“Respect” wall-hanging no. 1, pictured above, is an example of art that speaks. It is one of the ways I’m trying to emulate the wisdom espoused in Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I found that book–a slim paperback–on a chance visit to a used bookstore in New Orleans. It was during a time when I was still working as a professor but sensed I wanted a different life, more open to creative possibilities. I found Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit, at that same store, so I owe a huge debt of thanks to whoever gave those books up for adoption.
In Art and Fear: Observations about the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making, the authors offer sober, sensible yet not heartless advice for would-be artists. My favorite is what they call a “useful working approach to making art: notice the objects you notice. (e.g. Read that sentence again.) Or put another way: make objects that talk–and then listen to them.” (p. 101)
The “Respect” wall-hangings and quilts speak of a hopeful attitude toward living together, and that is the one I wish for us. They say: “Dream Big”; “Believe Racial Equity is Possible”; “Celebrate Beauty of All Kinds” and “Our Time is Now.” The back of this wall-hanging, which juxtaposes a vibrant African cotton in blue/green/and brown (an image that resembles a palm tree or a long-necked woman’s head) alongside strips of a lily-bedecked Japanese block print in blue, shows what can happen when strangers unite.
The three little birds from Bob Marley’s song are there too, in the white and black trim of the front; see them peeking through? The front also conveys a more explicitly political message, of course, thanks to the patches commemorating civil rights leader Malcolm X, reggae legend Bob Marley, and the BLM activists, whose rallying cry, “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” forms the heart of the matter.
P.S. Caveat: This is not to say that I am sort of saintly warrior for racial equity, sitting around singing “Kumbaya.” I will admit that I did give a fellow driver the finger yesterday. He was the aggressive driver of a grey truck who cut me off while we were both jockeying for a place in the incredibly congested traffic of West Seattle’s detour route (which has forced us all into massive traffic jams for over a year now. Tempers are flaring.). And when he reached out to indicate his indifference to my honk, I noted he was Black. I acknowledge that exchange was not very nice. But he cut me off! Sigh. May we live another day and try again tomorrow…
P.S.S. Like “Respect” quilts, these wall-hangings are available to you now, via the Honey Girl Etsy store! As a fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, it’s a fairly painless way to give… and to be part of the change.