My work is really abject and self-effacing sometimes. I mean, it's big and overwrought, but it's just paper dolls, and it's kind of silly.
I never learned how to be adequately black. I never learned how to be black at all.
The promise of any artwork is that it can hold us - viewer and maker - in a conflicted or contestable space, without real-world injury or loss.
I grew up partially around Stone Mountain, Georgia, and in that part of the country, there was always this aura of mythology and palpable sense of otherness about being a Southerner.
There was a manifesto in the late '60s/early '70s, and it basically laid out what 'black art' was and that it should embrace black history and black culture. There were all these rules - I was shocked, when I found it in a book, that it even existed, that it would demarcate these artists.
I'm a sponge for historical images of black people and black history on film.
To be a truly conscientious artist, you have to look at what's not working and challenge it. You riff on things.
I guess there was a little bit of a slight rebellion, maybe a little bit of a renegade desire that made me realize at some point in my adolescence that I really liked pictures that told stories of things - genre paintings, historical paintings - the sort of derivatives we get in contemporary society.
I've seen people glaze over when they're confronted with racism, and there's nothing more, you know, damning and demeaning to having any kind of ideology than people just walking the walk and saying what they're supposed to say and nodding, and nobody feels anything.
Challenging and highlighting abusive power dynamics in our culture is my goal; replicating them is not.
I have no interest in making a work that doesn't elicit a feeling.
Sugar crystallizes something in our American soul. It is emblematic of all industrial processes. And of the idea of becoming white. White being equated with pure and 'true': it takes a lot of energy to turn brown things into white things. A lot of pressure.
I'm fascinated with the stories that we tell. Real histories become fantasies and fairy tales, morality tales and fables. There's something interesting and funny and perverse about the way fairytale sometimes passes for history, for truth.
It feels like a game, this work I do. It is totally heartfelt, and I love the sticky terrain, the straight-up cartoons, how the irrepressible and icky rise to the surface. But I am not just trying to call forth bugaboos and demons for the sake of it, for fun.
A lot of what I was wanting to do in my work and what I have been doing has been about the unexpected... that unexpected situation of wanting to be the heroine and yet wanting to kill the heroine at the same time.
I know that in my family there are histories of violence that are internal family things and that are oftentimes dealt with internally. By internally, I mean inside the family group, but also partly inside ourselves. You know, self-hatred and hostility and rage and this cycle that won't break.
I really love to make sweeping historical gestures that are like little illustrations of novels.
I don't think that my work is very moralistic - at least, I try to avoid that. I grew up with that sermonising tendency, and I don't think visual work operates like that.
I was making big paintings with mythological themes. When I started painting black figures, the white professors were relieved, and the black students were like, 'She's on our side.' These are the kinds of issues that a white male artist just doesn't have to deal with.
Once you open up the Pandora's box of race and gender... you're never done.