This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your research process when it comes to your artistic subjects?
A: I’m really interested in their background, how they grew up, all those demographic details. With Y.Y. Clark, I was just so impressed by all of her firsts, and I really connected with her, because I can relate to times when I’ve been the only, or the first, to do certain things. So I understand the magnitude of the strength that she had to have in order to accomplish the things that she did.
Q: We read that you consider social realism to be a major part of your work. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s crucial for you as an artist?
A: There are so many things that go against Blackness in our current climate that people are trying to basically cover up, or make it go away. But I think that in order for people to progress, they need to know where they messed up. So I can sit around and paint or draw regular subjects or do landscapes and still life and things of that nature, but who have I helped? To me, that’s the assignment and big picture: to do big things that are going to challenge mindsets and promote change. I’m very passionate about that.
Q: In thinking about your body of work for this third season, is there a particular piece that is a favorite of yours?
A: My favorite is that first anchor portrait. That one, I thought, just really kind of embodied the whole aura, the whole feeling and the accomplishment of Y.Y., because it presented her as who she was: she was a scholar, just a brilliant person, but she was also a woman who entertained. She was elegant. She was all these different things, and I think that particular piece embodied all of those characteristics.