PROTECT YOUR NECK
The idea of being a self-taught artist is so over rated. I don’t think I am “self-taught,” because I have received so much education from people, experiences, and observations. I want to take the time to give thanks to the teachers who have given me a great education. I would not be who I am without you. Thanks to Ms. Alexander, my drafting teacher in Junior high. You have taught me the art of the grid and how math keeps things in perspective. Mr. Fike, my Hippie photography teacher in a magnet program in Junior high school right in the middle of the hood. That was so necessary. You have taught me that more so than the technical skill, and the art of reproduction, your mind is valuable. What an experience that was. Erick Jenkins has taught me that, although all things are possible, you need to be prepared for all circumstances, especially when your teacher who you love and trust steals your art work, and is printing it for sale. Ol pus as nig! Dustin Harewood is a big inspiration. You have taught me that age and culture can be used to uplift as opposed to suppress. Jean Shepherd, I have been taught all my life; at one point you start to not believe anything at all, but to Jean, my art history teacher, everything you told me was true. I saw the centuries unfold right in front of my eyes in the Cummer Museum. And my all-time favorite, Larry Johnson Davis. My Yoda of art. You have taught me that the power of the mind is more powerful than the hand. Sometimes less is more. But, make sure it’s effective. However, throughout all the training I have received, nothing could have taught me more than the Wu-Tang. The love of music has given me appreciation for the arts. For this painting, I have chosen to give reverence to one of my most influential artistic inspirations. I want to give thanks to all of the people and experiences who have molded my art. That being said, nothing could have taught me more than music.
Not all of the painting is related to hip hop, but all of it is related to music. Each quote is from a specific song from all genres…punk, rock’ n’ roll, hip hop. Each lyric is tweaked slightly to highlight a characteristic for one of the hypocrites depicted in the painting. For example, “You spin me round” is from Dead or Alive and is based on Bill O’Reilly’s “No-Spin Zone.” “People don’t fight no more, all they do is this” is based on a Goodie Mob song and is designed to show how George Zimmerman didn’t want to fight, all he wanted to do was this. Next to Justice Scalia, there is a Rolling Stones lyric “No sympathy for the Devil.” Besides from the political aspects, the background is a target with darts. Darts are what Wu-Tang calls their lyrics, and each dart represents one of the Wu-Tang members. RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Mastah Killa, U-God, Method Man. Can you figure out which dart represents each member?
MARTIN LUTHER THE KING
These are my two Martin Luther the King stories I would like to share with you.
My mother had been living in the USA for 18 years when she got an appointment to interview for citizenship. The interview was to find out how much my mother knew about American government and history. One small problem: she couldn’t speak English. But she did know one important historical figure: Martin Luther King, whom she pronounced Marte Lewteh King. The interviewer asked her a series of questions:
Who was the first president of the United States?
Marte Lewteh King
Who assassinated Kennedy?
Marte Lewteh King
Who assassinated Martin Luther King?
Marte Lewteh King
This man asked my mother question after question, and all her answers were Martin Luther King. Despite this, he approved her application. I would like to take the chance to thank the wonderful soul who had the compassion to see the beautiful soul of my mother and what she had to offer. Although she couldn’t speak a word of English, all of her children found success and have contributed to society: my oldest sister is a Stanford graduate and is a doctor. My middle sister is a forensic psychologist. My youngest sister is a top-rated mortgage broker at EverBank. And me, her only son is one of the baddest artists on the planet.
In 2015, I was asked by a major national company to paint Martin Luther King. I would never have made a Martin Luther King painting. I grew up in Miami, where it seems every street corner is flooded with cliché paintings of MLK. I didn’t want to paint another “classic” black art piece and be pigeonholed as a black artist. Then I got the inspiration to add MLK to my Target series. The multinational company turned down my piece: they said they didn’t want to celebrate his death—they wanted to celebrate his life. Apparently a target on MLK was too much of a reminder for them that he was assassinated.
Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing made me think of music. When I thought about music, two Wu-Tang lyrics came to mind. “Run on a Track like Jessie Owens” and “As I run around with a racist.” I thought it would be interesting to create a “Race Card”: a credit card that’s expired and is being cut by scissors, so you can’t use it. The piece states that both sides -- white and black-- have leverage, and when it’s necessary, they will use it. A black person can pull a race card when needed. However, a white person has the right to say “Don’t pull a Jessie Owens on me” when the race card is pulled for ridiculous reasons like Captain Crunch being a racist cereal. My card is still pending on that WB frog.
This painting depicts a group of black people running from a slave ship. There are also the two Wu-Tang quotes that inspired me to paint Race Card. There’s a third quote from Wu-Tang: “Do run run.” The initial idea was to make the chalkboard look like an abacus counting the slaves.
This painting is a yellow person, a red person, a black person, and a white person. All of these people have come into the race from different backgrounds including the black person who came from the slave ship. The white person has a parachute on his back; he’s parachuted from a plane and is about to win the race by cheating.
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