Category Storytelling

In Conversation With Troydel Wallace

Art is a powerful tool of expression. The hopes we have in the past can shape our futures. The ability to create something new or better depends on our ability to imagine it. These ideas and the prompt of what it means to dream while Black are at the core of Union Station’s art exhibit, Black Dreams and Aspirations, sponsored by TD, co-curated in partnership with MakeRoom Inc.

We were delighted to speak with Troydel Wallace, one of the artists for the exhibit, about what Black Dreams and Aspirations means to him. His featured artwork, entitled Generational Melody, was inspired by his personal quest to illuminate the intrinsic value of blackness in Western culture, with gold-style artwork as a poignant metaphor for worth, aspirations, and growth. Visual elements depict a black woman playing a plant-made violin, symbolizing music passing through generations—a representation of a collective imagination.

What was the inspiration behind your art showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit?

My objective from the start was to always create art to represent the African diaspora in the best way possible. For me, I’ve seen representations in the past, but it’s followed a certain narrative. I want my artwork to be more fantasy-forward; to create a futuristic fantasy experience that people can escape into.

My inspiration specifically for Generational Melody is that there’s an invisible thread which connects us past, present, and future, as a people. I say this regarding growing up in a post-colonial Africa – there’s certain things that we carry from Western culture that we are not aware of. We’re not sure where these practices and cultural norms come from, but you can see the connection when you go to West Africa – especially with the architecture, food and how we socialize. Even though we were disconnected from that land, there is still a meta-physical connection. With my artwork, I wanted to convey an idea that this enriched culture is like a symphony – a music which resonates through time and space.

What message or emotion do you hope viewers take away from experiencing your artwork?

I leave the emotion to the viewer. Everyone has a different reaction to art, and I can’t dictate how someone feels with it. But hopefully they get a sense of pride and appreciate in oneself, specifically for my people. Growing up, Black people were not always represented in the best light, so as an artist I wanted to contribute to a positive feeling. When people look at the work, I wanted people to feel joy and pride in themselves.

I use the colour gold as a metaphor for value and worth, and gold is represented as being first place. I intertwine this with my obsession with futurism and fantasy-fiction, representing what I want to bring into this world.

What inspired you to become an artist and how does your identity influence your work?

As a child I was always drawing, partly because I was fascinated by fantasy and fiction. That stimulated my creativity. I can’t remember when I wasn’t not drawing. I became very good at it. I actually got commissioned as a child to draw diagrams for my teachers! So, I started thinking about how I could make a living out of drawing.

I had an aunt who did art as well, who created a lot of 3D sculptures, which blew my mind as a child. This also stimulated a lot of creative growth in me.

Do you think that art has the power to inspire change in society?

Art has always been the driving force to inspire change in society. If you study art history, you realize art was an integral part of the renaissance movement. It played a very important role in political conversations. Art has been viewed as controversy – a medium to speak on topics that people feel uncomfortable talking about. Art always stimulates conversations and forms new movements.

For me, I think that without art there will never be significant cultural changes, because we are influenced by art in every way. Movies, music – it stimulated and influences how we think and act. If you remove art from society, you will see an incredibly different kind of environment.

Thank you, Troydel, for taking the time to speak with us about your artwork showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit. You can find Troydel’s art in the West Wing of Union Station from now until August. Stop by today to experience it yourself.

Click here for more information about Union’s Black History Month exhibit.