The lived experience of learning differences is the primary subject matter for my creative research. As a youth, I attended the Child Study Center for three years, a school in a teaching hospital, where I became intrigued with learning-disabilities research. I am inspired to create artwork that comment on the history of education and question the prevailing culture which devalue fluencies and skills outside prevailing norms. For some viewers, the work I create is a metaphor for the frustration I and others have felt living in a society that devalue differences. With my creative practice I am using my abilities as an architect, artist, and educator to build a long-term creative practice that will allow a free and open conversation about education. I am always striving to develop new work that precisely combines elements which clearly emphasize the empowerment potential of creating artwork that openly talks about the history of education and the lived experience of learning. To this end, I create artworks using photography, installations, and sculptures.
With my long-term project, View of Educational Structures, I am creating a typological study of the history of education to highlight the variations and similarities in educational systems in the United States of America. I am photographing and building architectural sculptures of earliest surviving school structures, school buildings that played a role in changing education in America, and school building that are being built today. To create photographs that are clearly delineated and neutral views of these school buildings, I am using a 4x5 large-format view camera to take advantage of its native perspective controls and to fully immerse myself in the slow process of creating a tangible photographic object. When creating these photographic images, I am continuing the documentary tradition practiced by Walker Evans, William Christenberry, and Bernd and Hilla Becher. When building the architectural sculptures, I am continuing the precedent set by William Christenberry who translated some of the buildings he photographed into sculptures. To create the architectural sculptures of school buildings, I use computer-aided design software to layout the parts of the structure, then I use a laser cutter to precisely cut the parts out, and then I hand assemble the parts together. This project focuses on providing a platform for students, teachers, educational researchers, and community members the opportunity to consider the challenges and goals of education and how educational structures influences the learning process. One of my hopes for this typological study is to allow historical thinking and contemporary thinking about education to reach a wider public audience.
As part of the ongoing project, View of Educational Structures, I am photographing and building architectural sculptures of school buildings that played an important role in the history of racial segregation and racial desegregation in public education in America. I am working with school buildings that are associated with events that both led to and followed the U.S. Supreme Court decision in: Brown vs Board of Education that in 1954 overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education in the United States of America. The purpose of photographing and building architectural sculptures of these properties is to highlight these historic structures that best exemplify and illustrate the historical movement to provide for a racially nondiscriminatory education for all. While the African American segregation within the school systems anchors this narrative, this typological study integrates the school desegregation struggles of Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Chicano/Latino Americans. This study thus considers the school desegregation struggles of the communities of color together and separately as dictated by the historical record. Therefore, included in my photographs and architectural models are schools that were designed to provide segregated education for Caucasians, and schools that were designed to provide segregated education for African Americans, Indigenous People, and People of Color. School desegregation has always been an important part of the ongoing struggle for educational freedom in America. With this typological study, I am work with school buildings that have already been identified as significant places, and I am actively searching out properties that have been overlooked in the larger national narrative in the history of educational reform.
As another element of, View of Educational Structures, I am photographing and building architectural sculptures of Rosenwald Schools. I plan to photograph all the surviving Rosenwald Schools in Arkansas, build architectural sculptures of the vanished schools, and create a printed and online map of all the Rosenwald Schools that dotted the landscape in Arkansas. The Historic Structures that are known as Rosenwald Schools were built from 1912 to 1932 with the help from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. This fund assisted with school design and seed money to provide safe and purpose-built state-of-the art schools for the African American population across the southern states of America. The Rosenwald School building program left a legacy of 5,357 schoolhouses, shop buildings, privies, and teachers’ homes. With my photographs of the surviving school buildings, and the architectural sculptures I am helping to raise awareness of the Rosenwald School Program that served as a model for change in education, enriched school architectural design, and lead the way in school and community partnerships.
With my projects that include oral history recordings, I seek to deepen the understanding of firsthand experiences through the gathering and presentation of recorded memories. In the project, Learning Differences - Portraits and Oral Histories, I am gathering and preserving firsthand experiences of people that are part of a diverse learning community. The portraits and recordings were part of a solo exhibition, Elements of Learning. I used two different cameras to take these portraits, the first was a 4x5 Large Format View Camera with traditional black and white film, and the second camera was a 20x24 Ultra Large Format View Camera with orthochromatic black and white film. The orthochromatic film is processed in a darkroom with the use of a deep red safelight in open paper trays with paper chemistry. The processing of this film frequently left a variety of imperfections within the image, and these imperfections were welcomed. The 4x5 camera was used to create an image that was as clean and sharp as possible. With large format photography, I can explore a rather historic way of approaching photography by slowing down, carefully observing the subject, and making exposures sparingly.
With the project, To Give a Voice: Portraits of The Visually Impaired Community, I am gathering and preserving firsthand experiences of people that are part of the visually impaired community using photographic portraits, 3D printed reliefs, and oral history recordings. In the most recent iteration of this installation a photographic print is displayed on the wall and the 3D print is displayed on a pedestal for every visitor to touch and feel. The oral history recordings are heard through headphones hanging from the front of the pedestal.