In an undergraduate drawing and painting class, the instructor asked us to create a series of illustrations from a personally meaningful passage of literature. I choose to create illustrations from the Bible. I was not sure of how they would be received in a secular school setting, but that was what was speaking to me at the time. In the end I was surprised at how easily the illustrations emerged once I committed to the subject, and I was overwhelmed by the positive reception they received.
It was many years later, after many paintings of people, architectural landscape, pastoral landscape and other “from life” subjects that the idea came to me to illustrate “The Last Supper”. I remember staying up half the night as I hungrily carved into the linoleum block and an image emerged that in some ways surprised me. Again, I was overwhelmed by the reception.
I have since come to realize that the inspiration for creating this work does not come from me but flows through me- that creating it is for me like an act of worship, and when I am moved to create and follow through, the spirit to execute descends and helps. I am as blessed by the work as I hope the viewer is.
When it comes to the influence of African art in my work I go back to a single moment in a class on Renaissance Art. The professor projected the image of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper and in discussing it said “Notice, there’s Italian bread on the table. I’m not sure about anyone else but it was an aha moment for me to realizing that every artist has the right to express her ideas through her own eyes, culture, and experience. From that moment I determined to create an iconography that expresses the Black experience of the Christian faith. In doing so I have been especially drawn to the work of the Japanese artist Watanabe who depicted many Biblical scenes using Japanese characters and motifs. His work gives support to my direction. Since The Last Supper, I have created many works that contribute to this iconography for the African American Christian experience.
Many of my religious subjects can be found in my Hand-pulled Prints collection.