I make work that is self-structured. I paint a scene that gives my account, sometimes through fable, sometimes through fact. I use metaphors and symbols – not as some perverse puzzle that I seek pleasure in posing – but to quietly breed something unexpected. My most recent paintings are manufactured through trials and tickles that frame up my personalized street-smarts codex (clout, grind, squid-inking, impotence, layaway, racket…). Each of these is a keystone, which serves as a perverse umbrella that presides over the painting. Side components support the main star(s) through somewhat common associations. The multiples (arrowheads, coins) represent mobilization. They fly away or towards their targets in overactive arches. They are alive, but are essentially agents for the uses of others. The second fiddles (millipedes, figure on a hook) sit on guard, tracing those movements. They are gestures, not bold enough to act, but ultimately more potent as figures for change, or icons.

The starring roles are played by boogers. There were booger dances once. Crashing down upon every social gathering the tsu’nigadu’li, or ‘many persons’ faces covered over,’ would force vigilance upon their tribe through choreographed chaos. The existence of this ritual was new information to me, but the intent was something that I have always promoted within myself. I welcome the crow that strikes at me at the moment of peak happiness. I leave my windows open for it because I do not want to get too comfortable; it is prudent to stay mindful. My Cherokee ancestors employed these dancers to don their masks and hassle the tribe as a reminder of impending distresses. I revere the booger masks in my paintings for the same reason.

It is simultaneously destructive and constructive, an Amor fati. The booger mask is an exemplary emblem of my ideal street-smart model. Each infraction or exaltation enacted by or upon me is a lesson fertile for future use, and for the strengthening of capability muscle (grit). Utilizing each experience gifts another notch to sculpt into an arrowhead, or an imprint to pound into the facade of my own mask. Or, I suppose, a squirt of cad red for my next painting. But ultimately, it is belief in what I already have.

Ranee Henderson