Tonya Gregg The Elusive Quest of Freedom
“The Elusive Quest of Freedom consists of 30 gouache paintings on paper that were completed during 2002 and 2003. The series is inspired by Black BikeWeek, an annual festival held in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina. In its salacious voyeurism and exhibitionism, the event has been compared to other sexually charged explosions of black youth culture such as Atlanta’s”Freaknik” and Daytona’s Black College Reunion.
Based on sketches and photos that I made at Black Bike Week, I have explored both the celebration and tragedy of this kind of event. The event to me exemplifies the elusiveness of freedom in that it is an expression of both freedom and potential abuse of freedom. It illustrates the relative recent freedom of young African-Americans to act the way they like, including in ways that are crass, highly materialistic, and certainly sexist. In a sense, Black Bike Week shows both freedom and the freedom to exploit and be exploited, be it by other young blacks or the pop culture and commercialism that drives much of their desires.
The paintings are highly metaphorical as opposed to literal. Using Black BikeWeek as a hook, they try to relate snippets of conversations about freedom, especially with respect to travel, consumption, and interaction between the sexes–conversations from magazines, TV and movies, and discussions with twenty-something friends. The paintings explore such issues as male-female relationships, obsessive focus on the body, self-indulgence and collective excitement to a point of frenzied self-exploitation. Illustrating these issues by exploring the blurred lines between fantasy and reality that is characteristic for the Black Bike Week subculture, I try to create a dialogue about freedom between my viewers and my art.”