“I wanted to find out more about my African identity outside of an American context.”
Spencer Evans is a Dallas-based artist who uses bold colors and dynamic gestures to create portraits that question the African-American identity. Originally from Houston, he earned a BFA from the University of Missouri and an MFA from the University of Texas at Arlington. Evans drew critical praise last year for his first solo show at Dallas’ Conduit Gallery entitled “I Am Because We Are”. The series was the product of research to explore the differences between Black Americans and Nigerian Africans. Examining his ancestral lineage which he traced to Nigeria and Cameroon, the artist worked with the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary and Bowen University to engage on-site interviews in Nigeria. The discussions focused on identity and social constructs looking for differences between Nigerians and the millions of African descendants living in the United States. In the end, Evans encountered a shift of his own point of view as he discovered many similarities between the Nigerians he met and the Black Americans he knew at home. This shift became the basis for his visual exploration of the topic.
I recently sat down with Spencer at his studio in Dallas where we discussed growing up in Houston, playing college football, understanding one’s identity, code switching and challenging preconceptions.