The idea behind flesh-tone series #1 is beautifully simple, yet it addresses a very complex aspect of daily life: how Americans view color and race. How did this project, with its audio component, evolve

I was motivated by the idea of having paint mixed to match my skin. I wanted to see how each paint-mixer's interpretation would vary from the other. I also wanted to see my skin externalized, to be able to look at it outside of me. I live in a predominantly white town, so seeing more of my skin color around me is something I need

People say the most interesting things to me on a daily basis. Every day I wish I were wired with a mic. I didn't know how the paint-mixers would react to me and so I wanted to have them on tape to review. Also I'm using audio in my visual work more and more, and this seemed a natural fit

I used a low-fi cassette recorder because 1) it was what I had, and 2) I think the quality is fantastic. It makes things seem real to me and so much in radio and music is over-produced, too slick. It takes away the feeling of the moment. The cassette recorder makes the work feel exactly like it was in the moment . . . lots of outside noise, distraction, awkwardness. I think it's beautiful

Radio producer Dmae Roberts approached me with the idea of creating a radio doc out of the tape I'd gathered. It was her idea and it made a ton of sense

Why did you keep the tape recorder hidden from the people mixing the paint? Were you ever discovered

No, I was not discovered. In that moment, so much is going on for them. There's this woman standing in front of them making an absurd request, there may be other customers witnessing our exchange, they may be concerned about their job, etc., so there isn't the mental space for them to even consider whether I'm recording them

I kept the tape hidden simply because I didn't want the paint mixers to "perform" for the audio. I wanted them in their natural state and they were each so incredible. Every moment was rich for me, every word, every silence. There's this amazing moment in each of the interactions, when the paint is mixing in the machine. It takes about two minutes, and during this time, the paint mixers turn to me and make small talk. That's where you really get to know them, during the small talk. It was fascinating

After I finished the work I sent a letter to each of the paint mixers thanking them for their work and letting them know I had recorded them and intended to use their voice in a sound work. Each one of them was honored. One said he wanted to bring his mom, another said he was used to the "stage" because he plays in a rock band, another e-mailed me her consent and thanks, still another came to the show and left me a note of congratulations. I feel so honored to have them as collaborators in this work. It's important to note that this is how I see them. Each title of each painting as listed in the show noted who the paint was mixed by. So many artists use subjects or people in their work who are left anonymous. I didn't want to do that with these amazing people who created this art with me

Considering that you work primarily in the visual medium, what draws you to radio

I am the youngest of three children. In my family, that meant that some things were kept from me that the rest of the family knew, so I turned into a professional eavesdropper. As an audio-voyeur it's natural for me to include audio in my art

Plus, I also want art to be an experience, not just something you stand apart from and look at. One of the reasons I love audio is that it requires imagination and dreaming into the work. I enjoy things where you have to participate in order to create the whole picture. That's why I prefer reading plays to fiction -- I like things that allow my mind to dream, create, and innovate

Though I was a listener, I never even wanted to be on public radio until I heard Studio 360 . But when I heard that program, I was really hooked on having radio made about my art. They are pretty responsible for my being in radio at all. I remember sitting in my living room, listening to the show and thinking "I'm gonna be on that one day.

There's a sensual quality on The Paint Mixers that's rarely heard on public radio. Did hitting just the right tone require very careful writing/editing

The visual work has a sensuality that is inescapable. Anytime you ask someone to touch your skin in such an intimate way, you have created a connection of the senses with them. It becomes personal, a private moment executed in the public sphere and then documented. All of these things inform the quality and tone of the work

However, the reason the tone of the radio work is so unique for public radio is that it was not scripted for radio at all. The narrative part of the work came directly from the journal I kept after each interaction with the paint mixers. I sat down at my computer and listened to the tape I had of them. I relived the experience and wrote as I was listening. I wanted to honor them as well as explore the reactions I had to them. They were all very personal and dear to me, so this is another reason the narrative comes across so sensually. The bit heard in the radio work is only a small portion of what was contained in the journal. Dmae Roberts (the co-producer) and I edited it as to keep the intimate quality, facts, and nuance. It was a challenge to shorten it so much. Peter Clowney and David Krasnow from Studio 360 helped us to sculpt the text and the tone of the work. They allowed me to be both artist and writer; Dmae, producer, and all of us as editors. It was a lot of collaboration, and well worth it. We all wanted to bring out the complexity of the piece, as well as the playfulness and the sexual aspects. This wasn't always easy, the text we had was really long, and so the choices were hard ones to make. In the end, we were all really excited about the final mix

In the gallery show, I transcribed my journal by hand into a diary that people could read in the flesh-toned room (a room painted entirely the color of my left arm.) People had to sit down and become close to the diary and interact with a gingerly handwritten text. It was voyeuristic as well as intimate, both qualities that fascinate me

How did people respond to flesh-tone series #1: skinned, the gallery show

Most of my work displays racism. This deconstructed and displayed my body which caused people to have visceral reactions to a wide range of issues: race, gender, sexuality, shade, color, texture, abstraction, and the deconstruction/reconstruction of the black female body

It also allowed people the opportunity to touch my skin color . . . so it offered them a performative choice on the spot in the gallery and left them to analyze their actions. What did it mean if they touched the walls? What did it mean if they didn't

Last fall, when you were in Chicago for the Third Coast Festival conference, you spent time on Michigan Avenue asking people to donate money for slavery reparations. How will you represent that experience -- through an installation or audio piece? Can you give us a little preview

That work is called "Living Flag" and it is a street performance where I panhandle for reparations on the streets of various cities across the United States. I accept payments from white people and pay them out on the spot to black people. This past fall I did the work in Chicago, Boston, Portland, and New York. The work is documented in video and photographs. We also collected audio at each site which will be made into a radio work, also produced by Dmae Roberts, to be released this year. I may also sample some audio for a stage performance related to that work but that's way in the future.