In the world of art, paths that lead to inspiration rarely travel in linear fashion. Nor did Lord Bison, whose discerning hummingbird modus operandi landed him on more creative flower buds than some, perhaps most (two of those inclinations are visual and covered in detail for the sake of Pantheon en Cour). Below is a Q&A from a person willing to be challenged/challenging, open to finding that creative niche which will cause him to tarry awhile in this species of flora. Is he trying to do it all? And should he? This Brooklyn-based artist is prepared to shed some light.
Okay, let’s calibrate this Q&A session with something awesome. How would you sum up yourself in a haiku?
Still waters run deep
But…when are they ever still?
Travel, ‘tween head, heart
How would you sum yourself up as an artist?
Multi-hyphenate. The bulk of my artistic acumen is in the skillful crafting of letters. Over the past few years, more skill sets have hitched a ride.
Circumstances are like clothing; you choose what you put on. Other times the outfit finds you. In my case, I was very intentional. I wanted to give people a real-time experience of my writing so I revisited poetry (a place that I briefly lived in high school), made and published a poetry anthology, got press for that on a local news channel. To keep the momentum of that track going, I started performing spoken word at bars and events and built up a small reputation doing that. Then I wanted to enhance the experience of the performances, so I stared vocal training. Then I wanted to expand the experience of the singing so I started writing songs. From there, I wanted to expand the experience of writing songs so I started learning keyboard. From there I wanted to put everything together so I made a spoken word album, produced it, packaged it, whole nine yards. Then I wanted to enhance the experience of my social media presence and then later as a form of healing from the trauma of 2020, so I started taking photos…(stops to think)
Yes. And there very well can be more after that. Everything I’ve undertaken came from this basic question: how do I get further than I am right now while still being true to the purpose of my chosen existence? I thought my initial job was merely to write. I’ve been into it since I was seven years old and just assumed that was it – that was my thing, who I was. I understand now from everything I’ve learned in the process that my job is not merely to write. It is to create. Thus, I am a creative. In a hugely relatable way all of the things I do have writing elements because all of these paths tell stories.
Wasn’t that the plan from the beginning? To get your writing out there?
I thought so, too. For the longest time time frustration was my companion along this path because it seemed like the world didn’t want – or wasn’t getting – my writing. I used to be like, “I mean, do people read anymore?” But instead of griping that way, I’ve shifted. Now, the real question: must a story always be on paper? The plan has a much larger scope than I was aware of: to get my stories out there. More than one modality is more than okay. And as I become more comfortable with that, the sky’s no longer the limit.
Which brings us to photos…
(laughs)…and to enhance the experience of sharing my photographic eye, I started learning Photoshop. Which is how I even qualified to be a quasi guest on Pantheon en Cour! Even though I curate this visual artist-focused series, I still have to follow the rules! And now that’s opening up another level of storytelling via images that is daunting to wrap my head around. Do you know the thousands – scores of hundreds of thousands – of words that are worth the designs a person can come up with with this program? Scary.
Welcome to the 21st century, my friend. What is it about taking photographs that lights you up? And how long have you been at it?
I’ve been practicing, dabbling since 2017 but I started taking photographs with real intent around the crescendo of the pandemic, so a little over a year ago. What lights me up about a photo? A picture is a broad capture of an image that may contain a subject, or maybe even a story behind it. Arbitrary. A photograph is an image that contains everything and only what the viewer needs to see in order to make sense of the story being told. It’s very intentional, and I think it’s another way for a person to get their stimulation macros in. Images change peoples’ minds, ignites them, makes them feel almost as powerfully as words can.
What’s your area of focus? And why?
Right now I’m focusing on self/subject portraiture and landscape. Self-portraiture is like a form of therapy; your mind shows up in your body but not the other way around. Where I carry tension, which parts of my body are relaxed – which points to where the focus and message is – is a fascinating self-discovery exercise. It’s also a great way to understand how the slightest change in posture/positioning can change the narrative of a photo. In moving life, your posture and bearing tell a lot about you and also tell your narrative intentionally or unwittingly. With landscape, the nuances are apparent only if you’re really looking. It requires a presence of mind in order to fully appreciate this type of photography.
How far do you want to take it?
That depends on the stories that need to be told in this form. As fascinating as photography is, between a photo and the written word an image loses its potency after a time whereas actual words don’t. The other thing is that I used to be against Photoshop. I took it as a form of cheating, almost. You remember that saying, “haters gonna say it was Photoshopped”? Well, I was a purist and was adamant that you HAD to start and finish with the camera, and if I didn’t like the shot, I stuck it out till I took the one I wanted. I also felt that way about equipment – you had to have an actual camera or it didn’t count. I’ve changed my way of thinking on both counts. I use my iPhone 12 Pro in conjunction with Moment, a manual camera app that allows me to have control of a shot that is very close/comparable to handhelds. I believe this is a tool to further enhance the hard work and patience that a person traded in to get the image in the first place. I’m not using the program to conceal or to fake, but to explore and reveal. It all depends on the story I want to tell.
It seems like you’re usually off creating something or some art which has been said, imitates life. Do you make time to have a life beyond that? For example, any time to share your life with others? A special someone? Do matters of the heart interfere or help with your creative process?
In a word – YES. Often what happens is I tend to work in a bubble. I’m one of those people who needs to have a schedule or I’ll just flit around like a gnat and maybe get things done. Or get squished. When I’m in a relationship with someone – and because it’s easy for me to fall into creative rabbit holes and not return – I carry them with me and want to be there for them as much as possible. You see the conflict that arises within a person who needs to a). have a schedule to function and b). create.
So they can’t coexist?
To quote ’09 Drake: the girl or the world; do I really gotta choose? I’m not the best multitasker. My last relationship was a whirlwind. It was real, emotionally raw; we loved hard, hurt each other, mended, kept loving hard. Ultimately we didn’t go the distance but we covered a LOT of ground, but that came at the cost of creative flow. It took a while to get back on track after making so much space in my life to show up for that person.
Was it worth it?
Love is always worth it. As I unpack the experience I’m discovering strong evidence that it was meant to teach me more than it was supposed to be a success because in retrospect, and taking responsibility for this, I stepped into it failing before we really began. I wasn’t as fully committed as I thought I was. I didn’t go into it with complete honesty about what I wanted and how I wanted it and fumbled big fucking time when I realized, already chest deep, that it was what I wanted. I know better now. And will do better, as best I can. A big part of that experience informed my artistic self-expression as well.
Sounds like you came away with some wisdom. You back in the saddle?
Nope. Right now, I’m taking some space to reset and get back in touch with my creativity.
Speaking of, how do you get your ideas?
Patrice Malidoma Some (author of Water and the Spirit) put this in such a way that made me a permanent subscriber of this perspective: “Nothing can be imagined that is not already there in the outer and inner world. Your mind is a responder; it receives. It does not make things up. It can’t imagine what does not exist.”
You come off like you haven’t really done much. How do you wear your accomplishments?
They get stuffed in the trunk somewhere in the recesses of my mind and I visit infrequently for perspective, usually when I don’t know where to go next. Some people pat themselves on the back when it comes to stuff like this, and some never stop patting. I believe what you’ve done and what you can do are not the same, don’t carry the same weight. It’s the circumstances and the inspiration that directly inform you of who you are and in the end what really matters is always in the present, the now. But when I take some time out, usually at a low point, to revisit past accomplishments, I’m like, “Whoa – I did that? I DID that.” And it gives me a boost of moxy to forge ahead with something new.
What’s your source of inspiration?
It’s an elusive blend of space and stimuli that I have not figured out the precise measurements to. An idea will transport itself to mind when I’m doing just about anything. ANYTHING. It can be a snatch of song, it can be a piece of clothing…
Favorite piece of clothing?
Give me a heavy cotton hoodie with an esoteric slogan or understated pattern/design, a pair of well-tailored slacks, or slim fit chinos. I like the weight of clothing, which I associate with authenticity, value.
Phenomenon specific to you?
My pants inevitably wear down at the inseam crotch, always on the right side. Never fails. I can also feel peoples’ moods.
So you’ve turned an age. Congrats. What does being thirty-nine feel like?
It feels like a Brutalist dream in flux, the kind where nothing in the dream is arrayed toward expectations. How I usually experience dreams are essentially things unfolding or happening to me against my will. I’m almost never conscious of dreaming until I jolt awake. My “waking” life has been a study of this phenomenon. This age sees me further developing my inner autonomy with the applied knowledge that it’s all happening in my mind. I’m also being conscious about controlling/directing the things which are most important to me with effort, patience, and the allowance of grace, which is HUGE for me. Reality is within my mind and my reactions – and actions – to it directly affect how it unfolds. The Brutalist elements are incrementally giving way and becoming more flexible, taking the shape of free art, more color, more complexity as I become stronger and more capable of shaping my dream.
So it’s not quite tweaked yet.
It’s definitely not the dream of my dreams, that’s for damned sure. But it’s coming along. It’s full of mistakes, scars, traumas, almost-got-it’s, heartbreaks, depression, suicidal ideation and the like, and not a small amount of bewilderment. I’m alive. I’m still alive and I got to this point? Will I continue? The future is not up to me. The present is.
Is the subject of your mental health something you feel comfortable sharing more about?
That’s a big thing to admit but it is an essential part of my growth – as a person and as an artist, so I do feel comfortable sharing. I’m a proponent of mental health services and awareness but pre-2020 I was one of those people who couldn’t fathom how a person’s loss or experiences would lead them to ending their own life. Intellectually, I understood the examples – there are so many, sadly – but those were far removed from my reality. Through my experiences of the past year and a half, I understand intimately that trembling, painful sorrow, the inexorable unwilling feeling of your dimming light – thick, sticky, amber-colored – that spills all over the floor in the room of your mind and edges you backward to keep it from getting on you, but the room is filling up. The wall that you’re slowly but surely backing up against is oblivion, and you know it, but you’d rather take that way out than slowly drown. This is how I visualize my experience, and how I’m working through it is by standing in the acceptance that oblivion is one of the many ways to deal with the darkness, but it’s not a solution. Just a way. Though it calls, just as at one point in my life other things called but eventually fell away, that way is not for me. I am also standing in having a purpose that keeps me here. Some days it’s a struggle, some days easier. It’s a process. Every click of the shutter, every edit post-process is an affirmation of life.
Indeed. And I’m proud of you for sticking with it. The magazine cover you’re on says you’re a year away from the new twenty. Where are you headed by then?
I’m returning to the place of a child’s openness and growing, something the world – in the form of people and circumstance – takes from a person as they grow older. This is generally accepted as a right of passage in our modern world. Many adults self-express with the pressure of the opinions/expectations of other adults in mind. In some way shape or form what and how others think is embedded into the process of how we do…well, anything. Have you ever seen a child dance? Not choreographed, but just move their bodies from the sheer joy of doing it? I’m headed where my intuition, my spiritual intelligence tells me to go. In the past I’ve learned so much from listening to that place and have grown from it. Everything important to me that I’ve accomplished has come from that place of openness and wonder. I want to remain in that place until my time in this body, this world, is done. To harness that source of authentic expression at will – that’d be the only navigation I’d need for my life. When I find the secret I’m gonna run it to everyone who’s finna listen.