Chromophobia: My Evolution Within Painting
The Transfiguration 2015 Mixed media on wood panel 8 x 8
New work from The Uninvited Series
The first week of spring is bringing so many new beginnings into the studio and beyond! I am thrilled to launch a new body of work and website all within the same breath of fresh air. My last site was very minimal and did not encompass the energy and vibrancy of my new direction. So out with the old and in with the new! Lately I have been thinking about my love affair with color. Believe it or not I am a huge fan of the Fauvist art movement, German Expressionism i.e. Der Blaue Reiter and Paul Gauguin. In the fifth grade I was obsessed with the Symbolism movement and in college I finally got some perspective on Gauguin's lust for the exotic and his expression within his color palette. I love to wear bright colors and clashing patterns, I love my home filled with intense, fiery bright colors. During college my artwork underwent what I like to call my black and white era. I went through a phase in which I only wanted to use high contrast black and white imagery similar to the works that are featured in the Tituba series.
This crisis happened while at MICA I felt like as a painting major I did not want to paint anymore. I wanted to perform, to dance, to sew, to explore sound and video. I wanted to do everything that was the opposite of what my degree says that I was. (A painting major.) I think it was because when I went all out with my color depicting subject matter from my lived African-American cultural experiences the non-culturally diverse art school environment that I found myself in created so much hegemonic opposition and fear of color that I could not paint the way I needed to. I ran into this same issue as an art major in high school. Many of my classmates could not understand why I painted Black people with "so many different colors on their faces." Keep in mind I went to high school in Kentucky and it was a lot of racism. In order to protect my colors I wore them on my body instead of on my canvases. I then found that I loved using black and white to help me make huge large scale drawings with subject matters focused soley on kicking some white hegemonic ass!! lol
Tituba Syphons Up Her Spectators In Order to Feed Her Young 2014 48 x 48
While I was going through these issues I remember my professor Fletcher Mackey telling me that my colors would come back in a grand way some day and that I would learn a whole lot about my practice while I was living without them and he was so right! While on my color hiatus I have learned so much about the power of line shape and form. All of those basic foundational structures that the newcomers have to "master" before they can touch color in most institutional contexts have been my serious tools over the years. I am grateful because now all of my work that was stripped of the more whimsical elements and textures that the color brought has given the color compositional purpose and context instead of seeming to be arbitrary.
I must confess that during my new life crisis with color I would sneak and look at Haitian art books in the library. I would drool over Yinka Shonibare's Dutch Wax Print patterned mannequins and I would get lost in Robert Colescott's grand, expressive and vibrant paintings at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
At the same time I was also taking a Phenomena of Color course in which we read this book called Chromophobia by David Batchelor. For the first time I understood the western fear of color and its dominance within conventions of taste. I was shocked by how well the book touched on my issues I felt while navigating as an artist form a community with an entirely different relationship to color and adornment.
Every easter Sunday in the Black southern baptist churches in the West End of Louisville, Kentucky where I grew up I received my interaction of color lessons by marveling at the bright tangerine, turquoise, teal, kelly greens and bold crimson hues within the sea of church hats and three piece suits with Now & Later gators to match! I learned about how color could lift you up, make you stand out, and draw you into a person's aura. I learned that colors could repel you away or swallow you up whole. It was these interactions that I was trying to capture with my Fauvist paintings my freshman year!
Image from What We Wear 2 Church
This epiphany concerning color and the return to it within my practice was inspired by my solo show at the VOLTA art fair in New York City last month. I made 10 pieces specifically for the show that were small works on panel that had several layers of collage, intense drawing and solid bright colors for the background. As mentioned before, I wear bright colors, layers and patterns and people kept telling me that I looked like my work. Honestly I never saw that connection because I am so close to the work, I know that somehow it is an extension of myself but I had no clue I looked like it, if that makes any sense.
Kenyatta A.C Hinkle at Project Row Houses standing in her Kentifrican Museum of Culture Installation 2012
I went home and thought more about these observations and I began to look closer at the insanely detailed line work within the sweaters I wore, or the bold plum leggings and cobalt blue boots trimmed in mustard yellow that I wore with my patterned silk shirt. I started to recognize that I had come full circle from my undergraduate experiences to find my voice naturally within color. I for damn sure know a whole lot more about hegemony and colonialism so the guilt and reluctance of sharing my colors does not reside inside of my head when I go to conceive works with our without color.
I am embracing the full spectrum of my practice in which the Tituba drawing series explores smoke as a character, so neutrals are in order, within my new works for The Uninvited Series micro organisms and boldly colored backgrounds are now replacing the drab colonial sepia toned landscapes, Kentifrica was always my bright colored love affair so in all it's glory I am taking cues from my new found Kentifrican consciousness to light the way and illuminate my entire practice. I am also re-ordering Chromophobia, it has been 8 years since I read it and I know there will be so much food for thought.