“I feel like I’m a pet—like here’s my pet black friend,” ayo joked. While attending a predominantly white high school in Portland, she was subject to a variety of different racial comments and slanders. She said that she would be the only black person within her group of friends and felt exploited every time they went out. In response to her friends treating her as a pet, she made art that reflected how she felt. One example of her artistic expression that she described and showed was the experience shared by a lot of African-Americans have had been asked by others if they could touch their hair. As a result, she showcased a cutting of her hair in her art piece entitled “Petting Zoo,” allowing people to touch the lock.
ayo expressed, “art should make you think and feel. It doesn’t have to match your couch.” She proclaims that’s “my motto.” The artist has “grown to live by that” and she showed examples of her art work highlighting this motto and her perspective.
ayo views the world as something we can fix to make better with time. She defined Americans as people who say that “we want you to join in this world but we don’t want you to join in.” She noted that sometimes America deceives us into thinking that everything is equal. Ayo stated, “We’ve pigeon-holed people of color. That’s the world we’ve created.” She said that Americans haven’t moved much in regard to our level of understanding about racism, “we have just graduated from a third grade level to a fifth grade level.
”At the peak of ayo’s career, she created a a website entitled “Rent-a-Negro.com.” The site took the cyber-world by storm since at the time there were “only three people playing with race on the Internet, ayo noted. She went on to observe that the internet is a “very interesting place to play with satire.” On the site, she offered things such as dance lessons, compare your skin tone, and “you’re so” comments for use. Even though the website has been deactivated ayo referred to the experience as “changing her career” and “painting the chronicles of her life story.”
ayo went on to discuss how she spent years not knowing what was wrong with her physically. She found that she continued to get very ill because “I couldn’t just be myself.” ayo stated, “While being in this business, you have to have three or four jobs.” This pace became very tiring and it started to affect her psychological mind-set. She started noticing that “people were looking at the content of my work versus the quality of my work.” She began to question if the “race girl” was all America knew her as.
ayo wants to be known as “an artist who appreciates the rights of her culture” rather than simply “the woman behind all those racial issues.”
February 20, 2014