Lately I’ve been revisiting a lot of the work that I’ve done in the last two years. Taking some feedback I received about my body of work, I started thinking more about what it means to work in a series. I’m still not totally sure what it means, to be honest, but consistency seems to be a necessary factor when creating them. Up until recently I had only been making work for art shows, which has been great, but looking back at the work from those exhibitions I did start to wonder what strung them together as a whole. Or did it really matter to me? Luckily I don’t think that everything is completely disjointed, however I realized that what I had was a lot of “great starts” to concepts that I would like to continue to work with. The single item paintings that I like to create, such as the lips or human heart paintings, are really fun for me to do yet have a significance to me that goes deeper than being just a painting of a heart or a mouth. Having a personal or emotional meaning to the artwork is important to me. What I also like about those type of pieces is that they are accessible to people without sacrificing quality (in my not-very-humble opinion), which is a huge thing to me because of the reach that I hope to have with my work. I think a reason why I’m concerned with that is because one of the main pillars of why I create is to connect with other people. But I suppose that is the bottom-line for most artists.
So in the spirit of wanting to flesh out my work and truly develop series that can align with my artist statement, I went back to the What Dat Mouf Do series. It’s called that because I’m a ridiculous person and I amuse myself. Also, internet memes. Anyway, I revisited that idea and decided that I wanted to keep going with it. It’s an emotionally low-maintenance project, plus people have seemed to respond well to it so far – it’s a win win. When it comes to painting human figures, the lips are probably at the top of my favorite things to paint. I especially love full, sensual, plushy mouths – a physical trait that is commonly found in black people. I’m sure there’s a part of me that prefers the look for that very reason. When I search deeper about why I like to focus on just the mouth, I think it’s because it’s a piece that is integral in communicating and connecting with people. Be it with words, with a kiss, a frown or a smile. Even with closed lips, a person can still say something. We all hold a certain responsibility with our mouths. In the same breath we can inflict pleasure, pain or confusion in our dealings with each other. That point becomes emphasized when I zero in on just a mouth in a painting. Plus, it’s just an attractive feature in a face to me, period. It’s definitely one of the first things that I examine in other people and continue to pay attention to as I get to know them.
With the What Dat Mouf Do series, I’ve officially finished five pieces so far. The fifth one is featured at the top of this post. It’s a diptych, which is my first attempt at something like that (that I can remember). Trying to stay within the scope of my current statement as an artist, #5 highlights a sort of carnal, unrepressed affection between two individuals. It’s something that I think a lot of us desire deep down. I often find my own mind bending towards thoughts of this, more than I’d like to admit. I’ve already created a piece in this series that has put two figures together, except they occupied the same space:
With #5 I wanted the fact that the figures were separate but go together to have a specific importance. I think separating them is visually a more accurate depiction of how I view an “ideal” romantic relationship. Where you have two individuals who may have a lot of different qualities, but they are alike where it counts and come together by choice. I think it’s more realistic to choose a partner who complements you, instead of seeking someone to fill in the blanks to “make you whole,” or someone who is practically the same person as you. But hey, it’s a nice thought. I can’t officially say that I know what works. Please do not listen to me, kids. I just like the idea of two people who can stand alone and be fine, but can also come together and take on a whole new meaning through their bond. It’s that thought that was behind my intention with this 5th piece in the series.
I look forward to adding more work to this series of paintings. As I get deeper into it, hopefully it will all start to take on a look and meaning that will translate into a more cohesive and attractive body of work. I have a few other series that I would like to add on to and a couple of newer ideas that I want to start. That’s one thing that I’ve learned to see as an advantage to working in a series: it’s an opportunity to make a bunch of new work which may also inspire new thought trails to other projects.