He made his first sound suit in 1992 by making body wearable art out of twigs that he found at the part, making something valuable out of discards
“It was a very hard year for me because of everything that came out of the Rodney King beating,” he said. “I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man — as someone who was discarded, devalued, viewed as less than.”
As soon as the twig sculpture was finished, he said, he realized that he could wear it as a second skin: “I put it on and jumped around and was just amazed. It made this fabulous rustling sound. And because it was so heavy, I had to stand very erect, and that alone brought the idea of dance back into my head.”
He started off learning how to sew at the Kansas City Art Institute and later, became an Alvin Ailey dancer, “I was always interested in movement,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t want to devote myself exclusively to dance. I wanted to bridge dance and art.” He went on to get a Master’s Degree and later taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The sounds suits have become more elaborate – some made for performance, some for the gallery system, some are durable, some more fragile but all are based on the human body and all are made for some version of dance.