My "Once Removed" series (a sequel to my earlier series “Ain't I a Woman”) explores the stories of women who were only generations removed from the bonds of slavery, when millions of African-American former slaves fled the South in search of a better life for themselves and their descendants. With their first taste of freedom, they headed north and west in a “Great Migration” that changed the face of America forever. Those who critique attempts at teaching history's truth have suggested that white children might experience shame when confronted with lessons on systemic racism. But for me, shame comes from not knowing the truth and in having to unlearn a history that has taught less than the whole story. To teach a more complete history is to bring back the voices of those who have been intentionally silenced. The time is now to lift every voice.
Using 100 year old historical portraits which often feel strikingly modern, along with period documents, textures from my drawing and paintings, layered with pages from a 1919 antique book, "The Trees of Pennsylvania," I hope to create images that give voice to stories too long silent and restore dignity to women striving to escape their chains, both literal and figurative. I am creating select pieces from this series as mixed media collage works finished in cold wax to further explore the layering of time and memory as these women went on to create wide-growing family trees, putting down roots in fertile new lands.
Titles in this series are from the poems of Maya Angelou-
"Still I Rise"
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.