What and who has influenced you, broadly speaking, in your art and in your life?
The first oil portraits I did were of Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones) and Frantz Fanon, and I’ve also done two portraits of James Baldwin, always out of admiration, inspiration, and the desire to pay tribute to those people. I had the opportunity to see I Am Not Your Negro recently and I’ve been learning so much more about Baldwin and his commitments. His novel Giovanni’s Room really moved me, it was so captivating. It’s not always easy to be queer or queer and black in 2017, so back then…
Jazz influenced me in terms of the models I choose, and when I paint, I listen a lot to artists like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, or Miles Davis. By painting people like Basquiat, Keith Haring, Modigliani, or Frida Kahlo, I wanted to show which artists have influenced me through their work or their life (or most often the two combined). How have all those people influenced my life? They’ve given me the strength to be who I am.
What does it mean for you, to be making art in France, in Paris, today? How does not being a man, or straight, or white, change your experience?
Being an artist today in Paris has become an act of activism, I feel, which I integrate to the need I have to express myself. I’m a political artist and that’s a structural part of my life. I’m not a part of any organization or group, but I do collaborate with movements and events like Paris Black Pride, and I have my work showcased in places like La Mutinerie Bar (that exhibition ran until May 12). So not being a man, or white, or straight - none of this is an obstacle for me. It’s my source of strength. I’m black, lesbian, androgynous, and I’m proud of that.
How do you see the future?
As long as I have things to say, I’ll keep on painting. I see a bright future ahead, because I’m fundamentally an optimist. With painting, you never know what might emerge in terms of production, or events and opportunities. It’s all unpredictable, and that’s the beauty of it.