Narrative is central to my work. I am interested in stories—the stories of my parents, my ancestors, my family, my community. I am a storyteller; through my work, I weave together the threads of these various narratives to create a tapestry that tells stories that are sacred and precious, personal and universal, powerful and at times volatile. Telling them brings to life things sometimes kept secret, hidden, and not permitted to be said because they challenge the status quo or reveal realities that neither side wants said.
In a strategic trickster twist, I feature children, often masked, as a tool to bring the viewer into my story that on the surface seems benign or sweet but upon closer reflection addresses much deeper and challenging issues. Masks are multi-layered elements in my work. Simultaneously, they reference traditional Delaware and Cherokee stories that my mother told me as a child and symbolize transformation and obfuscation. Masks are a mechanism to hide or obscure our true intentions, acting as a wall between us and the world at times protecting us or others. They are also agents of transformation that allow one to become more than what they were, to become powerful or sometimes dangerous. The strategy is to subvert narrative expectations.
My work also addresses what lies beneath or in the shadows. Stories and narratives often have secrets lurking within. I am intrigued with the power of these “shadows” in our lives and how they haunt us or make us doubt our reality, at times even terrorizing us. I consciously incorporate shadows in my work by controlling the lighting and relationships of the figures, giving form to the secrets that linger in our lives. The secrets take form in my work as shadows that hang in and around the forms, shifting as the viewer’s position shifts much like how secrets take different forms sometimes benign and sometimes nefarious.