My practice is an interdisciplinary approach to audio, visual, and choreographic methods. I use choreography to create mystical paintings, dancing – what Blackpentecostals call “shouting” – on paper or canvas with pigment powder, clapping my hands with paint, letting it splatter on surfaces, sometimes singing, based on the rhythms of the Blackpentecostal Church. I use paint, ink, canvas, paper, and other surfaces to visualize that which remains after my body moves to the sound of the praise music, to more fully consider residue, lingering, that escapes capture. My art practice lets me think about the ways the religious as a conceptual domain and field of thought has sequestered, and in sequestering not holding with care, particular kinds of meditative, transformative, collective modes of existence, reflection, behavior. With audiovisual practices, I have occasion to think about hiddenness, about the practice of composing and constructing, of putting ideas and concepts and colors and sounds together, taking them apart.
At MacDowell, I created several large scale “shouting” pieces; and from those I created various silhouette collage works of hallucinating saints in praise postures: hands up, raised, worshipful. I also wrote in a forthcoming nonfiction book about the Black Church and sexuality, and began scripting a sound composition.
I am a teacher, writer, and audiovisual artist, attempting to honor blackqueer life and spirituality. My work, from writing to performance, is about the blackqueerness and spirituality and mysticism and relation and... How can black folks, blackqueer folks, breathe in this world full of violence and antagonisms? I write about this in my first book Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press 2016) and in my second book, The Lonely Letters (Duke University Press 2020). My writings have served as conceptual/foundational frameworks for art exhibits, including “Enunciated Life” at the California African American Museum, curated by Taylor Renee Aldridge, and “Otherwise/Revival” at Bridge Projects in Los Angeles, curated by Jasmine McNeal and Cara Lewis.
Portrait by Kristen Joy Emack