I'm an artist living in Miami but I am originally from New York City. Everything goes back to childhood. I grew up in the '70s and '80s with my Dad who used to collect African art sculptures. I remember him dragging us to the Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) to see the African art collection.
Even though at the time we thought our Dad was silly for collecting 'wooden voodoo dolls', this early exposure to African art and sculpture had a profound effect on what I now see as beautiful. With age, I developed an understanding of the figures my Dad collected and, with maturity, I understood the weight and meaning of his collection.
Why concrete? When I started creating or thinking about creating, every thought I had went back to 'the head', the head being that central processing organ of the body—once the brain goes are you still alive? Concrete has this density, this head-like feel and weight to it that suited my work perfectly.
Why red? I went to Cornell University and took a psychology class during which the Professor teaching told us that red is the most important colour. Red is the only colour that the eye sees and that the brain will stop to look at; that’s why stop signs are in red. That idea stayed with me ever since. Hence the nails had to be painted red.
When young people come to see my work they like it and find it visually stimulating. However, they are largely unaware of African art so don't immediately identify the reference. But when I tell them that it's a power figure and explain what that means, then their appreciation is elevated to "wow, this is really incredible, do you want to sell this one?".
I find that people are also afraid to touch. Just as with African art, my work is made to be touched. The majority of art today hangs on walls—there's no interaction with it except for the visual. My pieces are designed to be taken off their stands and held. It’s that tactile experience that delivers the power of the piece. You have to feel the weight of it and feel the texture of the concrete and nails. My art is designed to have function.