Celestial Dreaming grows out of a life long meditation on the sacro-secular. This collection of work imagines the images of ancestral spirit beings, ánimas and the journeys of souls from a pre-life existence, to a celestial after-life, and to a return. Seminal to this work is the color blue as a leitmotif signifying the spiritual. While many belief systems inform the work, it is primarily grounded in the notion of rebirth that is fundamental to Kongo and Yoruba theology.
This collection of paintings is also in conversation with Ntozake Shange’s poems entitled Smoke Voices: interviews with the spirits in the art of Arturo Lindsay, begun some three and a half decades ago in Houston, Texas. Our conversation continues today as Ntozake and I have rebooted our art and poetry collaboration exploring the journeys of spirit beings.
Portraits of Yemaya
In the manner of the 19th century Hudson River School painters who reasoned that the sublime found in nature provides evidence of the existence of God, I contend that a portrait of Yemaya can be experienced through images of the sea and things touched by the sea. Yemaya is the Yoruba orisha -- deity -- whose domain is the sea. She is a maternal deity with special significance to African descent peoples in America whose ancestors traveled the seas as victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The photographs in this collection were taken in port cities I visited while conducting field research on African spiritual and aesthetic retentions, rediscoveries and re-inventions in the African Diaspora to inform my art practice and scholarship.
The prints from the Children of Middle Passage series memorializes the countless children that perished during the Middle Passage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade whose names and identities have been erased. In order to erase the anonymity to which these children were relegated I titled each portrait with a traditional African name and a corresponding village. It is my hope/belief that when we commemorate spirit beings in works of art we provide that spirit a peaceful and loving resting place.