For this series, Black Sheep, I was inspired by own struggle of feeling like an outsider since childhood and not being truly connected to my community. Growing up in an urban and predominantly African American community, I quickly became subject to hypermasculinity and other’s perceptions on what it meant to be a “real man.” For most young black men in America, there are certain expectations that are placed on us and I always felt pressured to live up to them. Through years of being exposed to the media’s stereotypical representation of black men, I thought that the ideal black man was supposed to be intimidating, aggressive, smug and emotionless. I felt like I had to navigate through society as a false version of myself just to fit in. Over time, I found it very hard to express myself and let my guard down around people. Trying to fit into this prototype became extremely oppressing and I built emotional walls to protect myself. As a coping mechanism, I created my own world that serves as a place where I can be myself, without judgement.
In addition, my work is driven by relationship with God. Being raised as a Christian, the Baptist church has always been a source of guidance and inspiration for me. Through reading a substantial amount of bible scriptures, I became intrigued with biblical narratives and Christian iconography. Within my recent body of work, I incorporated symbols and icons that are connected to Christianity and black culture. Most of the scenes in my work take place in nature, with skies, valleys, rivers and animals. The sky represents the heavens, the birds represent peace, the land represents power and water symbolizes a purification of the soul. In Christianity, a lamb symbolizes, meekness, innocence and purity and in pop culture, the “black sheep”, is an outsider or one who is different in a way which others disapprove of or find odd. In this body of work, I represent the “black sheep” and the lamb represents my younger self. In essence, these are the moments leading up to when we find each other.