I began my work as an exploration of images of African American women in our society. As an African-American woman of mixed heritage, I approach my work as an opportunity to position women of color into the Western Art Canon where we have been conspicuously absent. We judge a culture and a civilization by the images and art objects that they create. I have always focused on creating honest and personal depictions of women, particularly women of color, as a means to provide an alternative to the stereotypes prevalent in our culture.
I use the “Topsy-Turvy doll” as a metaphor of black women and the way we learn to define ourselves. The doll, whose name is derived from the character of Topsy in the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is designed to look like a southern belle on one side, but her dress conceals a black girl underneath. Through the flip doll, I explore my personal expression of self, as a biracial-woman, and also play with the metamorphosis of identity. I am also interested in the ability of this subject matter to address femininity as it relates to cultural constructs including class and race. The complexity of identity is one of transformation and redefinition: it is mutable.
These dueling images deal with some of the complexities of identity that go beyond race. Much of the work is autobiographical; it is the personal versus the public persona that I am exploring. The internal self and the self we project out to the world are often disparate or opposing, sometimes in subtle ways. As I continue to paint these women, I find deeper layers that tell more complex stories about who we are and who we pretend to be.