It’s been a chaotic week for not only me, I guess. Some chaos at the Oscars as well—but more about that later. As I am relocating to Nebraska, the boxes are piling up, my kitchen is a mess (and I’m extremely unhappy with my messy kitchen!), and Truman, my cat, is loving the unfilled boxes lying around. Another thing I have discovered is when my brain is a bit chaotic, my house reflects it. So there you have it, another big confession. I try to decorate my home in such a manner as to create peace. When my home is calming (which it isn’t at this point) then it’s easier for me to focus and write. Three weeks until the moving truck is here, so I must live with the mess a little longer but will try to focus more on writing and ignore the unpacked boxes. Writing eases my anxiety, so obviously I need to write more often!
EVERYONE is talking about Will Smith, Chris Rock, and Jada Pinkett Smith this morning. Most people’s comments are missing the point—which to me is this: a Black woman struggling with an auto-immune disease must not be joked about. NO person, no matter their color or gender, must be joked about when it comes to disease or disability. It was a tasteless joke and reminiscent of DJT mocking a disabled person at one of his political rallies. We’re all in this together. It is NOT okay to make jokes at peoples' expense, especially BIPOC women! As females, we are often the butt of men's jokes. I'm so tired of it, as are all women. The violence against women, especially BIPOC women, is both physical and verbal. PLEASE, PLEASE STOP.
Some commenters are making this a race issue. I am a white woman commenting on a circumstance that happened on national TV, that’s true. And it happened between Black entertainers. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are extremely talented in their field of acting. And Chris Rock has been admired for his comedy. When a spouse/partner defends his spouse/partner’s honor, it’s best not to do it violently. But the punch happened, and Will Smith later apologized. BUT WHAT ABOUT CHRIS ROCK? Was there an apology to Jada Pinkett Smith from him for his crass joke? NOT YET. And that’s my point! Perhaps by the time you read this an apology to Jada will be given—I surely hope so. Chris Rock needs to apologize to both Jada and Will, in my humble opinion. Chris Rock stepped over the line of good taste.
GUTSY WOMAN: Faith Ringgold
“Art is a form of experience of the person, the place, the history of the people, and as black people, we are different. We hail from Africa to America, so the culture is mixed, from the African to the American.”
Faith Ringgold is an American painter, feminist, activist, mixed media sculptor, writer, author and performance artist. Best known for her narrative quilts, Who's Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (her first—1983) depicts Aunt Jemima as a matriarch restaurateur instead of the “enslaved Mammy archetype” we all recognize. In essence, she fictionally revises "the most maligned black female stereotype" putting words beside pictures on a quilt. Extraordinary! She is professor emeritus at University of California, San Diego, and the recipient of over 80 awards—including 23 Doctor of Fine Art degrees!
Born in Harlem, Faith Will Jones (1930- ) is the youngest child of Andrew Louis Jones and Willi Posey Jones. Her mother was a fashion designer and her father worked different jobs and excelled at storytelling. They raised Faith to be creative. Her childhood home in Harlem was surrounded by a thriving art scene. Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington lived just around the corner. (Can you imagine?) But during her childhood, Faith experienced racism, sexism, and segregation. Turns out she would deal with those issues every day of her life.
Faith grew up with chronic asthma. As a result, she explored different kinds of visual art. Her mother also taught her how to sew and be creative with fabric. Despite growing up during the Great Depression, she was greatly affected by the people, poetry and music of the Harlem Renaissance. A desire to major in Art at City College of New York was squashed because the school only allowed certain majors for women! She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Art education in 1955 and began teaching in the New York’s public school system. Earning her master’s degree four years later, she traveled to Europe with her mother and two daughters. Faith would, in later years, travel to West Africa where again, she would be greatly influenced by their art—mask making, sculpting, and doll painting.
Faith began her painting career during the 1950s with her artwork focusing on the racism that she grew up with. And though her art gained attention and some support, sales were slow. She painted her first political collection in 1963—named the American People Series. Depicting her feelings about the Civil Rights protests, Faith skillfully portrayed reality.
In the 1970s, a trip to Amsterdam with a visit to the Rijksmuseum turned Faith toward quilting. Returning home, a new painting series developed—The Slave Rape Series. Collaborating with her mother, the first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, was born in 1980. Faith was taught how to quilt in the African-American tradition in the 50s by her grandmother, who had learned it from her own enslaved mother, Susie Shannon. Faith quilted her stories to be heard because, at the time, no one would publish her autobiography. So she made her quilts both artistic and autobiographical. When her memoir was finally published in 1995, We Flew Over the Bridge, tells how, in the ‘70s, her career “started with a bang and ended with a whimper.” Sadly, the art world wasted many years not recognizing Faith’s creations.
During the 70s, Faith also began sculpting, creating costumed masks and soft sculptures. She collaborated again with her mother for the Witch Mask Series and went on to create the Family of Woman Mask Series.
Faith never lost sight of who she was making art for. Her pieces are “very much coming from a Black womanist perspective, as opposed to a reactionary viewpoint,” artist Tschabalala Self feels. “Her works strongly exist within this aesthetic of Black American storytelling, and for the edification of that community, not from a didactic place of making work or explaining Black life to a non-Black audience".
In the 70s, Black artists, and especially Black female artists, were being left out of many important art exhibitions. Her activism (protests) led to an arrest in November of 1970. Many protests eventually resulted in Faith co-founding the National Black Feminist Organization (1974). She also co-founded the Coast-to-Coast National Women Artists of Color Projects in 1988. Finally Black artists, more importantly Black female artists, were given a place to show their creations.
Faith once explained Black representation in art this way, "When I was in elementary school I used to see reproductions of Horace Pippin’s 1942 painting called John Brown Going to His Hanging in my textbooks. I didn't know Pippin was a black person. No one ever told me that. I was much, much older before I found out that there was at least one black artist in my history books. Only one. Now that didn't help me. That wasn't good enough for me. How come I didn't have that source of power? It is important. That's why I am a black artist. It is exactly why I say who I am."
Faith currently resides with her husband in New Jersey. Since 1992, she has lived and maintained a steady studio practice there. The “New Museum” of New York City will host a sweeping retrospective of Faith’s artwork this year (2022). It will be the first display of her artwork in New York City since 1998! The gap of those years shows the reception and marginalization of Faith Ringgold’s work.
Did you know?
1.) An elementary and middle school in Hayward, California is named after her.
2.) Faith has written and illustrated 17 children’s books.
3.) She was given the Caldecott medal in 1992 for the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children
4.) She was awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in 2000.
ME AND WHITE SUPREMACY: How to recognize Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla F. Saad
In January, I purchased the book Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. Man, oh man, did I learn a lot! As I worked through each page, answering the questions at the end of the chapters, it made me realize the depth of white supremacy in our culture, and in me. I was one of those who always said, “I’m not a racist, I have Black friends.” Well, let me tell you-all, reading Me and White Supremacy opened up my mind and my heart to what BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) endure. The book helped me grasp how POC view “white (privileged)” actions, words, laws, hair, and other things we (whites/privileged) take for granted. The book punched me in the gut at times! Please read this book if you are Caucasian or white European. It is simply a MUST READ.
Okay, dear ones, this is it for today.
love and light-Rosemary