Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. - Rumi

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Honoring Varnette Honeywood

Dixie Peach
Varnette Honeywood

I learned about Varnette Honeywood many years ago when I worked as a docent at the California African American Museum.  She was an African American artist who depicted scenes of everyday living.  She had a masters from USC and taught art to low income students.  One of my favorites of her work is of girls getting their hair pressed (does anyone still do that?).  One of the things that I loved and enjoyed about her work was the different shades of African American peoples.  From the milky light skinned red haired peoples to the deep dark brown peoples with black hair and everyone in the middle – people described as red, honey, chocolate, all represented in her work.  Her work was colorful, light and deep at the same time.  It reminds me of warm summers in Sacramento at my grand parents house, surrounded by relatives and neighbors.  Warm, friendly, homey – even a little country.
I became aware she passed a few days ago when I went internet searching for an anthology of her work.  Hoping by now a book had been published of all her work.  Instead, I learned something else.  And I was upset, even though I didn’t personally know her.  I felt a kinship with her.  I felt like she spoke to me personally with her art.
I honor Varnette Honeywood in the circle of my family.
She did some great work.  I hope she one days receives the world recognition she deserves.

African Women
arcylic on canvas
collection of Houston and Kinshasha Conwill


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poetry - virtue, intoxication, life

No Images

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.

If she could dance
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dish water gives back no images.

     Waring cuney (1906-1976)

Poetry, sweet poetry, it speaks to my soul as colors being added on a canvas,  shapes of clay being moulded,  words forming ideas and imagery.  I love poetry, this one in particular is from a book called Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems) by Nikki Giovanni. 
I like the title and was thus drawn to the book.  It is filled with
poems by some of the greatest African-American poets: Countee Cullen,  Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes,  Claude McKay and many more.  The poets speak of challenges in being of color in this country, the pain, the glory, the humanness of being alive.  The Harlem Renaissance excites me, all of that great writing and art that came out of that period of time.  I would of loved to have lived then. 
What attracts me to poetry is it’s openess to any style or form (haiku’s, stanzas, pentameter, rhyme, rhythm).  There is no wrong way to express an idea. I love spoken word.
Of course making the idea clear is important.  Like any craft it can be worked and reworked to create imagery, symbolism and metaphor that one feels with the heart, sees imaginatively, smells intensely and hears magnificently.  Poetry is like music to me, each word has a meaning and intention and it can make one’s spirit soar to heights of happiness or depths of human despair.  With poetry you know if you like it, the words resonates with you by how you feel about it. 
Baudelaire said it succinctly – Be intoxicated with life – see it in the everyday moments, a beauty, a love, a joy.

Charles Baudelaire
Enivrez-vous (Paris Spleen, 1864)

Il faut être toujours ivre. Tout est là: c'est l'unique question. Pour ne pas sentir l'horrible fardeau du Temps qui brise vos épaules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trêve. 
   Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise. Mais enivrez-vous. 
   Et si quelquefois, sur les marches d'un palais, sur l'herbe verte d'un fossé, dans la solitude morne de votre chambre, vous vous réveillez, l'ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue, demandez au vent, à la vague, à l'étoile, à l'oiseau, à l'horloge, à tout ce qui fuit, à tout ce qui gémit, à tout ce qui roule, à tout ce qui chante, à tout ce qui parle, demandez quelle heure il est et le vent, la vague, l'étoile, l'oiseau, l'horloge, vous répondront: "Il est l'heure de s'enivrer! Pour n'être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps, enivrez-vous; enivrez-vous sans cesse! De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise."

Arthur Symons (1865-1945) translation, as quoted by Eugene O’Neill in Long Day’s Journey into Night:
Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.
            Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.
            And if sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock, of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: "It is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.”
The Kiss
inspired by Rodin
mixed media on canvas panel

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Out of the Comfort Zone - A Colorful Idea

Sunny warm skies
actually cold clear skies,
I am projecting for the summer
February 2011
Palo Alto

It’s hard to believe summer is upon us, warm days and nights.
Summer fruits, cookouts,warm balmy evenings, strolls along the beach.  And of course having that perfect little black dress to wear.  I have been in a quandary about my little black dress status.  All the ones I have now have a hole or are worn.
I started looking around, checking all my usual shopping places for something to catch my eye.  At the same time realizing that I have a plethora of colorful summer dresses that haven’t really had their fair share of wear.  And I began to ponder why do I have all these beautifully colored dresses if I have no intention of wearing them. 
Black has been my uniform forever.  Originally it was a black skirt and white blouse, colored tights, black flats, black coat and pearls.  Forever.  My go to since my twenties.  Same for evening the black dress and a medium black heel, pearls.
 I am comfortable in black.  Black and white, black and khaki, black with a splash of pink or green.  It works for me.
The black is like camaflauge.  It hides all the imperfections, it blends in.   Wearing black is a no brainer, keeps it simple not to mention the slimming effects.
But lately, actually since last summer, I don’t want to blend in, I want to immerse myself in bright oranges and fluorescent pink sand voluptuous reds.  Warm colors, warm colors like tropical sunsets and sunrises.  Warm colors that remind me of foods I like:  juicy sweet mangos, papaya, succulent peaches, plump red cherries and luscious raspberries: don’t know why.  I am just being drawn to those colors.
But, I am afraid to step out of my uniform, my comfort zone.
I am going to give myself a challenge.  No new black summer dress, no wearing black this summer.  It isn’t summer yet, but I am going to try.  Of course this new rule will not apply to the gym attire.

recycled cans, buttons, acrylic on wood

Monday, April 4, 2011

Artful Inspirations

I came across a magazine about blogging, called Artful Blogging.  I had to buy it.  The words alone made me salivate.  The images are sublimely amazing.  Here are the titles to the sections, also enough to stir anyone out of lethargy.

Words that inspire:

Defining my creative self
No expectations
Finding where I fit in
New beginnings & formed bonds
Opening my eyes & fearing less
Where inspiration lives
Enjoying my cheerful tiny spot in a grand universe
Allowing my creative spirit to soar
Documenting, sharing & words of encouragement
Art challenges galore
Where to begin
Finding my style

Ideas with which to begin the journey, ideas to open the heart, the mind, the spirt, ideas to inspire ephiphanies,
and movement.
It can be scary to open up, it can be scary to take a risk, it can be scary to make changes.  It is the one thing that is certain in this world of ours, things change.  It's easier to go with the flow, rather than fight it.  I used to fight it.  Now I surrender with as much grace as I can.
Meditating Mama
acrylic on wood