One aspect of the way that I work is the research that I do as I am making things. Several years ago, I started to create “Personae” as a way for me to approach making things. In my studio, the design persona, a tool employed by industrial designers, takes the form of an archetypal person who has needs and goals that are referenced in order to create requirements for a particular project. For example, think of an archetype of a flight attendant in the 1960s, who has a need to quickly traverse a busy airport to make a connecting flight, all the while lugging a heavy suitcase. Out of this persona, a designer might identify an opportunity to put wheels, a telescoping handle on the suitcase, and voila – the rolling suitcase is born. In any case, I started to think about making art for the desires of a persona ostensibly outside of myself. It was a tool I used to try to make sense of who, what and why was I making things. It was a device to help me through a creative void, and it became a liberating method to get me making, because it freed me from the tyranny of “inspiration” that can feel so crushing to creative play. Many of the projects in my studio over the past decade have begun with an imaginary persona. They are often inspired by radical, revolutionary and queer characters, based on historical or literary figures. Jean Genet, Jeanette Winterson, Christopher Isherwood, and Charles Dickens all offer interesting characters that resonate with my desire to make room for queer and radical voices that are usually silenced. For example, Charlotte, one character that I developed, was a mash-up of Charlotte Corday, the French assassin of Jean Paul Marat; Divine, the transvestite in John Waters’ films; and the Dickensian antagonists Madame Defarge and Miss. Havisham have all informed a persona driven project exploring notions of revolution and counter-revolution that seems all too relevant these days. I created Charlotte as a starting point to collaborate on the creation of a corseted gown that I wore while embroidering the names of oligarchs in braille. Wearing this gown, I sang an acapella version of “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss me a lot”) by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez, which the jazz composer Brett Sroka transformed into a looping chant called “Bésame Macho”. It accompanied my exhibition of prints, photographs, drawings, ceramic and sculpture at Art During the Occupation Gallery . Personae inform projects and it allows me room to examine history, which is intriguing and filled with tragic and comic lessons. I am interested in who gets left out of history. As a gay man, married to a first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic, I am all too aware of the erasure of people, events and ideas from history. It usually happens as a result of peoples’ apathy in the face of an ideological and fanatical revision of history, particularly on religious, racial, and class. So, I look at history and my own histories as an opportunity for revision, metaphor and satire and the persona helps me make sense of it. And make fun of it too.

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