Ali, 2007 Oil on linen 50 × 40 inches
Ali, 2007
Oil on linen 50 × 40 inches

I painted this image for a show called Friends and Family, that depict a wide range of iconic figures, images and moments from popular culture, history, art, literature, film and music in the service of composing a larger allegorical narrative about the times in which we live, and the issues and values that shape our collective history and future. I wanted to be at once individual and collective, admonishing and optimistic, for my work to serve as both a personal homage to those people and experiences that have shaped his own individual identity and beliefs, and a reminder of their broader social and historical impact.

I wanted to endeavors to imbue the theme/notion of friends and family with a broader, social and humanistic concept. Although I base my paintings on pictures appropriated from magazines, books, newspapers, and films, his complete personal immersion in, and reverential, painterly treatment of his chosen subjects and moments transforms them, allowing them to transcend time and context, and the pre-existing source imagery from which they derive. My respect for post-modernism results in paintings that are highly self aware and referential to external ideas and politics. Simultaneously, my love of modernism renders my paintings highly personalized, allowing them to move beyond their original context, and become as much about what I bring to and invests in my subject matter than the subject matter itself. Through coupling this with a painterly verve reminiscent of Impressionist and old master painting, I seek to a foster post-post modernist sensibility that embraces concept, beauty, emotion, transcendence, and the subconscious.

Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest icons of all time, which has earned his place in world history. People forget that he was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., having changed his name after converting to Islam and his affiliation with the Nation of Islam, an incredibly radical public thing to do as a great American who also happened to be the smartest, greatest Heavyweight Champion of the World. After his public outcry against the Vietnam War, he was outcast and denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. He couldn’t fight for three years, touring colleges to speak out against the war, and advocating African American rights, justice, and pride. The Supreme Court finally overturned his conviction, and he was able to fight again, famously beating Joe Fraizer in the "Fight of Century." This is around the time this LIFE magazine came out, and I learned much about boxing and his amazing influence around the world, where he was like a king for so many people in so many countries and still is to many. He was a fiercely intelligent, brave, and courageous fighter, and continues to be an inspiration to this day.