Can you share a memory or anecdote from your career?
Back in 2017 when I was working on my first outdoor mural, I was really afraid of the scissor lift, the platform that elevates you when painting a mural. I was only about 15-20 ft up, but whenever the wind blew, I was afraid, but I didn’t want to let my fear of heights stop me. When I look back at it now, I think “Wow, that was nothing.” I’m totally comfortable using it now, I even listen to music while working, back then I would hold on to the rail, and avoid listening to music because I would try to focus on not falling.
What kind of challenges have you faced in your career?
Putting yourself in a position to win is probably the most difficult part. I think as an artist finding the confidence to do what you love can be difficult. Most of us overthink, and if you fail in society, it can be tough to get back on track and get people to believe in you again. It took a lot of nurturing and support from everywhere: the church I grew up in, school, my family, of course, to overcome my hardships and get out there, be consistent and just give it a try.
When you created your vision of the John M. Langston mural, what ideas were most important for you to convey in this important new Arlington landmark?
It can be difficult to create a piece that visually connects with people when it comes to politics. It’s not like painting an athlete, where you can visually represent the many ways they touched people’s lives. It’s different with politicians because I can’t only paint written scrolls and letters. It can be tough to convey who people were.
As part of my process, I tried to find out as much as I could about who John M. Langston was, why he was relevant and what connection he had to the local community. The first step was doing research, reading different articles and books about his accomplishments. I also reached out to a few authors to get their insight and perspective.
My next step was to map out what was going to be most important to the community. At the time there were conversations within the community about the street name change, so I was able to observe those and hear people’s perspectives. A few things stood out that we couldn’t miss: It was important that we commemorated John Langston's image, so we can always remember what he looked like, and connect his accomplishments to his likeness. We also added the school named after him in the mural, to represent his contributions to education since he was the first president of Virginia State University, a historically black college. We also chose to include stars to represent patriotism, freedom, and the American dream. There was more history than I could actually put in the mural, but once it was approved by the Langston Boulevard Alliance, the building owners, and the community elders that contributed to the project, all that was left was to complete the mural.