Thoughts on the Evolving Alma Stripe Series
I have been thinking a lot about home/houses, the function of bricks (steps/houses/buildings/institutions/patios), and about the space between people (physical and societal/status). It's come out of working with my Alma stripe series plus all of the hoopla about the elite school scams/privilege-based innocence.
On the stripe itself. The stripe started out (to my mind) as a thread or a fat quarter. The more I use it, the more I see that it functions just as well as a brick and as a flower. It is truly versatile. Alma Thomas just might have been a genius.
On Alma. Artist, yes, but Alma was a daughter, a sister, a neighbor, a scholar, and a teacher. She was my paternal grandmother's neighbor and my maternal grandmother's teacher for 3 years. Alma was an unseen link between these two women - my foremothers, who never met one another, but who are united through me. This has always fascinated me, since Alma, above all other women artists, is my art grandmother. Her way with color keeps me up at night. It guides me, confuses me, astounds me.
On generational strides. I went to schools with the people who lived in the big house. As such, I am a close to equal to the people who live in the big house as Black women in my family have ever been. My mom drew the floorplan for the big house. My grandmother decorated the big house. My great grandmother was the maid in the big house. My great great grandmother did laundry for the people who lived in the big house. My great great great grandmother was the daughter of the man whose father owned the big house. My great great great great grandmother was owned by the mistress of the big house. Bricks on bricks on bricks. Threads, tightly woven. The great irony, of course, is that the rich Black neighborhood in which my grandmas and Thomas resided has turned and turned, until there are almost no Black families remaining.
On bricks and flowers, deconstruction, reconstruction. When I was a child, my mother drew floorplans for Charles E. Smith and other big developers. At night, my father would set out to take bricks from construction and deconstruction sites. My grandmother, for her part, rescued plants and flowers from street-side planters. These three people raised me. Our patios and gardens, rich with geometric designs and planned flora, were built from salvaged, rescued, reclaimed material.
On restoring/reparation/mending wall. All of this reminds me of my Uncle Eddie. Uncle served in WWII. He later was tried, convicted, and served 7 years in prison for "stealing less than a dollar." For the rest of his life, he took restitution by stealing something every time he went into a store.
On mending walls. When I was in 9th grade, I was a poet. One of my favorite poems was Mending Wall. I've considered this poem many times, especially in our recent wall-obsessed world. Frost tells us
"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out/And to whom I was like to give offence."
We wall in and out at the same time.
What then, when a blanket can be transformed into a wall? Is home the warmth of a blanket or the walls of a house? What happens when we change "a home" to "home"?
A patchwork quilt.
A field of flowers.