The Shrine of Humility
Architecture and Construction by Sapata Fofana-Dura and Santigie Fofana-Dura
Electronics by George Lee, Zeal Mayfield, and me
Probably about 1200 wooden bricks
All wood is reclaimed
Some wood was reclaimed from a house fire
Support document: 30 page excursus on virtue and metaphysics
LA VICTORIA Portland Art Contest [audition interview, slightly edited]
Tell me a little about your background. (Where did you grow up? Did you attend college? Are you an artist for a living or is it a hobby? If it’s a hobby, what do you do for a living?)
I was born in Memphis, TN and was raised mainly there and throughout Florida— my parents were nursing home administrators, so in the afternoons and summers I sort of grew up in various nursing homes and retirement communities. I attended one of the great fine-art magnet high schools in the country (my art teacher went on to become National Art Teacher of the Year), then studied at The University of Memphis under a full art scholarship. In 2002 I moved to Portland to work as a muralist, and soon opened my own studio-gallery for a few years. I attended Portland State University briefly for Linguistics and Russian, before deciding that I was probably better off doing art!
Explain your art work and style.
The best way to describe my work might be “life-size, polychrome, quasi-photorealistic figurative oil-paintings”, and with regard to the subjects, I’ve felt that my artistic prototypes were Klimt, Modigliani, or Van Gogh, in the sense that they wanted to consecrate sincere humanity and humanness.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
After school, when I was able to begin doing the art I really wanted to do, I was drawn to doing the simplest kind of art imaginable— just portraits of my friends. When I met my wife-to-be, I went on to do probably close to fifty life-size paintings of her over the years. Lately I’ve been doing larger pieces where the starting point and centerpiece is an idea, and the surface reality is only a means to the end of exploring the idea; the art itself is meant to be didactic, working to be an instrument toward helping people achieve their potentialities.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
This is a complicated question to answer fully, but my proudest accomplishment is absolutely without question, in essence, the realization of what I’ve just mentioned, which is that I do have the means to help people achieve their potentialities, and that I actually acted on this somehow. When I began learning Russian, I thought I should volunteer to help immigrants learn English, because it would help me learn too, so I contacted IRCO, the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization. Over the next year and a half I actually ended up through this project doing 400 hours of volunteer work (barely any of it having anything to do with Russian), teaching English and computer skills to refugee and immigrant children and adults.
What’s your favorite work you’ve ever created? Why?
I don’t know! There are definitely some works I like more than others, and there are certain favorites, and certain ones I hope I never have to sell, but with almost all of them I don’t even think about them much until I take a moment to step out of my day to look at a piece and let my mind drift back to recall the time and place of when I was making it. The first pieces I did after moving to Portland are very special, and the capstone among these of this golden time I feel would have to be a painting of my wife called Double Flowering Plum, because more than in any other work there is a soul and spirit present that is to me almost miraculous.
What does “Modern West Coast Lifestyle” mean to you?
This phrase paints a vivid picture for almost anyone— there is only whether one can find a way to put it into words and do the picture justice. Because when I moved here in 2002, I drove to Portland from Memphis via I-40, and I was able to see and feel, mile by mile, America literally transform completely into the place I had dreamt of. Personally, as a discontent of the East Coast and The South, The Modern West Coast Lifestyle is something I’m dead serious about. My wife moved here at 18 from North Dakota, so she also is a Seeker. Everyone wants to be here, despite many grave social problems— there are social problems everywhere— but here there is to me a kind of hopefulness and freshness. It’s even in the air and soil. I started feeling it around Flagstaff, and felt it keenly in Death Valley (even though I blew my clutch out) and all the rest of the way since.
The Modern West Coast Lifestyle is to me the aesthetic manifestation of unbelievable creative and intellectual capital and the untold millions of self-determining Seekers. It is a forward looking, hopeful culture unto itself with inclusive, highly socially felicitous values.
I think a lot of us would go further West if we could, but for now this is the end of the line. Further West may not even be a place on Earth at all…!