Thursday, October 16, 2008

Artist Sabrina Zarco

Pictured - Sabrina Zarco (right) with Project Runway finalist Korto Momolu; the fiber arts of Sabrina Zarco.
Please check out my online friend Sabrina Zarco (see sidebar "Chicana Creating Art from Chaos"). Sabrina is an amazing artist-educator-quilter/fiber artist out of Little Rock, AR. I stumbled upon her blog over a year ago, and have been spiritually uplifted and educated by her contributions ever since. Sabrina comes from a Chicana/Mexicana heritage and combines her culture and traditions with contemporary imagery. It is always facinating to see how similar we all are despite our different backgrounds while celebrating our diversity. I was particularly blown away by her posted work and words regarding Dia de la Muertos in October and November 2007. Her recognition of the ancestors and iconography was so reminiscent of West African Yoruba culture. Sabrina inspires, educates and uplifts with her art. Love you, Sister!

Some Friends of ours at Jersey City Open Doors, October 4, 2008

Check out the lovely and talented dollmaker, Angela Huggins, at Jersey City Open Doors held at Canco Lofts on October 4, 2008. Also pictured, Senegalese artists Papa Gora Tall and Ibou N'Doye.

Village, Island, City - the Series and Where it Came From

Pictured above: Naima & Child, 15" sitting; Najla, 15" sitting; Hagar & her Daughters, 20", all needlesculpted cloth, paperclay.
I was talking to my sisterfriend, Jalilah, recently about literature produced by Black women that has inspired and moved us over the years. Jalilah is a very talented writer, and she knows the works of the best of them. Who do I love? Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon, Sula, The Bluest Eye, Tar Baby, Beloved, Paradise - on and on), Gloria Naylor (Mama Day) Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls; Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo; Betsey Brown) Alice Walker (The Color Purple, Secrets of My Familiar) and especially Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust - both the film and the novel, which adds entire worlds and dimensions to the film which preceded it). Stories of tribal life, family struggles, rituals, griots, Geechee girls... They take me to another place. They bring me home. I return to them often.

That conversation got me to thinking about a doll and quilt series, Village, Island, City, which would celebrate the lives (work, creativity, family, sisterhood, spirituality) of women in pre-slavery Africa, post-slavery Americas (Georgia & Carolina Sea Islands, the Caribbean, Cuba, Brazil the Blackbelt South, the great migration North) and urban life in the new millennium.

Around the same time that this idea began taking shape, Toni Thomas from the Catfish Friday women's artist collective contacted me about participation in the Newark Open Doors Studio Tour '08. The show, Multiple Me, will feature pieces that the artists have created as part of a series. There really are no coincidences.

I love working in fiber. Sewing for me is spiritual and meditative. Fiber is soft warm comforting elemental primal strong resilient sensuous womb-manlike. It comforts and protects. I imagine the earliest humans walking upright then yearning for something soft and warm to cover themselves. Leaves bark skins – eventually they start weaving elements together into fiber. The women dye it with mud and berries to make it beautiful. Berry red, indigo blue, moss green, saffron yellow. They stitch shells and bone to it for ornamentation.

I also love working with clay for the faces. It's messy like making mud pies. Somehow, I keep making variations of the same face. It is the face of my grandmother. I am always struck by how magestically African she looks.

Children of every race class culture from the beginning of time play with dolls. Sticks shells stones wood pinecones leaves. Cornhusks with potato sack dresses and buttons for eyes. Yarn and calico. Dolls are totem talisman secretkeeper; joyous healing and iconic. They are the definitive plaything of childhood, the beginnings of imagination.

My encounters with the women artists of Catfish Friday have been mind expanding and life changing. They have encouraged me to see myself as an artist and story teller, and to realize that the work has value outside of me. Everybody is moved by the dolls on a primal level, which was surprising and extremely gratifying. One sister, an accomplished sculptor, came up to me at the July show and whispered that she had 5 brothers growing up, and never owned a doll. We were both near tears, understanding that as grown women, we have to give ourselves the same permission to play and imagine as we command ourselves to work and responsibility. (Interestingly, I find that male artists always want to challenge and critique and question the artistic choices I make - "why did you use this line?", "why is her stomache so big and her butt so small?" Stuff like that. Men tend to value their work and worth, intrinsically. They will put a crazy-high price on what they do, sometimes even if its not good. We women tend to value everything and everyone else first - then maybe ourselves last if at all. I ain't mad at the brothers, though. There is a lesson in this somewhere. But I really enjoy working with women artists. Their critique tends to be kinder, gentler and non-competitive, which suits me. The only competition that matters is your competition with self.

I still play with dolls. I hope I can encourage other women to play with dolls, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catfish Friday Women's Artist Collective at Newark Open Doors '08, October 20-30

Catfish Friday logo courtesy Toni Thomas

Catfish Friday, a Newark-based Woman's Art Collective, announces their participation in the Newark Arts Council's 2008 Open Doors Tour with an exhibit entitled, Multiple Me.
Multiple Me is an exhibition that features the works of some notable female artist working within a series. The series format is a typical way many artists work. It builds a collection, establishes a signature style, and creates the potential for multiple sales. Many artists use it for those reasons. Likewise, there are those who use it like the artists in this exhibit to develop an idea, get into the flow, or work a style until it is exhausted. Like variations on a theme, the works in this exhibit explore the possibilities. Whether created around a style, a medium or a theme the selections represent the outcome of what has compelled the artists to explore their multiplicity of options. These variable perspectives give the viewer a minute insight into how an artist may engage their work until they are satisfied, and sometimes not.
Featured artists are: Janice Anderson, Maggie Brown, Sadee Brathwaite, Gladys Grauer, Kathleen Heron, Diana Jensen, Ade Tugbiyele Sedita, Toni Thomas, Joya Thompson and Bisa Washington.

Multiple Me
Gallery: Space 972 located at 972 Broad Street
(next door to the Federal Building in downtown Newark)
Exhibit dates: October 20 through October 30, 2008
Hours: Tues - Saturday from 4-7 PM and by appointment
An artist reception will be held on Saturday October 25 from 7 - 11:00 PM
Featured at the reception willbe the literary voices of Catfish Friday poets:
Mary Baldwin, Elaine Lee, Esther Morales and Lebrashawn Turman
with a musical performance from vocalist SuMiya Dabney
For more information please call Toni Thomas @ 973-699-3269
The gallery and exhibit will be open during the entire Open Doors Weekend.
Special thanks to Blanche & Larry Silver, Ujima Majied & Newark Arts Council for making this exhibit possible.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hajjah Aishatou

One of the techniques we learned at Day with Dolls 2008 was the "Hang Your Imagination" Doll, so named because she began her life as a common coathanger, stapled to a wood base! I was able to finish my doll a week later, while visiting the new Soulful Doll Club in Jersey City. But it took a while longer for her to reveal her name to me. She looks quite a bit like my grandmother, Gertrude James. Ultimately, she "told" me her name is Hajjah Aishatou, a very nice Senegalese lady (after my beloved sister-in-law).


I submitted this doll for inclusion in a gallery show, Surprise! First Annual Miniworks Exhibit at Unison Gallery, New Paltz, New York, October 3-28. She is 4", cloth, paperclay, acrylic and beads. The call was for miniature art works, any medium, no larger than 5" x 5" x 5".

Meditation Doll #1

10" cloth, paperclay, acrylic.

Everything I Know about Dollmaking, I Learned at Day with Dolls

Gwen Jackson and 3D Doll Club, demonstrating techniques. Dolls on display

Joyce Strohman with her sculpted creations. More dolls on display.

Gwen Jackson and the 3D Doll Club of Mt. Vernon, New York hosted this year's Day with Dolls in August. This is the place to be to learn, meet your peers, and see what other artists are doing with their craft. A great time was had by all. Thanks, Gwen and 3D. Can't wait 'til next year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Images from Catfish Friday, the Exhibit

Having a good time at the exhibit; Shenita & me, Crystal & me, LaShay & me, Josh, Kelly & me again; Everybody; Mixed media artist Bisa Washington with "Rough, Dry and Nappy" (left) and "Double-Ended Promise" (right) by Ade Tugbiyele Sedita (not shown); Artist/Curator Toni Thomas with poet Esther Morales.

LaShay with mixed media artist/gallery owner Ade Sedita; the Eyeshadow Series with artist Diana Jensen, shown; poet Esther Morales; poet Elaine Lee (left "The Gift" by Gladys Grauer, not shown and right "Double-Ended Promises"by Ade Sedita).

Artist/Curator Toni Thomas with "Mermaid West" (acrylic on fabric with quilting) and "Mermaid Observing Wolf", mixed media on paper; performance by poet Esther Morales; artist Sadee Brathwaite with "Private Conversations", oil on canvas; LaShay with Auntie Joan.

"Private Conversations" by Sadee Brathwaite; my "kids" Josh & Kelly; LaShay with Auntie Gillian.

Earthlocz Spirit Dolls #5 and #6 - cloth, paperclay, acrylic.

The opening was a huge success – the art of Sadee Brathwaite, Mary Baldwin, Gladys Grauer, Diana Jensen, Tara Lamount, Toni Thomas, Ade Tugbiyele Sedita and Bisa Washington was phenomenal – the spoken word art of Esther Morales and Elaine Lee pulled it all together and made our spirits soar in Spanish and English! The guests were delightful. I am so gratified and humbled to have been included in a circle of such warm, accomplished, energetic and spiritually generous women. Please visit my new sidebar, Catfish Friday and Friends, for more on these visual artists.

Special thanks to Ade Sedita of Newark Art Supply for inviting us to share her gallery space (and for her kind encouragement to me over the last year), and to Toni Thomas for curating the exhibit (and for pushing me out into the deep water). You put everything together so smooth, you make it look easy (and I know it ain’t).

Also, thanks to my family/friends, Kelly & Josh, Shenita, Crystal & Co. (Crystal, your design of my postcards is off the chain!), Joan, Gillian, and of course, LaShay, my starchild who works the room as only she can. I love you all!