A to Z Like Me, 2001, a series of silk-screen prints, continues an on-going exploration of the black cultural subject–addressing black both as a color and asa social construct–race. The living language of young African-Americans, one ever transforming and re-contextualizing American English, comments on history and contemporary experience. I’ve focused on two authoritative texts on black slang: Clarence Major’s 1994 text, Juba to Jive, a Dictionary of African-American Slang and Geneva Smitherman’s work,Black Talk: Words and Phtrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner, 2000. I am intrigued by the ways in which appropriation and translation change meaning. From the physical act of hand stenciling dictionary text, to the subtlety of black inks, I reference and define the traditional and the contemporary.
The layered messages of hip-hop’s visual, oral, material and performative expressions narrate the social, political and economic realities of urban American young people. Props: Ladies First,2003, offers the hip hop historical contribution of 10 women. Influenced by A to Z Like Me, this work serves to valorize early female practitioners: Baby Love, Lisa Lee, Lady Pink, Lady Heart and Roxanne Shante’, seldom credited for their impact on the culture, in contrast to more recognized figures such as MC Lyte, Salt & Pepa with Spinderella and Queen Latifah. These female MC’s, DJ’s, graffiti writers and breakdancers, constitute just a few of the women who have played a role in the development ofhip hop culture. Executed in latex paint on wood, these bright pink panels speak to the invibility of women in urban American youth culture.