Syncretism is the basis of all things new.
We did this together.


(charcoal and 24k gold leaf on paper, 29” x 29” original)


The “elephant in the room” is hard to avoid when you’re
stuck in the same room for a year. Our recent time
indoors has served as a catalyst for uneasy conversations
for many about race and inequity in our society. One of
these uneasy conversations highlighted people’s issues
with cultural appropriation. But as a person of color, I
often ask myself, “Why do I take issue with some forms
of cultural appropriation versus others?” A simple
answer would be “inequity.”  I feel that the more
disadvantaged a culture, the more problematic it
becomes when you appropriate from them.

But the reality is that art is an amalgamation of human
experience. It is impossible to create without “
borrowing” and re-interpreting things from other
cultures, particularly if you live in a multicultural
society.  The reality is that we’re not so much
bothered by appropriation as we are by the systemic
inequity that it magnifies in our society. And thus, we
must be mindful to treat this problem of systemic
inequity at its source rather than attacking its symptom
of appropriation.

Because cultural appropriation is such a complicated
issue, I couldn’t help but express these thoughts with
a “tongue and cheek” representation of the ambivalence
that I feel about this topic. I felt that using the symbol
of the Viking, a culture stereotypically known for its
raiding and pillaging, seemed like the perfect way to
represent the constant desire of art to mix and meld
with everything around it. Through this syncretic
blending, art shows its resiliency throughout time.

Odin, the “all father” god of Vikings sits in garb that
could have come off the set of “Empire” or
“Do the Right the Thing.” Coincidentally, the creatures
that Odin is associated work well for this concept.
Odin’s hound, Gungnir, means the ravenous one.  
Gungnir, reflects art’s need to consume and blend
with all that is around it. Odin’s crow, Munnin, whose
name means memory, reminds us that context is
important for understanding any concept. In other
words, we must pull from the lessons of history to
effectively deal with the problems of the present. We
must accept that we can never limit art to what we
consider to be within appropriate cultural themes or
boundaries. But what we can do is change how we treat
people. I don’t propose this to be an absolute solution
to the problem of appropriation. But I feel that it is a
move in the right direction.