I had the rare fortune of growing up in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where my mother, Deborah Willis, was a curator in the department of prints and photographs for thirteen years. Throughout that time, she also had a close curatorial relationship with The Studio Museum in Harlem. I was never far behind, so from the age of six I was engaged with the work and influence of Romare Bearden. By the time I realized that he was an actual man, and not simply a legend, he had passed away. The impact of his work has affected my creative approach ever since. In junior high school, I was in awe of his ability to make compelling images out of so many disparate pieces. I was fascinated by the idea of peering into people’s windows, as his work often does, and telling stories about the lives of everyday people, as well as the cultural history of African Americans. With my work, I am frequently engaged with linking history with the present through pastiche. The digital photomontage is most often my form of collage, but in my heart nothing tops the magical puzzle-making of Bearden’s beautiful collages.
Artist Audio Statement