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Friday, January 16, 2015

When Storytellers Fill Wells

The writers’ block, or more universally, the creative’s block is emotionally linked to emptiness. Years ago, I worked as education coordinator for The Society of Contemporary Crafts. The atmosphere within this institution supported individual artistic growth and expansion. While there, I was introduced to The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way can be an extremely difficult book to read and follow because in order to complete the book with integrity, Cameron requires digging into uncomfortable places, those places where self-indulgent pain resides.

Sunday, I visited Storytellers: Truth be Told! presented by The Women of Visions, Inc. The work in this exhibition exposes self-indulgent pain and replaces those old hurts with memory and remedy (how we prevent these atrocities from happening again) and celebration (the requirement of cultural worth.)

Amiri Baraka
(ultrachrome ink, acrylic paint)
Elizabeth Asche Douglas
What I discovered over the years and was reminded of through Storytellers, is that at some point, we learn from our pain, forgive the pain bringers, and see our way into healthy futures. Or, we use pain as comfortable quilts, wrap up in them and scream, without remedy, at the world. This is a hard concept. I think two things are true:
  1. People who bring pain deserve screams, shouts and punishment.
  2. Art requires that artists gradually gravitate to the space of individual healing so that our art defines those tremendous journeys. 

As Elizabeth Asche Douglas writes in her Baraka statement: "storytellers. . .the observers. . .the eyes. . ."

If, as artists, we can express suffering, and leave the blanket of victim-hood behind,
Black Moss/Hainted Trees (detail)
". . .trees. . .beauty and
 substance [and] atrocities."
Laverne Kemp
our art will glow and thrive. People who bring pain deserve screams, shouts and punishment. People who are suffering do not. Non-victim oriented artists understand, commiserate, bathe wounds, teach and heal.

Among many, one of the most trying exercises Cameron insists on in The Artist’s Way is the ritual of free writing, three pages every morning before leaving the bed. Another ritual is filling the well. We are spent, empty, cranky, screaming at the world. The activity of taking a solo artist date, the brave thing of indulging ourselves translates into holy sacrament. Here is one way to love ourselves, nurture ourselves, fill our creative, emotional, psychological and intellectual wells – the simple act of visiting an art gallery, taking in a movie, sitting in a park – something that removes us from the mundane and the requirement to fix things for everyone. The power we receive from this activity, however, is birthed only through the bravery of doing it alone and often.

My post Bulldoze the Wall is a commentary on writers’ block. This post celebrates the artist date and my recent experience of filling the well by visiting Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the work of Women of Visions, through Storytellers: Truth be Told! 

Storytellers, a mixed media exhibition curated by noted painter/printmaker, Ann Tanksley, and Samuel W. Black of the Heinz History Center and president of The African American Museum Association, focuses on storytellers,
 “. . .visualized through modern eyes and…the art of [contemporary] women from [the] African Diaspora. . .”

As it should be, Storytellers opens with three Sandra German (1949-2014) quilts. Known by many artistic titles, I continue to be inspired by Sandra’s work through her Queenship in fabric and free motion quilting.
Sandra German Quilt (detail)

Wendy Kendrick’s Big Mama’s Shadow (mixed media) solidifies the notion that we are bound and advance only by “connecting one generation to the next.”
Big Mama's Shadow
Wendy Kendrick

Leslie Ansley gives us La Vie En Rose (oil on wood panel) to “…capture the innocence and beauty of youth [while coming] to grips with its fading reality.”
La Vie En Rose
Leslie Ansley

The Offering
Shelita Birchett Benash
The Offering by Shelita Birchett Benash suggests remedy through hands-on manipulation of feelings, “…meditation and active prayer…totem…[and the practicing of] creativity as a daily sacred act.” 

Wind Mask
Altha Pittrell

While Altha Pittrell's Wind Mask (earthenware) speaks to ". . .perplexing perfection [and] deja abstraction." 

The contemporary woman whose ancestry is rooted in the African Diaspora authenticates the past, says yes, it indeed happened. She continues to empathize, console, bathe wounds, teach, and by her instruction, heal those who follow her. Monique Luck defines this contemporary woman in Autumn Ruby (mixed media) as “…seasoned and passionate, her wisdom abounds."
Autumn Ruby
Monique Luck

Mah Rhythms (detail)
Nora Musu
What of secrets? How do we build without interruption? Few traditions remain viable without the inclusion of mystery and silence. Nora Musu’s Mah Rhythms (mixed media) allows her work to shout in ways that remain hushed and mysterious though the Mah culture’s initiation rites of young girls.
Mah Rhythms
Nora Musu

Also showing at PCA is Construct, by The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Inc. Curated by Sandra Jane Heard, Construct speaks to "the massing of materials . . .deconstruction and removal."

Women of Visions member, Mayota Hill, has a piece in this exhibition as well: Peace Rocket Blast-Off (fiber, rag rug, lace, buttons, fringe, ribbon, beads, rope, plastic bracelets).
Peace Rocket Blast-Off
Mayota Hill

Visit Storytellers: Truth be Told! Pittsburgh Center for the Arts through February 1, 2015.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bulldoze the Wall

Diary of a Story Collection in Progress

Journal Entry #14

Your last entry was Bone Magic, May 17, 2014.

Why so long?
You know very well. . .why so long.

The Wall

: The invisible hard thing that prevents writers from writing.


: Accepted into a low-residency MFA program. You are insecure, label yourself outsider - I don't have an undergrad degree. You persevere because now you think you will learn how to write fiction. You don't. A classmate suggests you attend a poetry seminar. You do. You find voice. You graduate. You do not know how to write fiction. After graduation, you study poetry, teach yourself, excel, try to ignore the nagging sensation of your fictional characters, still waiting behind the wings, and your mentor, Michael Kimble, who said: go to those dark places, Cathleen, this is the job of the writer.

The Wall

: The invisible hard thing preventing you from journaling in this Diary, the invisible hard thing preventing you from writing 6 No.


: Not dark places. For you the places are shadowy. There, among those shadows is your avoidance. Shadows. Dips. Danger. Not emotional conflict. That is tidy drama. You want to explore the container that lurks below tidy. There, in those shadowy mind places even your characters deny exist.

Inspiration, The Wall Bulldozer

: Your recent marathon of The HBO series, True Detective, created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. You were hooked from the first scene.

Now, remember that piece of advice from (who, can't remember) that said, often inspiration comes by way of different, meaning different from what you are writing? Different place, characters, diction, education, culture, etc. Your inspiration from True Detective was dense language and shadowy characters that did not fit Hollywood stereotypical norms and, yes, more dense language.

We won't throw the baby out with the bath water, but there were a few moments when Pizzolatto's writing interrupted your suspended disbelief. He planted accusatory seeds, hinted that Vodou and Santeria were culprits. In those moments, you did not enjoy Pizzolatto's writing, did not feel as if you were observing real events, as Vodou and Santeria have nothing to do with murder.

Those few moments aside, Pizzolatto's writing whet your writing appetite, reinvigorated your anchor, your touchstone, the thing that keeps you grounded in character development, that keeps you true to the language and nuance of your characters, and that is, you have the right to write characters based on the characters and not one thing else.

Remember back in the 80's when Luther recorded Never Too Much? The black community exploded with excitement, "Who's that?" The recording was authentic. Luther remembered everything. He was the complete package: lyricist, voice, instrumentation, and badass bass. You must aim for Luther. It does not matter if people fail to understand meaning. You didn't understand Shakespeare until your father interpreted King Lear for you. Shakespeare did not consider making his language easier so that outsiders might understand, or the possibility that one day in the far future, King Lear might be on your required reading list.

Remember the female Ph.D who mentored you for a semester while you studied for the MFA, the one who corrected the speech of your character, Mammy? Without realizing it, the mentor began your self-confidence building. How dare she tell you that Mammy's grammar was incorrect? You stood up, protected Mammy: Nothing about how Mammy expresses herself is wrong. You are incorrect for teaching that all characters must speak like you. 

And what of form? You must embrace the facts. This collection, packaged as connected stories, is also being constructed from listening and responding to how characters want their stories to look and feel. The characters are nonlinear, their stories come to you as nonlinear narratives. This is what the final project must embrace:

nonlinear (non·lin·e·ar):
  1. not denoting, involving, or arranged in a straight line
  2. designating or involving an equation whose terms are not of the first degree. (mathematics)
  3. involving a lack of linearity between two related qualities such as input and output. (physics)
  4. involving measurement in more than one dimension. (mathematics)

Your mantra going forward:
  1. My stream-of-consciousness produces nonlinear narratives.
  2. My stream-of-consciousness produces nonlinear narratives.
  3. My stream-of-consciousness produces nonlinear narratives.

6 No

Dear Diary:
Linda Linda speaks existentially, questions her new, her in-between and her fading old. Specifics come from other characters. Linda Linda is above the action, not better than, but hovering, re-living. She is selecting significance, intent, and worth. In the Linda Linda sections, the environment establishes the parallel existence of Linda, Mama Beautiful, Linda Linda, and Beautiful. We will know these four characters best through the actions of the others.

I'm not sure how to do this.
I am going to try.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New In 2015

Made some changes. Except for this Blog, everything about me is now in one convenient location.

Artist Statement:

All of my work is inspired by the mysterious relationship among God, the human trek toward destiny, and nature. Here, in my work and the manipulation of material and form, is where I find the importance of truth and deception. I enjoy pushing boundaries within techniques such as hand painting cloth, hand and machine embroidery, decoupage, bead embroidery, redwork, stumpwork, peyote, hand and machine quilting, felting, crochet, and papier-mâché. The fun begins when more than one technique visits within a piece to create cohesion and chaos, straight and crooked, as is the way of our journey into enlightenment.

Visit my Shops in the Mystery Mansion Mall.

ileke, beaded bags, and more. . .
Ileke for Osun

individual readings, gatherings, classes

verb: the ability to make things change
noun: the person who recognizes innate abilities, and makes things change

cauldrons, mortars & pestle, essential oils, and more
3 inch iron cauldron

Search for a definition of Hoodoo. The results will be many and varied.

artist-made books
The Green Sampler

sculpture, dolls, quilts
Miss Pod Spool & Her Magic Shack
Love in the Afternoon

Visit also:
  • The Writers' Press. The submission period for the 2015 Poetry Chapbook Competition is now open (January - May 30, 2015). I look forward to reading your work.
  • Blogging Tarot: Mainly Tarot, however, this Blog reflects Spirit's allowance for latitude in our mystical journeys, the acceptance of our full armor.
  • Gallery: A journey through my visual art over the years.
  • Teaching: A sampling of my past long-term artist residencies: Quilting and Spirit Dolls
  • The Writers' Press Book Store: Soon to offer winning manuscripts from our writing contests and upcoming anthology compilations.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015

Here we are, another year.

Thank you to everyone who followed this blog, and shared its information over the years.

May 2015 bring each of you and your families

  • an expanded relationship with God in the space of how God reveals to you
  • peace
  • joy
  • prosperity
  • a clean organized life
  • a clean organized comfortable living space
  • love
  • passion
  • loyal relationships
  • truth
  • healing
  • a family who loves you, even though they may not understand you
  • a family to love, even though you may not understand them
  • giggles
  • insight
  • education
  • travel
  • good, healthy food
  • fun
  • laughter
  • tears of illumination
  • smiles
  • good music with real instruments and fantastic singers with range and poetic lyrics
  • literature that expands your mind
  • good dirt for good gardens
  • sunshine and rain
  • a nice cup to drink your coffee or tea or hot chocolate
  • comfortable shoes
  • sexy, stylish shoes
  • nice clothes
  • bubble baths
  • money
  • transportation
  • vacations
  • outstanding views from your windows

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hulk/Demon, The American State of Mind -- Part Two

An interesting article, written by Alex Zimmerman, appeared in City Paper (12/03 - 12/10/2014) this week. In the article, Zimmerman exposes important information about the trial Jordan Miles vs The City of Pittsburgh; social media privacy rights, and The City of Pittsburgh's hiring of Corporate Security and Investigations, (CSI).

Study the following images:

Image One, Jordan Miles
Image Two

Image Three
Image Four

  • The first image shows Jordan Miles as a productive student attending Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School. 
  • The second image shows Jordan after his encounter with Pittsburgh police. 
  • The third image shows Jordan and his father having fun, flexing their muscles. 
  • The fourth image shows a young man named Jordan Miles posing for a picture.

The sinister element of Images Three and Four, is that the images were downloaded from Jordan's facebook page by CSI. The images were then used in Jordan Miles vs The City of Pittsburgh as Exhibit 34C and Exhibit 34A, to show Jordan's strength and vigor, his hulk-like power, to maintain that like Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Pittsburgh police officers, Ewing, Saldutte and Sisak, felt like five-year-olds "holding onto Hulk Hogan." 

Additionally, Image Four shows nothing wrong, just a young man posing for a picture. But, the interpretation is that this is the image come to be known as one thing for black boys, and something else for white boys. This is the distortion; the trick, the American state of mind pulled from the warped imaginations of Puppeteers and Old Pirates.

Here's my question. Should we teach ourselves and our children to think like rogue police officers and to anticipate the antics of the American justice system? Should we create preemptive strikes, review the images on our facebook pages and the images on the facebook pages of our children, make sure that none of the images can be misconstrued as "thuggish," or Hulk-like?

There's so much talk on the internet, so many opinions. I'm writing this. These are my opinions. But I wonder, are we concerning ourselves with diversion, distractions, objects that make us turn away from our purpose of protecting our children? 

On the other hand, it is important to know the identities of the detractors, like Charles Barkley who said: 
"We have to be really careful with the cops, man, because if it wasn't for the cops we'd be living in the Wild Wild West. . . ."

Iggy Azalea

Or this little girl, Iggy Azalea, who tweeted:
"Im the new queen of rap. Get OVER yourselfs niggers. im killin rappers like Ferguson."

People like Barkley and Azalea are also products of Puppeteers and Old Pirates, who have granted permission to deny the abuse of power, who have granted permission to appropriate, distort and control.

The Puppeteers and Old Pirates created the word nigger and made it a household word. Azalea, so confident in her fantasy, does not mince words, does not pretty nigger up with pronunciations like nigga. Azalea, armed with her permission to appropriate, distort and control, calls who she thinks are niggers, nigger because of the power of her appropriation, the power of her systematic pedestal, and because nigger froths from the mouths of the people the word was created to disavowal, repudiate, and deny.

Our responsibility is to protect children. All children, because white children unchecked become the future, in the form of Officer Wilson, Ewing, Saldutte, Sisak, et. al.

Should we begin today?
  • Sit with the children, review every social media site photo? 
  • Show the children how photographs can be misconstrued by police and juries as demonic and hulk-like?
  • Show the children images of The Puppeteer and The Old Pirate; teach the children how warped imaginations frame our future? 
  • Instruct the children on how the personas, lyrics, and visual art of some modern poets and artists distort and disrespect our heritage and lineage?

This might be Sankofa -- the moment we return to our past and retrieve that which we have lost.

My Mammy Bertha, born a slave in the early 1800's, said, "Too much importance put on the slave owner. Put the importance on the people who suffer."

My Great Grandma, Margaret, born a slave in 1854, said, "Anything you can imagine happened in that slave time."

Kara Walker, sugar sculpture,
Domino Refinery
Imagine Mammy's life on some sugar plantation, her having to disrobe in secret and in public.

Is it time to look back, retrieve that which was lost, to never leave Mammy vulnerable, exposed and rejected, so that our children do not experience the same vulnerability?

Is this a movement?

Let us take our own intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical cloths -- cover, respect, defend, love, pet, revere, guard, shield, adore, care for, support, and represent Mammy, so that our children experience the same. 

This is not a movement that will be led by political leaders. This is a movement that will be led by the people. So, let us begin again.
--Ziggy Marley, 2011

Hulk Demon, The American State of Mind, Part One