Creative Work, Research, and Methodology

My artwork draws from the legacy of crafted objects as a means to honor my ancestors. I create objects and installations, perform actions, and engage others in artistic collaborations. The work utilizes the language of textiles, politics of hair, and material substance of objects to celebrate and create community, restore historical imbalances, and highlight injustices. For over twenty-five years in over 400 exhibits world wide, I have tactilely and tactically used art as an interface to unravel complex issues. I seek fertile ground wherever I can, planting seeds as I go. Sometimes the ground is at the nexus between difficult things, and I dibble in the cracks.  At other times, dissemination is my strategy. Given the social justice issues at stake, I rely on art’s ability to infuse itself into the public sphere and create discourse. 

My research methodologies include highlighting erasures in history using the most quotidian objects (a strand of hair, a comb, a bead), breaking down barriers between who can participate in the art and how, and finding connections between people and cultures. I use materials to measure histories and amplify what is obscured, hidden, or whispered. I use often craft media like textiles. Because we all wear cloth, there is a shared language in its materiality. The more common an object, the more interconnected it is in our lives, the more power it has to be used as a catalyst or a metaphor. I also recognize the power and privilege of being an artist. Neither the power nor the privilege is to be taken lightly. Artists have access to move across borders that define cultures, disciplines, class, and nations. We hybridize and syncretize. We create imagery that burrows into the psyche. One can blind a person but the image lives on in the mind. One can cut off the ears or extract the tongue but the song remains in the heart. Along with the power and privilege in this profession, there is responsibility. Invoking the power, privilege, and responsibility I am afforded as an artist, I am driven to expand my commitment to a methodology in which materiality makes the tacit tangible.


Strategies from my creative practice fortify my teaching. Regardless of the subject matter or material focus, at the core of my teaching, I try to educe ethics, empathy, community, and curiosity. James Baldwin referred to art as a ‘kind of confession.” He described examining one’s life so you can determine how you are connected to other lives. And, then, those others can discover the terms by which they too are connected to other people. 


MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1995

BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1991

BA, Amherst College, 1989

(Honorary Doctor of Arts, Amherst College, 2015)