Art has always been a huge part of my life. As a small child, my grandmother would keep all of her paper grocery bags for me to draw on. While in elementary school, I watched Bob Ross everyday after school and tried my best to copy him. As I got older my mother noticed that art was something that was going to be a part of me, so she began to encourage it. I enrolled in art classes after school and on weekends. She took me to galleries and museums. In high school, all of my electives were art related. After graduation, I went on to spend a year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Though I only stayed for my foundation year, the experience at SAIC had a huge impact on me as an artist. My confidence grew and my willingness to experiment with styles and mediums flourished. After leaving SAIC, I returned home to St. Louis for a couple of years where I taught after school art classes to kids in my neighborhood and drew regularly on my own. My focus during this time was graphite and colored pencil realism and figurative work. Soon life took me in a completely different direction and I moved to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Living there immersed me in an environment that was both familiar and completely foreign. It was the first time that I'd ever lived in a place where I was not a minority. The beauty of the land and the culture impacted my art in a huge way. I began to combine my willingness to experiment with styles and mediums with portraiture of people around me. This was when I really began to paint. In my time on St. Croix, I got married and had three children. My children added a new element to my artistic style and subject matter. Watching their growth and development as well as their innocence and sense of wonder touched a part of me that had not been visited since my own childhood. Capturing that innocence and intensity became the main focus of my work. When I was pregnant with my fourth child, we relocated from St. Croix and settled in Mississippi where my experiences were both familiar and foreign. Today, I live in the South where raising four black girls is a both a gift and a challenge. Just like in the Virgin Islands the land and the people influence my life and work the most. My work captures the dreaminess of southern landscapes as a backdrop to black childhood that is pure and uninterrupted. My children and their real life experiences are often the subject of my paintings. The need to capture the reality of their specific childhood and the freedom that comes with it is one that drives me continuously. It is essential that the work illuminates and illustrates an often under-recognized narrative: that black childhood is as important and as beautiful as every other child's. My current body of work focuses on the fleeting nature of black girlhood and its parallel to the fleeting quality of nature itself. Pairing mixed media portraits of black girls caught in moments of pure childhood joy with pen, pencil, and colored pencil pieces derived from my own journal underscores the ephemeral nature of both subjects. The moments I capture are even more precious because black childhood is too often viewed through a smaller lens and for a shorter time than mainstream culture recognizes and articulates. Society tends to cut short the childhood of black and brown children. It has been shown that black children are often viewed as older and less innocent than other children of similar age. What does this mean for my children? My goal is to create work that shatters that myth. By both fostering an environment where my children can remain children and capturing that environment in my art I am attempting to create a new narrative. The work starts from real life observations. I capture moments from my girls' everyday life: playing, running, jumping, spinning, just being themselves using landscapes that are very specific to the South as their backdrop. The landscapes I capture while traveling around Mississippi. When the painting is complete, I embroider boldly colored sashes onto the girls' white dresses. The use of embroidery adds another specifically personal element to the work, as my children have all learned to embroider as a pastime. The second component of the work is a series of drawings that are grouped with the paintings. These drawing come directly from my own nature journaling process. As we spend time outdoors, I keep a record of the things that we observe. These things include animals, mushrooms, plants, flowers and rocks; and the weather, our moods and who we spent time with each day. The journaling is like a visual record of our year in the world. I create colored pencil drawings directly from those journal images and records. The main focus of the drawings are the birds that we have observed. Bird watching is very much like watching my children as they grow. There's a very short moment of being able to watch a bird just existing in all its beauty and the same is true for watching my children. The mood of the painting is enhanced by the characteristics of the birds that it is grouped with. As a whole, I want this body of work to instill the sense of wonder that comes from passive observation of something deeply meaningful and powerful.