As a sculptor in time, place, in space, and alone, sculpture should seem to have grown here and also to have been built here. It may welcome you as you enter and bless you as you leave. Or it may express converging mythologies showing motivations through a three-dimensional spatial, sculptural narrative.
I think about several levels—first, how you are going to do it in terms of scale, material, and subject matter. In addition, I try to develop within the sculpture meaningful elements, whether figurative or abstract, that give an onlooker something to take away about the subject.
Sculpture is also about the place it is designed for, involving scale, presence, and composition that reflect and elaborate on themes. It is one thing to make art that is a portrait (your subject sits for you or their likeness comes from an image), but for something like the Middle Passage or Emmett Till, you want to develop art that is not a portrait of Emmett Till but something that projects his life, ideas, and ideals, beyond his lifetime.
What I may see in my design, conceived in the womb of my imagination, may be stillborn or rejected at its initial birth. The anatomy of a commission sits at the intersection of where idea and inspiration meet reality. You let a sculpture go out of the studio into the sea of criticism and indifference and it either sinks or swims––or maybe just floats around. Critics write about what they know. When a critic thinks about what I think about my work, then I think they are a pretty good critic.
To art and history, and my participation in it, I identify with the events of my ancestors. Tall trees cast long shadows. From the land of pain and suffering through the arc of confrontations, time refuses to stand still. Chains force retention, form, and linkage. The realm of racial difference is not understood, but commonplace. One hopes the races can find common ground and come to appreciate one another, their abilities, and their place in the world. Look with your imagination past the protracted schedule of liberations. Look past the lengthy peregrination to the territory of hope. “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.”
Optimism waxes and wanes but don’t give up; push on and overcome.
Transmigration, the transition from one state or condition to another like the passage of the soul at death, is a gestural exercise. Gestural symbolic and suggestive forms, but without translation, are sign language on a wall. By focusing our attention for a little while on the imaginative development of forms, sculpture may help to expand our interest beyond what is obvious.