3 Questions Digital Series

Michael Booker

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Michael Booker, who speaks about his creative process and artwork at the U.S. UN Ambassador’s residence in New York, New York.

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Full Transcript

Well, my name is Michael Booker, and I’m an artist primarily working in pen. So my piece in due time is the name of it. It’s a piece about people going on a journey. People traveling. And as they’re traveling, they’re looking for a better way of life and a better way for them to live this that getting away from all of the hardships, all of the things that they’ve been going through. But that places are trying to get to the journey they own is not necessarily just a physical place to go to more sober state of mind.

And so that journey can be a mental change or a way of thinking to better themselves and other people around them. And so that idea of using that journey, these are ideas that goes back to that. There’s a quilt making as well.

For example, during the Underground Railroad, girls were used to send different messages to the slaves. They were traveling on the Underground Railroad, so certain patterns would communicate different messages. And so if they were traveling, they would see a certain quilt, and that pattern network would tell them, There’s a safe house here.

You can stop it, or a different pattern would tell them you need to find a change of clothes to blend in as you’re traveling through here. And so this idea of these people on a journey and having those messages in the quilt is something I wanted to use for the work that I made for it in due time before ending time. Usually, the watercolor that I use would usually be like the same color or the same shape of the pen I intend on using on top. So in due time, for example, in the boy’s hat on top, you see in his hair, there is these waves in his hair done in pen.

But underneath that and watercolor, there’s like this, this plaid done underneath it. And so just trying to mix up different shapes and colors that I wouldn’t normally put together that I did in due time. There’s also a part where the word faith is written down to the side and like use in text.

And so like the way that I layer the watercolor in panel talk to juxtapose with each other and trying to point to those juxtapositions of what where the watercolor is versus where the PM is. Whereas previously I was trying to use them in conjunction that had the watercolor.

This time I wanted them to be layered to let it show. I think as an artist, we want people to look at our work and recognize that work and get our messages out there. And for it to be on the public platform like this is a great experience and a great exposure to to really facilitate the message and betterment and empowerment of ourselves using opinion. And also, like the mark in the pen feels like it’s a thread in a quilt. And so as I’m freeing this journey, I’m trying to weave together these memories together through different colors, through different shapes and forms the same way quilts are put together from different sources as well.

My grandmother still makes quilts to this day, but growing up she would make them and hand them to my sister or not. But I didn’t really think much of it. It was just a thing that was always around.

And then once I moved away to here in Maryland, I started thinking about home a lot more and start to think about the significance of those quilts and what they meant at the time. It starts as being a little bit deeper in that history of both from my family, but to the broader histories of filmmaking as well. And thinking about what quilts really are, you’re taking parts of different sources like old work pants from here. Oh, Beth, she’s from here. And you’re taking different parts of it and putting it together to create something new. And in that process that’s commonly seen in hip hop music as well through sampling, taking parts of different songs, recontextualizing them and putting this together to create something new. And so like, I’ve always found that that balance between filmmaking and music because of those reasons, terms of how they work. And I take those ideas and use them within my drawings as well.

So it all overlaps for me. I have a lot of different playlists and I think what music helps me do, it helps me set a tone or a mood for the work that I’m trying to create with this journey.

If I’m talking about these moments of despair or isolation, but also on this go toward happiness or contentment or utopia, paradise, whatever you want to call it, there’s specific nuance feelings that I think that can occur. That’s hard to put into words for me, but I can.

I know how they feel. So I think music helps to try to describe that feeling, even if I can’t do it verbally, I can try to convert that feeling to a visual language or to my drawings. And some of my works there are like family and friends.

Some of them are random people. I’ve kind of made up or sourced from reference photos, but I think no matter who the figures are and they’re they’re all me in some shape, form or fashion because I feel like if I talk about this drawing for other people, most talking about my own journey as well.

So I like to represent those emotions through these figures, one because I just don’t want to draw myself. I kind of find it kind of boring to put my own face in there. But I think about the possibilities of how I connect with others and like those faces.

I always like to think about, like with the human figure in the human body in my work ways to obscure the face. Somehow, whether you only seen it from the side or from behind their head is turned away or there something covering their face or like, I like to play with their hair to kind of tell a story within their hair because I feel like our face is going to see us alive. And I think the figures in my work, I think they they have something going on within their worlds. They’re not there for our amusement.

They’re not sitting there looking at us, waiting, waiting on us like they have their own things going on their own struggles. And I want them to feel like they’re activated and they’re they’re concerned with their own things and that on display for us.

But what I want people to really take away from the work is if I’m talking about this journey that we’re all alone trying to make sure that we stay on our journey and those that journey can’t continue. Like, Don’t stop, we we are all trying to get somewhere and we’re all trying to make it to their destination. We may not ever make it there, but we’re always been on that journey trying to get there and don’t matter what. And so hopefully we have a goal in mind that can be at the end of that journey.

And I want people to kind of take away this sense of pride in themselves or this sense of accomplishment and knowing that they can keep going and keep working and get to where they want to be in life.