Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone. I have been greatly influenced by strong, competent women and I think of Under the Influence as a visual, representation of that influence. The idea for the piece was one of those happenstance moments. I was rearranging my studio and stacking canvases against a couple of chairs in the center. Sunlight streamed through half-open blinds to create a shape that resembled a throne. My mind’s eye planted the queen and the composition sketch evolved with a lot of attention to lines and shapes to effect dimension. I used a model pose on the internet that resembled the queen’s pose in my head. Initially, I painted her legs bare but after a male friend stopped by and drooled all over her, I clothed her fully. I didn’t want the objectification of the male gaze. For those who may not know, in the art world, the male gaze is an action, conscious or not, which embodies the perspective that women are passive sexual objects meant to provide pleasure for the male viewer. That’s something of a bottlecap version/definition but cool enough to convey the gist.
After making those decisions, I used charcoal to sketch the composition on canvas as a line drawing. Then, I deliberated on how the throne and background would be painted. I toyed with the idea of African textiles like kente and barkcloth because the art form is strong, essentially patterned, and the history is rich and vibrant as the cloth that is produced and metaphorically, influential. I opted for symbols representative of women as the greater influence to a queen.
If you’d like to know the meaning of the symbols depicted in the painting, click here.