What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
My first art form was music. I got my first set of drums when I was 14 years old. Within a few years I was playing in a number of bands with other local musicians. One day the saxophone player in a band I was in at that time brought an album to rehearsal. It was Live at the Village Vanguard by John Coltrane. The first track on the album was an extraordinary piece of music called "Spiritual." Listening to this song, I was absolutely transfixed by the music's depth of expression. I don't think I fully understood the power of any particular art form before that moment. Through a combination of adventurous technical virtuosity and clear focused intent, John Coltrane and his band created a song that spoke to the deepest part of one's personhood. As I came to know more about Coltrane, the man and the musician, I came to understand how one could make art that was deeply principled, and I also came to understand the level of focused commitment to craft required to make deeply moving and deeply felt work. John Coltrane became one of my first role models as an artist.
Work by photographer Dawoud Bey is currently on view at the Contemporary (Class Pictures) and Walters (Portraits Re/Examined: A Dawoud Bey Project) museums. Bey and photographer Carrie Mae Weems will discuss artistic process, curating, and working with young people during a talk at the Walters on January 19th at 3 pm. Admission is free.