History was about a painting called Oath of the Ancestors which featured the fathers of the Haitian Revolution . I was reading a lot about the historical context of that period . I was reading about slavery , military campaigns in France and the Caribbean , the maroons and Voudon . My art practice allowed me to process the emotional impact of that information and gave me the space to contemplate my own ancestral connection and disconnection to that history . That was the beginning of how my formal education began to alter my artwork and it continued in graduate school . I had the vision for Continents when I Hinished at UC Berkeley but it took me three years to make . In graduate school the area of my emphasis shifted from the early modern period to Contemporary Art and I used the ideas of Édouard Glissant as my theoretical framework . I found his ideas as well as notions of Hybridity and Hydrarchy to be very compelling in their ability to offer perspectives and methodologies that are not bound in binaries . I would say that my art practice is obliquely engaged with those ideas .
My own mixed heritage does play a role in how I think about identity formation for individual and the collective which is a pervasive theme in my art . My background is full of unlikely pairings . In addition there is a distance from the various cultures that inform my identity . I identify as a black woman . Not just because my father was African American but also because being black in America is a particular experience . My father was not in my life when I was growing up so I missed out on that history and that culture – although I am very drawn to it , embrace it and feel that it is a fundamental part of my identity and experience . From his DNA there is some Native American Ancestry . I was primarily raised by my grandmother who was Swedish . She grew up on a reindeer farm in Lulea and was extremely religious and hard working . I have some of her sensibilities , habits and rituals despite having never been to Sweden . And then there was my beautiful mother who was so steeped in the 1960 ’ s counter culture , she was never able to recover and being her daughter was akin to having Janis Joplin for a parent . There are ways in which that counter culture is a part of my identity as well . I think the circumstances of my own identity have resulted in a perspective of identity and culture as things that are not Hixed but ever in a state of transformation . This is a personal link that I have to the ideas of Glissant . In Poetics of Relation he says , “ Rhizomatic thought is the principle behind what I call the Poetics of Relation , in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other .” I saw how my grandmother ’ s Swedish identity was transformed by her experience as an American and by having a mixed race granddaughter . My grandmother and I were both transformed by the difference we encountered in one another . So yes I do connect ideas of hybridity that I encountered through academia to my personal experience and those ideas Hind their way into my work .
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