black identity as an American, as an African American. I was thinking more like that.
Rail: Right. Black identity as sold to African Americans.
Adams: Yes, yes, exactly. I was thinking about that. I felt they were more in line with some of my personal interests and my visual interests as an artist because of the way they were draped in these very contemporary clothes that also mimic urban culture. Some of the dolls had sweat suits and headphones. It was talking about the experience of being Black and being from African descent and being American, without necessarily saying, “look at this,” or “this is what it’s like.” It was really more like these two very particular objects that both bring some level of activation and stimulation from what people may assume they mean, together made something unique. And it’s also kind of uncanny and undeniable, because it’s not really answering any questions. It’s really just presenting options to look at these two things in a way that you may have not looked at them before.
Rail: It might amuse you to know, when I first lived in New York in the nineties, I met this Russian guy who was trained as a master wood carver. And his first job when he moved to the United States was carving fake African sculptures.
Adams: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. Right. I started to understand, and I think it kind of became part of my general practice as an artist, that thinking about consumerism in a particular way is tied to identity. And the idea of desire as it relates to longing, or things that you may feel will complete you. I never really felt like that as an individual: I grew up in a very kind of supportive, creative environment. So the idea of otherness was not necessarily something that was in my daily operation. I was thinking more about talking about identity and how it related to Black culture and different levels of class structure. But not even thinking about it in a colonial way. I was thinking more about it in the way of cultural practices that may have come out of that history. But I was more interested in the idea of reconciling, and how people have moved forward in certain ways of worship and style and music and etiquette and things like that. I’m really interested in that, because I come from a very particular place. And I, as a Black person, am interested in other Black people in America who participate in things that I have never participated in. And I’ve learned, I’m still learning from people who are from New Orleans, and people who are from Boston, who have a very particular focus that are participating in practices that are very different from Baltimore. So, to me, I feel like it’s a lifelong education, just learning about these different cultural groups within a very similar cultural legacy. It always resurfaces when I’m making work, because I’m always thinking about regions in America, and certain types of movement, the way people engage with each other. It’s not even, “what are Black people doing compared to what white people are doing?” Not that those things are not as important. It’s just that naturally, instinctually, I don’t think about that.
Adams: Yeah, they’re like facets. And that seeps into the tonality of how the works are made. The shading of the figures has multiple quilted tones that reflect many different shades of pretty much the same image. There’s an idea of not using a traditional light-source palette but using the tone of browns to reflect light or to tell us about space, or movement. After understanding some of the cultural principles of my practice, in my studio, I only think about formal interests, because I feel like I have all the ingredients there. Race is something that’s not separated from my practice. And form is definitely something that is not separated from my practice as a trained artist. It’s about experimenting with materials and talking about things that I think are somehow in line with artists who made abstract work or who are maybe doing things that are conceptual. I actually think that I’m making abstract paintings, once I lay the ground and lay the figure and work out some of the compositional structures. For me, it’s not even a thought about what the story is. It’s more about building the image, and how to do it in a way that’s effective, as it would be in a painting that is non-representational. When I’m making something very rigid, I always try to couple it and balance it with something that’s more round, or something that’s a little bit softer, to create a balance of the way that we operate in our space. Because realistically, it’s the opposite for the human body. We’re usually the ones who are round and more organic, and the things around us are rigid and geometric. It’s interesting to reverse that in an artwork because it makes the figure look more statuesque. And the environment looks a little bit more interchangeable, you know? I was thinking about the figure being like sculpture, this regal object that’s monumental. And the things around it become, I would say, like “witness objects,” which is a term I heard at a great lecture by a former museum curator. When you go to a show, and you see the show is about a particular thing, like say it’s a house or some type of architectural structure, and there are objects in the structure, like a plate for example, these objects are like witness objects to give the viewer more of a sense of the usefulness of the structure that they can’t really access. I feel like my work is more like that: the things around the figure give the viewer some level of access that they may not necessarily get from the figure itself.
Rail: When you’re creating a face, are you also thinking about its place in art history? Are you thinking about Picasso and the way he painted African masks? Are you thinking about Modigliani and the way that he geometricized a face? Or like Jim Nutt and the way that he weirded-up noses and stuff like that? Are you thinking about these artists, or no?
Adams: I can’t say I’m not thinking about them. But I think that once you go through the academic experience of being an artist and going to graduate school, and undergraduate, and going to residencies, and going to lectures, you can’t unsee things that you’ve seen. It’s impossible.
I wouldn’t say that I look at those artists when I’m making work. But I think about their level of liberty, liberties they’ve taken in making work. And I look at artists like Picasso and artists of his generation, or even artists like Alex Katz. I think about the way that they capture environments, capture people. We are forced to look at the subject through their eyes. We can’t even look at the subject as it was before; now that it has been somehow massaged or reinterpreted by this person, you start to see the subject in a totally different way. For those artists, I’m always interested in that level of technique and confidence about taking liberties. But I also look at artists who are more emotional in their execution, like Jacob Lawrence or Romare Bearden or even Emma Amos. I’m more interested in the emotional part that is kind of fused in with the formal part. It’s something you bring with you. It’s not something you can make up. It has to deal with strife and challenges and trying to be optimistic in the face of adversity. And you take all those things into your studio, and you try to do something with them, as an ingredient. It’s like a recipe you’re trying to form, and all these things are in your brain. And they’re things that could direct the work in many different directions. You have to be very conscious of how to—that’s the communication part, it’s not the expression part—direct certain ideas that you have to get the type of outcome that you hope to produce. And maybe people see something more than you would have because you’re so close to it.
There are some artists who I remember very, very well. Like, my first time seeing the Bruce Nauman show at MoMA in 1995,I was like, "You can do that?" Then I was like, "I’m gonna do that." You know? The idea of taking liberty as an artist is something that is fascinating to me. And the fact that other people have to deal with viewing that liberty in your work and make sense of it. That is a great position as an artist to get to, where it’s about people trying to understand your language that they believe is significant. And formed, you know, in a way that it requires you to think about it and unpack it.
Rail: Yeah, I think that’s why abstraction is so enticing, right? It’s so liberating. It actually is the ultimate form of resistance. Because it’s trying to be a resistance to anybody else’s meaning.
Adams: And it can be. And then sometimes it can’t. Sometimes I think abstraction can be very chaotic, to a point that it becomes flattened and not interesting because it’s saying too much. When it’s not allowing the viewer an entry point to understand the logic that’s somehow intertwined in the mark making of it. But I think there’s another level of abstraction that becomes more about functionality. It makes you start thinking about the things around you that are somehow comparable to what you’re looking at in a painting. And you start to realize that things around you have some of the basic geometric and mathematical equations and structures that you may have never considered. It’s another level of awareness.
As an artist who’s trained to look, you look at everything, and you suspect everything, and you critique everything. It’s not even that the work is good or bad. The works that I make are coming from all of that, all those thought processes floating around in my head, and I’m thinking about people. Honestly, I usually think about people who are not art people. Would they like it, or would they care? I think they’re the toughest audience, the audience who’s not invested in the institutional idea of art. If you get that audience, you’ve got everyone else.
I think it’s an even better advantage when you are exposed to and aware of certain art histories and certain practices of technique. Then you’re able to absorb all those things, and bring out something that is almost outside of those things, but also recognizable within those structures. When I did the show at the Museum of Art and Design, called Sanctuary, it was based on The Green Book. Because it was in a design museum, I was really thinking about the great design for Mr. and Mrs. Green that I wanted to celebrate within this body of work. But also, within the palette of the show, I was really reflecting on the paintings from the “The Migration Series” by Jacob Lawrence. For that series, I was using only that palette to build all of that work. I was looking at those paintings, even though I wasn’t making figurative work. I was looking at the tone because that is what struck me, as an artist, when I went to see the show. There were certain browns and certain blues and certain greens that you don’t see in painting now, because of the mixture of materials that’s very different from before. There are ways to capture that sensibility within the tonality of these abstract works that I ended up making for the series. I try to think beyond just the surface of what I’m looking at, as just an object, but thinking about the way the surface can ignite emotional response. How to interpret something that’s very representational, very narrative, very literal as “The Migration Series,” to talk about Sanctuary, which for me was more about space. It was about making and having physical space in a museum, and how to have people navigate through that space. It was about the conceptual framework for the show. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of history about The Green Book, but I was really thinking about how Mr. Green made space and how I can do that as the artist in the museum, and how that space could mimic and somehow have some form of relational aesthetic that could actually enact some of the things that I felt were happening with the publication, but also with the people who actually are coming into the museum. So, how can I do that? How can I make people move around in space, and feel like they’re on a journey, moving through the exhibition? And it was less about the trauma of why he made The Green Book, because he didn’t really make The Green Book to focus on the traumatic experience. He made it for convenience for the Black traveler. I wanted to focus on the success of what he did and to capture that in the work.
When I look at a work like a Jacob Lawrence or Romare Bearden or Emma Amos, I think about what they were thinking, and how not to duplicate what they were thinking, but duplicate, if anything, how looking at that work made me feel and what I got out of it by looking at it. How can I make something that acknowledges the spirit of that work, but is distinctly mine. You know?
Rail: When you talk about this, it makes me think about the current show. It feels like it has references, but they are references that I can’t totally place. I sometimes feel the vibe of when we were young; I sense a visuality from the mid-to-late nineties. But then the fragmentation causes them to be flat, which causes them to exist out of time, right? That’s what flatness does: there’s no recession, so there’s no travel. Where did they exist for you?
Adams: We cannot separate ourselves from media. The legacy of America is media. And identity was a very important element that was formed through the output of media. For me, my work is about trying to understand what things meant; not what things meant to the person who made it, but what they meant to me. How do I think about these things?
When I started the “motion picture” paintings, it started out as a very non-literal idea of motion picture painting. It wasn’t about making images that came right from movies; it was really thinking about the cinematic structure of movies and media, and how they are structured to entice you in certain ways by using fonts and other forms of imagery integrated into the picture plane and that sometimes disperse within the image, or disintegrate, or somehow become the entry point into what the narrative of the story is. You become part of the story as a viewer because it’s almost aspirational at some point, if you are looking at something that you are really intrigued by.
My work has a visual language; it looks like it can be literal, but it’s not. There are so many things that have already been said, so there is no need for me to say them again. If anything is left to me, it’s to dissect them, to extract elements from previous generations of artists who have already laid foundations that are more literal, and a little more urgent in certain ways. I think my work has a level of urgency in a different way, which is more about giving people space to absorb things on their own terms and to pull information from them. When you look at a nonlinear movie, or you read a nonlinear book or something like that, you still get stuff out of it. But you really have to get into it; you have to allow yourself to be okay with not knowing, be okay with not having an ending, be okay with making your own ending. You have to do all those things because, honestly, the Black body—the Black figure—is so weighted in politics—not of its own doing but because of the things around it—that the only thing I can do is set it free within the narrative of my work, because everything else is always going to keep it in a place where it’s almost on a feedback loop. That feedback loop is also the way that some people have to respond to it, because sometimes you see works that may have very familiar, linear narratives. And it’s not only because they’re conversations that have been had, but there are people who believe that if they don’t keep saying it, people will forget about it. And it’s true, but I also believe that you have to have space for people who won’t forget about it, and may need a break. People who may need to look at things on their own terms, and are also aware of the challenges and those things, so when they look at art or certain types of art, they want to see the progress of imagination happening in the work.
I always think about bell hooks, who is one of my favorite writers, when she says, it’s not just always about telling like it is, but it’s also about imagining other worlds outside of the things in front of you. I think that’s the true level of power. When you think about oppressive communities, once they lose their ability to fantasize about a world beyond their space, then that’s pretty much where their imaginations have been conquered. And to me, as an artist, the greatest power you have is your imagination. You can imagine a world outside of the world you exist in, or at least look at the world you’re in, and pull out of it the things that you think make you stronger, and use that narrative as a way of uplifting people, or just making people understand the complexity of Black life and Black experience beyond what is seen in the media, or what is seen repeatedly through art.
And for my work, I’ve always had a level of it being kind of ambiguous with what is being shown. But there’s a lot of symbolism happening in the work that people identify with just because of the idea of consumerism. It’s almost like that’s American history; American history is consumer history, and consumer history is the things that have been created by designers here in America that we use to sell things to make people feel American, to make people feel like they’re part of the normal structure of America.
Although again, things are happening that are traumatic within Black culture, we also have to highlight the things that make us feel normal, the things that we participate in that actually sustain us. I like to remind viewers about that. I never wanted to be complete, beginning and end. I want people to be able to jump in and out of it. But also, I’m really excited when people can look at my work formally. And just be excited about it. And not know anything that is going on in the painting. And just like the color and be interested in the form. I’m equally excited about that as I am for people to understand or relate to it on a cultural level.
Rail: It’s reminding me of something that you have in one of your biographical statements where you say that in the “Floater” series, you were suggesting that leisure could be a form of politics. That to recreate and enjoy yourself and take yourself out of a system is actually a way of persevering and a way of being defiant. It’s interesting then to think about your paintings: if they do operate formally—and for me they do—then you are operating out of time and space, and you’re only operating within the world that’s created by the painting.
Adams: Yes. I have a philosophy I say to people who know me: I’m not going to come into my studio and work on something that’s not going to bring me joy or satisfaction. And I’m not going to bring what’s happening outside on the streets, that I feel belongs outside on the street, into my studio, as a form of building myself emotionally. Because my studio is my sanctuary. So I would never make work—well, I hope I would never make work—that would not make me feel good about where we are culturally as Black people, and the things that we have contributed, because honestly, thinking about leisure, participating in leisure, family gatherings, and all those types of things, most people may think that we wouldn’t have time for that, with everything that happens to us. You would think that we wouldn’t even have social gatherings because so many disruptions are happening within society that are stopping those things from happening. But we’ve still been able to maintain them.
The reason why I think that the idea of leisure as it relates to Black culture is so significant is because normally, when something happens to a Black person, it’s usually when they’re doing something leisurely. They might be going to a store, they could be in a park with their family at a barbecue, and they’re interrupted by somebody who doesn’t believe they should be in the park. Or if you walk into a store to do some shopping. It never happens, for the most part, when the person is doing something wrong. It usually happens because the idea is that you can’t be doing something leisurely; you must be doing something wrong.
Rail: It’s perverse.
Adams: Yeah, exactly. Because “you and leisure does not make sense to me.” So you must be stealing or something, you know? But how I see myself, and how I see my culture, is much more normalized than how I may be interpreted by the viewer from the outside. And I think of leisure as a radical form, because it’s the only time where you really get to download the experiences that you’re having on a day-to-day basis. It happens when you’re not moving. That’s when you really reflect. It’s like when you’re on a toilet, or you’re getting your hair done, or you’re somewhere you can’t move. That’s when you actually start thinking, what am I gonna do today? What is my life gonna be about? And you start having all these things happen to you when you’re still. When you’re on a train, that’s when you start thinking about everything. When you’re walking down the street, you really are thinking about things. And when you’re on your way somewhere, you think about getting to that place. But when you know you’re stuck somewhere, and you can’t move, you have nothing but time. You’re thinking about all the things that matter to you. Even when you’re relaxing, it is very much about gathering data in some ways that you can.
That’s why I always think about the idea of relaxation for Black people and people in general.
And for my practice, I love to think about how I can create work that can speak to those things, but not necessarily answer the question of why those things aren’t important. Because I can’t really tell you what is important and how it would be important for you. But I know, from my own experience, how important it is to think about the idea of rest, or the idea of leisure in a way that is not flattened.
The idea of Black joy is not something that I created, it’s just that people were so surprised to see an artist like myself make work without explanation of why I’m making it, and not make it so narrative focused, like with the “Floaters,” where the environment is just a blue space people are floating in. And it can be air, or it can be water. But this idea of levitation—it was the mission for the “Floaters” to talk about lightness. That’s the reason why I made no ground. It was blue space. It was about weightlessness. It wasn’t about people going to the pool or politics of the pool, when Black people couldn’t go to the pool before the Jim Crow era. I’m trying to have a conversation with a sense of lightness that you may not normally get when you walk into a museum and see a painting of yourself or image of someone who looks like yourself, where it may be weighted down with an explanation about why he’s here, or why it should be here.
I think that the work I make as a Black artist becomes somewhat surprising because it’s not very narrative based. If you see a David Hockney painting, or a Jonas Wood painting, no one’s saying that the work is about joy. That is a painting of some people sitting at the pool or doing their own thing. Again, it goes back to the idea of liberty, liberties taken. And there are artists who for the most part are not Black, who get the advantage of making work and taking many liberties, without any explanation. And I think like that; that’s my normal way of thinking. As an artist, I’m faced with being categorized as a joyful person, or whatever, but I’m sure David Hockney gets joy out of making his paintings, too. I’m sure a lot of artists get joy out of making art. That’s what being an artist is about. It’s not just about conflict or torture; it’s also about discovery and play and all these things—I’m sure Bruce Nauman is having fun putting his neon pieces together or doing whatever he’s doing. So of course you’re going to have some level of happiness in your practice if you are invested. But no, the work is not just about heavy feeling. It’s about putting something in the world for younger people in the future, or artists in the future, viewership in the future, to be given other alternatives to look at their Black experience in a way that is not compared to other things. I have friends who make very particular political work, that’s very literal, you know; they’re successful doing these things. And I have friends who make conceptual things that are rooted in other types of intellectualism that are not accessible for a larger group of people. And you know this is a space that I feel is open, and I feel is a space that should be explored. And that’s the space that I’ve decided to take, because I want to have conversations with many people. Because I really feel that my work is inspired by people who are not art people. And I want them to see themselves captured in my work formally, and with great aesthetics. To show how I think about them and how I interpret them to do my work as not just a postcard, but a real, complex experience that’s not literal. That’s not linear. That’s not easily accessible. It has levels, and it has layers, and you can take from it what you like, and that’s what I’m interested in.