Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Updates

It is so exciting when what you have been working for begins to come to fruition.
Mother & Child were shown at the Spirit of Charity exhibit (September - October) at Maloney Art Gallery, College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ, commemorating 150th anniversary of founding of the Sister's of Charity order and the College's 110th. The highlight for me, beyond having my art selected, was meeting one of my personal Sheroes, Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, and the nun played by Susan Sarandon in the film.

Also in September - October, Lady Bird of Paradise Sings the Blues was featured at Eureka Gallery, Hoboken, NJ for the exhibit I Love My Life,

Man & Woman, and Meditation doll were featured in September at Celebration of Lawyers in the Arts, benefiting Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, at NJPAC, Newark, NJ.

Coming soon - Catfish Friday Womens Art Collective and Newark Arts Council present Search for the Real during Newark Open Doors October 23-25, opening reception October 24 7-10 pm 972 Broad Street, Newark, NJ; Essex Exposed 6, curated by Patterson Sims at October 25 through November 22, Pierro Gallery, South Orange, NJ.

Monday, July 6, 2009


IyanIfa - 30" cloth over wire armature, paperclay, acrylic.

You belong to the Universe and
the Universe belongs to You
Heaven is home
Earth is your school
The stage is crowded
You stand on the broad shoulders
of your Ancestors
The Orisa live within you
They must be honored
Sacrifice brings success
Contentment is your birthright

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Untitled/Nudes 22", cloth, paperclay, acrylic; spirit dolls, 16-22", cloth, polymer clay, acrylic.

Catfish Friday Women's Art Collective Presents: NAKED, an Exhibit, at the Ice Gallery at the Coffee Cave, 45 Halsey Street, Newark, New Jersey, Sunday June 7, 3-6p.m.

Catfish Friday, Women’s Art Collective presents: Naked
Dates: June 1 – 28, 2009
Location: The Ice Gallery at the Coffee Cave, 45 Halsey St. Newark, NJ 07102
Artists Reception: Sunday June 7, from 3 – 6 PM

Naked is the title of this year’s 2nd invitational art exhibition featuring the work of women artists who participate in Catfish Friday women’s art collective. The topic of the exhibition Naked, curated by artist Toni Thomas, explores the concept of nakedness. What images conjure up when one hears the word naked? Are artists limited to portraying revealing nudes or will they reveal naked emotions on contemporary issues? Artists participating in this exhibition render their take on nakedness within the framework of their personal style, ideology and medium. The means by which they address the topic reaches across many subjects from nude renditions to portrayals of naked clich├ęs, with adaptations of spiritual, emotional, conceptual, ideological and political perspectives. The work to be viewed takes one on a visual journey with many variations on the theme while inviting the viewer to grapple with their own perceptions of a naked reality that goes beyond the tangible physique.
Featured in the exhibition is the work of Janice Anderson, Tinnetta Bell, Sadee Brathwaite,
Maggie Brown, Kathleen Heron, Diana Jensen, Shonda Nicholas, Shirley Parker-Benjamin, Lynn Presley, Judth Salmon, Joya Thompson and Toni Thomas. The artists reception on Sunday, June 7th will include the poetic work of Mary Baldwin, Elaine Lee, Esther Morales and Lebrashawn Turman-Chase.

Catfish Friday, Women’s Art Collective is a growing community of women artists in the Newark, New Jersey area and surrounding communities. Catfish Friday strives to create community among women artists in a supportive, non-competitive environment. Providing critique and support for works-in-progress, Catfish Friday meetings are held on the second Saturday of every month from September through June. Participation is open to any female artist working in visual or literary art at any stage of development. For more information call 973-699-3269 or visit website:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day

original art card, photo and frame, by LaShay

original grafitti art card (recognize the red glasses? - hmmm); 6" bike - Jerry Gant

It's a great thing to be recognized. Look what I got from the person who made me a mother! I am so proud of this little creative spirit. Having her in my life was/is the best and smartest thing i've ever done and will do.

And from the artist known as Jerry Gant - a token of a appreciation for the exchange and artistic and life journey we are all on. Says JG: the Journey, whether by car, by bicycle, wheelchair, escorted out in handcuffs, carried away on a stretcher, or walking on our own two feet, needs to be recognized and honored. Thanks J.

Blessed be all the Mothers, Grandmothers, Godmothers, Aunties, Birthmothers, Fostermothers, Nurturers, Caretakers, Wisewomen, etc., (because all women are Mothers) we honor and salute you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to My Roots

Always amazing how easy it is to get thrown off my game. A serendipitous encounter, a turn right instead of left, focus is lost, and off I go again, following paths meant for the footsteps of another.

Earth-school is difficult, challenging, as it is meant to be. The lessons we fail to learn once, come back again in another package, over and over again, until we get it. And when we think we got it, the Universe sends it again and asks, “Are you sure?” Need to get centered; meditate, pray, zhikr, shut up, be still, listen, remember what I’m really here for.

Bless the past and those who brought the gift/lesson, even (especially) the hard lesson; love and honor them; release; and send them on their way.

Catfish Friday is planning a show in June. This piece has something to do with a tree, roots, wings. Its been in my head since last summer, and is gradually taking shape. There is evolution here. I don’t know who she is yet…

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anyone Can Fly! -- Faith Ringgold Event 3-8-09

LaShay and I had the privilege of attending this event, and meeting the great fiber artist and author, Faith Ringgold, and a reading and book signing at ABC Carpet & Home, New York, NY. Ms. Faith has been one of my favorite artist for 30 years and an inspiration to me. Tar Beach and Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky have been among our favorite bedtime stories since LaShay was a baby.
Faith Ringgold was born and raised in Harlem, USA, and received an M.A. from City College of New York in 1959. Her work is in the permanent collection of many museums including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is the author and illustrator of 17 children's books, including Tar Beach, which was a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration.
Thank you, Ms. Faith.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rejection, Reaction and Courage

Yesterday, I had lunch with this artist, a brother, who is a genius and very funny, raw. I kinda hate the phrase “streetsmart”– its overworked and most often used to imply a different, maybe lesser kind of intelligence – when in point of fact, the street is a university of its own. And this particular brother is way smarter than me on every level I can discern, which is at once intimidating and intriguing at the same time, but that is another matter entirely.

So anyway, we talked about a lot of things, including rejection and reaction to it, as an artist and a human being. How you have to have courage to put yourself out there, and even more to pick yourself up off the floor. I thought about my experience with the Hoffman Challenge last year, and it was cathartic to talk it through with somebody who gets it. I never wrote about this, or even talked about it much to any but a few people. I had created and submitted the piece “Lady Bird of Paradise Sings the Blues”, which I am re-posting here for reference. The jury gave me really good marks and feedback and promptly sent the doll back as unfit to travel because she was “too racy”. (She has been re-christened "Tracy" for "Too Racy" by the brother.)

So, after I picked myself up off the floor, I had to ask myself why it was important to me for the Hoffman people to like my work in the first place? I make things that reflect my reality – women that look like me and my family and my sisterfriends, things I see in life, on the street, in stories and legends that don’t necessarily reflect majority idea of beauty and femininity, but this is my aesthetic. Black women/women of color, are always too much of something, and/or not enough of something else, i.e., too black or not black enough, too smart for our own good or too stupid, too sassy, evil, sexy, fat, fill in the blank. Is “racy” a code for, you need not apply? Should I care? Should I try again this year with a toned down watered down prettyasaprincessonapea doll? Should I just make a white girl (I can do those too) and see what happens?

I guess the courage part comes in where you have to weigh the value and benefit of having a piece tour in a national/international show, and the recognition from that, versus your own artistic integrity. How far do you bend before you break? What do you say to your spirit?

So as my brother-artist spoke to me about the story, the narrative, of our art, and how this is what makes it ours - how we claim ownership of it - I took another look at Tracy and remembered what she said to me as I was making her. It takes a long time for me to bring up a face in paperclay and somewhere in the process the doll tells her own story. She spoke clearly and reminded me of a girl I knew in intermediate school. At twelve, Gail was a dark, brooding, little soul with the face of a doll and a body straight outta Cirque du Soleil. She was sassy and swinging. All the little boys followed her like love struck puppies. All the little girls hated her. Gail knew things we didn't know and did things we didn't do. She looked at us with cold disdain. She didn't need us little pootbutts for friends. She lived with her grandmother. We never knew where her parents were. She came to school sometimes with bruises and scars on her face and body. She started high school with us but disappeared without a trace by the time we were all fourteen. I never knew if she moved away or ran away. I've never seen her since, until she reemerged in the face/figure of Tracy Gail/Lady Bird of Paradise Sings the Blues.
These are the things I know and the stories I tell. I really don't know very much about cute and dainty. Innocence mangled, hope challenged, wreckage, redemption. Singing out loud off key. These are the things I know something about. My dolls are too racy to travel...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Catching up

Bisa Washington's Arlington Arts Gallery

Above left: Bisa with two of my spirit dolls and her mixed media creations; right photo: dolls on exhibit

above left: Healing dolls by me; right, various dolls on display at Holiday Party, Jersey City

Holiday Doll Party, Jersey City.

It’s a new year and quite a while since my last post. What’s happening in the world and what have I been up to?

Let’s see… many life changes and new energy. Gains and losses. People have entered and exited. I send blessings and wish them well.

Miriam Makeba – Mama Afrika, who dared to lift her voice in the face of apartheid and endured exile in its name; Odetta – the voice of the Civil Rights Movement; Eartha Kitt – who dared to speak the truth to power and was “blacklisted” for it. We mark the contributions of these pioneer women artists, and bless them on their journey. Note to file: create something to commemorate them in 2009.

November 2008: A new president – the economy is crumbling and Barack Obama promises change. Andrew Young noted that, just like with the cities, black people seem to get the big job when nobody else wants it. But I’m so proud just the same, both of Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama (accomplished professional woman in her own right), and those two beautiful little girls who will have the unprecedented experience of being the first Black first daughters. As for me, having been born on the heels of Jim Crow and the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement, its hard to imagine what this will mean in the life of my child and her peers, to live in a world where such is possible. Most of all, I feel like my country finally grew up and owned up.

LaShay and I went to the Tina Turner concert Thanksgiving night. – you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Tina Turner through the eyes of an 8 year old. Ironic that Tina had the same effect on me when I was 8. At 69 she looks and sounds better than ever. More than that, Tina represents the ability of woman to free ourselves and rise from the ashes. I’m hoping to look half that good by the time I’m 69. I still have (a little) time to get there.

Saturday after Thanksgiving: Mixed media artist Bisa Washington invited me to participate in her annual holiday doll exhibit at her Arlington Arts Gallery in Newark. Bisa is a visionary; culturally aware, insightful, ancestor inspired and an all around generous sister. (She is also creating the first urban bread and breakfast in Newark! This is a marvelous idea. Why didn’t anybody ever think of this before?) She surrounds herself with women and men, engaging and creative, that paint, sculpt, stitch, make music play drums dance and bake cakes.. So much to be learned from the company of women artists, like Bisa, Sister Adrienne, Shirley Parker-Benjamin (check out . Also got some good counsel from our sister artist emeritus, Gladys Grauer who stopped by. (Unfortunately, my camera died that day, so I don’t have many pictures of the event, but I will post what I have).

December 2008: Dolly-day party with Mindbodyandsoul Doll Club of Jersey City. Angela put on a great party, which was attended by fellow doll makers from GSDA of Neptune NJ and 3-D Doll Club of Mt. Vernon New York. Check out the show and tell table. Then, Garden State Doll Club had our holiday party where we did a doll exchange from a Judy Ward pattern. I got my wish – the doll I received was from my good friend and one of my favorite local dollmakers, Mary Louisa Klawatter (she also drew my doll!). Mary Lou designs dolls from her Scandanavian tradition. One special detail that I love, which unfortunately doesn’t translate well in photos, is that she hand embroiders the faces. More pictures on Stephanie Novatski’s blog,

Last but not least, we attended 3-D’s holiday party January 3, 2009 in Mt. Vernon. As usual, I got mad lost going there, but I was glad I went. The sisters always have a different take on dolls that I love to see and experience. We did a pin doll exchange which was lots of fun too.
Now that the holidays are over, with no new shows planned, I can just sit back and work on the pieces that interest me. I have been experimenting with polymer clay heads over cloth bodies, and like the results. Although I think I still like paper clay better, polymer clay gives similar results much faster and is less labor intensive. Also, I want to work on some African tribal dolls out of the Maasai, Woodabe, and Ndebele traditions. All of these feature very intricate beading. That work is very slow going, so fortunately there are no time constraints. I also got hooked on pin dolls while I was home over the holidays. They are a good way of making use of scraps that are too small for anything else.

More artistic new years resolutions - do more with mixed media; don't be so literal always, be more abstract, in doll construction; experiment more with staging the dolls and telling a story; try art quilts, quilt journaling, wearables, polymer jewelry, ATCs. Stretch a bit.

Next weekend is Mindbodyandsoul Doll Club. I suggested we do a round robin doll, which is an idea I got from elinor peace bailey’s Mother Plays with Dolls. elinor is a master doll maker who I love, both for her irreverent love and use of colors in dollmaking and wearable art and her philosophical outlook on women, work, and giving ourselves permission to play. As women, we tend to take everything we do so seriously, even our recreation. I refer back to elinor’s book frequently to remind myself that creativity and expression is a right, not a privilege.