I was walking to work on Thursday and caught a glimpse of a newspaper article . It was about a gay Zimbabwe priest I believe that had died. It got me to think about labels. Pretty weird huh, but in this society it seems like everything is about labels. He couldn't have been just a Zimbabwe priest, we had to know that he was gay as well. Anyway before I get off of what it got me thinking about, I recall growing up wanting to be an artist. All I wanted to do was be an artist.
I didn't have any cares in the world beyond getting older and being an artist. It was never about making "black art" for me, it was just about making art. It wasn't until after the events of 9/11 that I even thought of the concept of a label. I was in art school in DC at the time so I was right in the back door of what America was going through at that time. Like my classmates and peers at that time, I begin to create art that showed that I was proud to be an American. What ever I did, somewhere in my work was an homage to the great US of A. Out of this work was born a deeper meaning in my work. I took a step back and realized that all those years of creating art and wanting to be recognized as an artist never approached the fact that I was an artist who was black. I mean I was conscious of the fact but I didn't want that label. I didn't want to be known as a black artist because I wanted my work to have an identity of it's own. I am not saying that I am/was ashamed of being labeled a black artist, I just felt that I could say more through my work without the label. Roland Barthe felt that the death of the "author" (artist in this case) would open up the author's work. If you took away the identity it would be up to the viewer/reader to determine what they thought of the work based on what was presented and not based on what they knew/know of the author.
I dove headfirst into revealing myself as a black artist. I have actually written artist statements and grad School entrance essays based around my self-exploration into accepting the "blackness" in my work. As I get older, I fully intend on embracing the "blackness" of my work.
Until sometime next week, namaste and stay strong...