social + civic practice :: selected works
Solicitudes and Solitudes: Clariece's Day (2019)
Every day in the US, millions of detained and incarcerated mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husband and wives and life partners, engage in a daily routine that is hidden from outside view. This co-created piece invites us all to reflect on the spatial and temporal dimensions of a day in a detention center, where individuals who are presumed innocent are held until trial.
Interventions: One is Dinner Guest, Fifty is a ...
(from Interventions Series, 2016-)
Transit Talks (2014 - 2016 )
Transit Talks was a collaboration of five artists and community partners in Tucson, AZ. To support better intermodal transit for all, we are using creative activities to engage the community in conversations and reflections about bus transit, and in reimagining and transforming bus stops into more welcoming social—as well as functional—public spaces.
Public transit is a nexus for many challenges facing our mid-sized, Southwestern desert city: class disparities, environmental sustainability, civic participation in planning, economic development, mobility, and access to the city.
Buses and bus stops are undervalued resources because of the disparate geographies of riders and the perceived otherness of “bus people.” This was not always so. Historically, Tucson streetcars and buses played a vital role in the community’s social and economic development. By the 1960s, however, Tucson became an automobile-centric community. A philosophy of “building out not up” (to retain mountain views) resulted in low-density land use, urban sprawl, and geographic segregation along ethnic, racial, and class lines.
In July 2014, the city launched a new streetcar connecting the west side and university area to a downtown core undergoing revitalization. It has generated higher-than-expected ridership, emerging as the “sexy” transit mode. Meanwhile buses, often seen as “carriers of poverty,” continue to evoke social stigma and benign neglect. This mobility inequality is exacerbated by real inadequacies, including bus stops without seats or shade, difficult-to-access information about schedules, and limited frequency in many areas. Missing or hard-to-navigate transfer links between the bus and streetcar add to both real and perceived priority differences. These perceptions and realities influence not only ridership and demand but also decisions on public spending, leading to a low-level of investment in the bus transit system.
Concurrently, the city is reviewing plans for redeveloping the main transit center downtown. In the ’90s, the center was both an active transit hub and a community gathering place. In the last decade, it has become an underused public space, due to the city discouraging activity there. This has led to the perception it is an undesirable and somewhat dangerous place. Add the global reality of climate change, rising fuel costs, and a growing movement to reimagine streets as public spaces, and there is a convergence that creates a timely opportunity to affect the local context around transit.
Transit Talks used art-based processes to leverage this moment, to facilitate deeper social conversations about transit and mobility and animate bus stops and centers.
Discovering Place (2012)
Discovering Place documentation website
What is a place? What is this place? Through a series of walks and wanderings, mappings, and interactions in public space. the concepts of belonging, here and there, self and other were explored.
The Only Way Forward is Back (2007)
In these mixed media pieces, I encourage participants to juxtapose objects to examine the constructs and constraints of history , from which we try to break free. The only way to move forward and heal is to reflect on our history, to acknowledge the pain, and to reconcile (in the many senses of the word):
1. to bring about a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups (often passive)
2. to make somebody accept that something undesirable cannot be changed
3. to make two or more apparently conflicting things consistent or compatible, or to become consistent or compatible
4. to return to a friendly relationship after a dispute or estrangement
The dominant view of history, the one we are taught in school, is not a reconciliation, it is a whitewash.
drawing + painting :: selected works
Carceral Archipelagos: Boxes and Lines (2020 - )
Palimpsests: Images of the American West (2012 - )
1. Writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased. 2. Something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface
History is like a palimpsest—only one history, that of the victors, is on the surface; the other histories have been erased yet are somehow tangible. Using the metaphor of the palimpsest to explore the multicultural history of the American West, each work in the series uses or begins with historical photos from museum and historical society archives and from my personal family photo archive, to consider layers of history.
Why this subject? I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, the great-granddaughter of the first black homesteader in the state. My great-grandfather’s achievement was a source of family pride—and of existential questions: What role did my family have in displacing the Indian tribes who lived in the area at the time? How much of my current privilege do I owe to that displacement? I view that homestead land as a figurative palimpsest, where histories have been overwritten in blood and sweat, and whose early texts call out to be retrieved.
Banned by Idiots (2011)
In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that outlawed the Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson Unified School District. In an attempt to comply with the law, TUSD officials banned several books–without having read or reviewed them. This series of trading cards (digital prints with handwork) commemorates that act. Each of 100 cards represent one of the banned books, six special cards depict the enlightened individuals most responsible for the banning, and six very special cards pay tribute to the six most-banned authors.
When We Were/Not (2008)
Colored/ Not, oil on panel (2008)
Many think we’ve had (and finished) the conversation about race in America; others feel it is a “tired” conversation that we have exhausted. In 2008, mainstream media stories about Baraka Obama and Jeremiah Wright proved that we had not, although the issue befuddles many whites and be-wearies many blacks.
With this series, I continue my exploration of blackness (and by omission, whiteness) in America. The works considered six eras of American history, defined based on the predominant term used for people of African heritage during the period. The sinister half of each diptych focuses on "when we were (fill in the term)", giving one view of racial dynamics during each period; the dexter half focuses on "when we were not," and presents another view.
Burden of Blackness (2007)
Lamentation (left) and Deep Down in My Heart (right), oil on panel (2007). More images
What is the burden of blackness? Is it the mark of Ham, passed down through millennia? The legacy of slavery? And what do people who are not black know of that burden, if they think of it at all?
The images in this series, based on news images of Africans (Darfur crisis) and African Americans (aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, historical photos), were conceptualized in three movements: Struggle and Resistance; Tribulation; and Revelation. Each contemplates the political and social life of Black people, as filtered through the headlines.
installation + new media :: selected works
Incarceration: Lines and Boxes (2020)
Co-created with Clariece Burden-Stelly. a writer and emerging graphic artist who
uses her talents to envision a more kind, just world.
Law enforcement. School to prison pipeline. Rule of law. The people versus. Corrections. Mass incarceration. Million-dollar blocks. Recidivism. Reform. The language, symbols, and concepts of the criminal justice frame but do not capture the depth, breadth, of scope of the US carceral systems, nor its impact on women, children, and families. This site-specific installation asks viewers to reflect on the systems and the parts we all play in the status quo and invites them to imagine a different way forward. The works on view are by two African American women—both mothers and daughters—who, in different ways, have done time.
Liminal Space: (b)light (2017)
Mixed media (paper, vinyl, printed acrylic sheets, paint) More images
The space in which the wall sits is emblematic of the waves of Tucson's growth and "urban renewal," where government, commercial, and industrial uses over took public, neighborhood, and familial ones. This installation is a site of reflection on our choices in the use of public and social space, past and present.
Cartographies: Indictments and Impunities (2015 - )
Digital prints, video, and web app More images
Injustice has a peculiar way of mapping itself, with virtual impunity,
onto certain racialized bodies. —Charisse Burden-Stelly
Over the past several years, countless Black and Brown persons have been killed by police. It is countless because no official nationwide statistics are kept. From the few numbers we can glean, the number killed by police is increasing.
Over the past several years, several hundred police officers have been killed in the line of duty, according to statistics from the FBI and the National Law Officers Memorial Fund.
Some of the stories made headlines: Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed while playing in a park; Eric Garner, the 40-year-old father who was killed while allegedly selling cigarettes illegally; John Crawford, the 27-year old man killed while carrying a BB-gun he was going to purchase in the store; Michael Brown. Others are less well known, making only local news, if any news at all.
The working lives and working deaths of these working-class men and women are something
on which we should reflect. They were there to protect and serve,
the means used to achieve the safety we all desire
We've been here before with other incidents. Rodney King, 1991 (severely beaten, not killed). Nicolas Hayward, Jr, 1994. Amadou Diallo, 1999, Patrick Dorismond, 2000. Timothy Thomas, 2001. Ousmane Zongo, 2003. Timothy Stansdbury, Jr, 2004. Henry Glover, 2005. Sean Bell, 2006. DeAunta Terrel Farrow, 2007. Oscar Garrett, 2009. Steven Eugene Washington, 2010. Kenneth Chamberlin, 2011. Kendrick McDade, 2012.
Each fueled (out)rage and cries for recognition. And for most, the verdict was the same: no indictment of the individual police officers—and therefore an indictment of society-at-large.
Current policing strategies make such reflection difficult.
While few would dispute that police should be permitted to protect themselves
and others from threats to safety, we have passionate disagreements about how they should do so.
While we debate, the death toll continues to rise.
These works from the Cartographies series are a reflection on these deaths, which map the spaces and places where individuals have lost their lives, families have mourned, communities have questioned.
Again, we stand at the crossroads. Which direction do we go?
Palimpsests: My Great Grandfather's House (2012)
This work emanates from my personal family history, which is a quintessential story of the American West. My great grandfather was the first black homesteader in the Nebraska in 1868. He built his home, found a wife, farmed, raised a family, and helped to transform the "wilderness." (Cue the expansive music.) His story engenders pride. It also raises questions: what histories are unrecognized, unspoken, or erased to make space for my family's narrative? What sins have been forgotten to allow for pride--the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins?
To effectively explore these questions required more than paint and canvas. In this installation, audio and video were joined with painting and three-dimensional objects to look at history anew. Each medium added a different dimension to a complete tableau. I recreated my great grandfather's house to scale, using translucent and transparent ephemeral materials, along with sound and photos from historical archives and my personal family photo archive. Paper replaced wood, plastic replaced glass, gauze stood in for fabric, flour for dust. The translucency of materials evokes the fog of time/history/memory--allowing illumination but not detail. That which is transparent may not be.
The progenitor for this work is the palimpsest, which is defined as writing material (a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased; it is also something that has diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface. History is like a palimpsest—only one history, that of the victors, is on the surface; the other histories have been erased yet are somehow tangible. This installation considered the layers of history. Both the interior and exterior of the house are spaces for reflection on the intersecting and overlapping histories of peoples in the American West.
miscellanea :: selected works
365 Days (One Year Later)
(from Cartographies: Indictments and Impunities, 2015)
Yellow is the New Green (2009)
social + civic practice
drawing + painting
installation + new media
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