Present Business

The Blackest Artist

I’ve heard it all and I’ve experienced a lot. There is no debate or deliberation, just declaration at this point.

It’s always been difficult being the black one. The exception. The different. The surprise. The black graduate student. The black analyst. The black trustee. The black supervisor. It's exhausting.

 “Oh, you’re ty?!” Yes, that’s me. Hi.

I’m old enough to realize that, in this country (culture, society, world, etc.), it is generally and painfully difficult to be a black person. No matter how light skinned, assimilated, monied, or souled out, there is a constant and relentless pressure in America for black to be less. To be under. To be bad. To be dangerous. To be suspect. To be dumb. I really, really hate less when I’m working so hard to be more. Not so dumb.

Yes, slavery. All that. All the time. History is reality.

To the present thesis: Being categorized as a black artist has always riled me. It always felt so categorized and segregated. Limiting. I really struggled when someone identified me as such. I always felt as if I was being left out of the larger discussion or consideration. It's like being a local band. Nobody cares about local bands.

But I refuse to accept that paradigm. So say what you want. It doesn’t phase me*. I don’t care*. I am a black artist. Proudly. Unsegregated. A declaration.

Yes, that's me. Hi.


The (Blackest) Artist Statement

Long ago we declared, “this is what we do, this is how we do it” blah blah blah. A quarter of a century ago that was fun bluster but we actually meant it then and we still mean it. I mean it with all my heart. I only hope to always meant it.

The trick to creativity, for me, has been to have no audience. I’m at my most awkward when someone acknowledges my work. I cannot escape quickly enough. But—while there is influence and collaboration—I do not make many things for others. I pretend no one’s watching. I’ve been fortunate to just let out what needs to be let out. For sanity’s sake.

I so rarely sell anything anymore that it seems as if I’m not trying to sell anything anymore. I’m not. Once out of my head, I kind of don’t care what happens to output*. Take it. Ignore it. Cherish it. Leave it. I’m on to the next idea, project, compulsion, hype.

I am influenced by everything. I am influenced by anything. I am influenced by nothing. Art for me is precious. Art is sacred. Being able to make things does not an artist make. Likewise, declaring oneself an artist also does not. What is an artist? When you know you know.

I sometimes ask myself how my dead friends would react. I sometimes stumble across things I made decades ago and I not recognize them as mine. It takes a really long time for self-appreciation. Yet, getting better at self-appreciation often feels like becoming a less discerning producer. Blessings and curses, swords with two razor sharp sides.

Muses are real. So are critics. I don’t really believe anything positive or encouraging. Only swipes matter. Because I can react to swipes by becoming better. Praise equals complacency. I will get better before I die. Or, I will get better then die. Or just die. Or worst, get worse.


* Lies