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.