From 1995 to 1998, trips to Europe have inspired us to use the gothic forms of the cathedral structures in our collaborative paintings. We have used images of Gothic and Romanesque interiors photographed in France, Spain, and Italy and combined them with figures of African descent. These structures offer us many possibilities for expressing the mystery, spirituality, drama, and poetry that we find in the gothic.
The experience of wandering through these cathedrals and bassilicas revealed how we could use the inspiration of the lofty vaults, curves, intricate closed and open spaces, and allusions to a forest canopy to provide a matrix for figurative responses to the architecture. In the process, architecture became a place where figuration and abstraction could meet.
During our trip to Italy, we viewed frescoes and photographed sculpture of Michelangelo; frescoes of Giotto, Cimabue, and others who have influenced the figurative aspect of our collaborative work. We have merged this figurative influence with African imagery by appropriating figures from the Sistine Chapel and from South and West African photographs and juxtaposing them in these spaces. This approach represents a response to the physical presence of the gothic structure and a search for a visual synthesis of these two seemingly incongruous influences.
The use of the figures in these medieval spaces contends with spiritual and physical transformation, and relationships between figure and architecture. It is through this use of the figure and the gothic spaces that we search for the mystery and poetry of the ancient as we work to express our parallel cultures of European-American and African-American.