What have you been working on during lockdown? I’ve been finishing portraits for a new suffrage monument, Equality Trailblazers, scheduled to unveil in Memphis [in] late October. We were originally scheduled to unveil in March but had to postpone because of the virus. The extra time has been very welcome, affording more attention to detail and execution of what is a more elaborate monument. (Along with six historical portrait busts, this one also includes a 60-foot-long steel wall depicting women marching in protest for over 100 years.)
Where have you found inspiration? From the beginning of my training as a sculptor, the female figure has been the focus and inspiration. I am inspired by all the strong women in my life and the ones I see fighting for equality. Any possible form or texture can be found in the human body, and the magical configuration of forms in the female body can prompt an emotional reaction from almost anyone. That is why it is still used in traditional academic training and why I continue to pursue an understanding of it even after years of sculpting. My teachers also sculpted the female figure, and when I work I feel connected to them and to other artists going back centuries.
How have national or global events over the past few months impacted your art? At the time of the murder of George Floyd, I was completing portrait busts of three African American women: Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell and Lois DeBerry. They will be part of the Memphis Trailblazers monument that will honor 12 women from Shelby County. The site is very close to City Park where the statue of Jefferson Davis was removed only two years ago. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me hopeful that we are close to a profound spiritual change in this country, and I feel I am a small part of it.
When you’re feeling unmotivated or uncreative, what do you do? Lately I am also a farmer. We began raising sheep a few years ago, and I find that working with animals is very rewarding. Our farm work is not that creative, but it helps me reflect and focus my energy when I get back to the studio.