The images above reflects the development of my terminal graduate project, titled "Scenes! From the Phenomenomicon!", which will go live in May 2024. Included are completed works, works in progress, studio shots, and reference images. Below is an excerpt from the written portion of my terminal project [WIP], as well as an excerpt from my creative writing - which serves as a companion to this body of work. [Images above may need more time to load!]
SCENES! FROM THE PHENOMENOMICON!
“To compose a brothy, flavoured account of how black lives come to matter, one must risk straying away from the categoricity of history. To take black mattering seriously is to become fugitive, to touch rough surfaces, to eat up the offending thing. One must perform the kind of mutiny that denies history its absolute claims to exclusivity. One must disguise oneself, take on new forms, and travel with mispronunciation and misrecognition if one is to exit the plantation.”
Bayo Akomolafe, Black lives matter, But to whom?
The word “phenomenomicon” is an incantation of my own creation. It draws power from two sources: First, the branch of philosophy known as “phenomenology” which, digestibly put, sees that “the ultimate source of all meaning and value is the lived experience of human beings”. Second, the fictional text developed by H.P. Lovecraft, known as the “Necronomicon”, a grimoire that descends the user into madness, and is also referred to as the “Book of the Dead”. Embedded in this incantation is a polarity, of life and death, familiarity and alienness, history and mythos, and legible experience and divine encounter. With this incantation I cast a portal, your invitation, into a layered worldbuilding art practice that plays with this polarity. Through an intersectional approach to drawing, sculpture, and writing, I illustrate 2D scenes and objects brought from vela, an autofictional world inspired by Caribbean colonial history, my family’s migration from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey, and science/speculative fiction texts. As we explore, we’ll find that the following work occupies a 1st/2nd generation Afro-Latinx Futurist lens, which is conceptually concerned with finding stability in an unstable and expanding diaspora, with the legacy of colonialism and migration, and with bodily autonomy and knowledge. The merger of fabrication, speculation and non-fiction through this futurism serves to disrupt canonical history and personal narratives while constructing a more fluid sense of identity, becoming, origin, and placemaking. Formally, the work uses a symbolic color and spatial strategy that I created called Baroque Tropicalia. This strategy emphasizes the predominance of black, assigned color significance to the ROYGBIV spectrum, fragmentation, and complicated spatial compositions. The resulting work appears both dark and vibrant, and obfuscating yet demanding. Through large scale collaged drawing, representational figures and other forms are set in abstract and unstable landscapes. The technologies that view this world, in reference to contemporary and ancient scientific advancements, are rendered in colorful and shining life-sized modular sculptures. In a short collection of speculative vignettes, located in this text, further exploration into this world’s themes is grounded through the relationship of Azulcar and Jamon, brothers from vela who are separated by alien intervention. The path to the exit of this world interweaves research, image, object, and text works, aided by introductions and conclusions that will navigate us through the collection (which serves as the written portion of my masters terminal project). Upon exiting this portal, readers will have gained greater insight into my art practice. Upon exiting, we will become fugitive.
BLACK FOREST HONEY HAM
as the venom entered his wound, jamón clapped at his neck, smearing a deep scarlet blood onto his hand. mosquitos favorite targets were promising little buds, and we beanstalk boys blossomed in the molten molasses air. on our breaks, we guzzled air until we grew sticky and bonded our shovels to our palms. with my free hand, i swatted away at the bloodsuckers in vain. before i could retreat behind my eyelids, dripping with sweet salt, i froze at the sight my brother. jamón had grown a million wings. twitching, twisting, fluttery scales erupted from his boiling skin. fear burrowed in through my eyes. it clawed into my mind and whispered to me that if he was not suffering from this biblical plague, it must be because he had become it. i did not dare disagree. he held out his red hand until the bloodsuckers hummed and drank from it. and that was when i learned how angels were made.
when jamon wilted over his shovel, i fanned him with my mine until his wings evaporated. many mosquitos had left the pores they’d dug wide open. jamon’s body was slick with a deep red, oil-like blood. i’d never seen a shine so heinous. because his limbs were lost in the mounds of bug bites that continued to swell, i had to roll him into our air conditioned home.
jamon’s body glittered eerily in the soft living room light. i was running out of ideas. his body was too warm for the nest of ice packs and trays, so the towels beneath him flooded ruby. soon he would begin to rot. mom was at her earth job, or maybe her mars job – regardless the distance meant our message would be delayed, even with our contacting lens. i could hear his cells bake like a potato – a faint ring from a fleshy bell.
my jaw clicked whenever i answered the flybotomist’s questions. how long had i stared at them in simmering silence? i strained to see beyond the steam in my eyes. and they were already difficult to observe. their transparent bodies magnified the space behind them so intensely that, to avoid a migraine, you had to focus on their bubbling insides. in this way alone, we were not so different. i, too, was boiling. i held your hand the way fire holds light.
all they said before they began was that we were lucky. and while it is true that since they arrived your swelling had gone down and the blood you spilled had coagulated, i cannot hold my suspicions. when i look at your brow i infer that it is the mirror image of mine. the hand that rests in mine may have once been yours, the same that i pulled close to me when you were afraid. even the cadence of your breath, despite being swarmed by these otherworldly creatures, could be yours. it may be. but i do not recognize you anymore.
what have you become? when you were a mountain of pussing yellow and red flesh lying upon the kitchen table, i knew you then. but when they arrived… when they intervened… fluttering over you… with their proboscises siphoning red from your heart and flesh, filling it instead with the green that brewed inside them… i only knew the differences between us. these parasites worked on you until you became, in their eyes, purely transfigured… and in mine, so far away.