Originally created for a show entitled “Kings and Queens”, I painted this image in homage to a woman who, despite her humble origins, changed the world by in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to obey the bus driver’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white passenger after the white section was filled. Although she wasn’t the only person during this time to resist segregation, NAACP organizers thought she was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her subsequent arrest for civil disobedience. As an international icon of resistance to racial segregation, she worked with Dr. King, who was a new minister in the area, to gain international support for the civil rights movement. For me growing up learning about the movement and civil rights, Rosa Parks was a very warm and compassionate “motherly” figure that helped me and so many others understand, even by just images of her and her smile, the incredible need for all people to treat each other with respect and equality. While I also loved Martin Luther King, he was more at a regal, patriarchal, and “great leader” remove—while of course I respected and admired him, Rosa Parks for me was a direct and immediate persona to cathect to as a child would a mother or female figure, and help me to emotionally understand what had happened and how far we still needed (and need) to progress for equality. Through different stages of my life, from traveling through Montgomery and visiting the sites of the movement in college, to now (after painting many images towards this subject matter), I continue to learn (while painting this and similar subjects, I listen to audio books about the civil rights movement and more) and understand the complexities and struggles of this time that continue to permeate to this day. In the installation of “My American Dream” these two figure help to forge the countries ideology of where my husband and I can be married and happily live and be accepted as a couple, and where hopefully we all can be free to be who we are and live the lives that we want to without fear of subjugation and hate. I love Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King and their legacy, and hope this painting does some justice as an homage to them, my feelings and sentiments towards who they were, and acts as a historical painting to remind all of their importance in addition to their humanness.
Peter Paul Rubens, Four Studies of A Head, first half of the 17th Century, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Belgium
In the museum in Brussels, they have this knockout little painting study of Rubens painting studies of a Moor, whom he also painted later as a portrait, which was really an edifying surprise to see there, or a person of color (who is not in a servile position) in any Western museum. I love the dignified approach to his subject, who seems like a real person that you could know, painted with a warmth and style that supercedes his larger commissioned and cooler work. I don’t want to make the same mistakes of most of art history, that deny the agency of people of color, and want to paint the people that inspired me and my world equally, disregard less of gender, race, creed, or color. I hope to bring a warmth but also respect to all my subjects.