Happy Heavenly 50th Birthday!
Jan 4th would have been the big 5-0 for you. As I write this, I wonder what your life would have looked like, what your art would have been like in these past 6 years since you passed. A lot has been going on in the world as I’m sure you are seeing from above. How would your art reflect the MeToo Movement? How would you have reacted to “grab them by the pussy” comment from #45?
As you also know many of your friends and former colleagues have taken time to write funny, loving, and insightful blog post about their relationship with you. You have touched a lot of people in many different ways. Including the number of students who you have taught. One of your students, Samantha G. is now an art teacher at Benson High School. Your scholarship at UNO has awarded $7,000 to art students who needed help to finish their degree. That money comes from donations and from the sale of your artwork.
I think you know this, but I will tell you anyway – I miss you a lot. I think about you just about every day. I wonder what dreams you would have created for yourself as you think about turning 50.
This will be the last blog on your website. I want to thank each person who wrote something about you. It was great to read about their memories of you, your artwork, and the friendships. I want to leave everyone with an email that you sent one of your friends – you were asked to write a reflection of your work. I hope we have done good by you – keeping the spirit of your work and heart in the right place.
Email Sent: March 13, 2008
When I reflect on the images of the wallflower pin-ups and the magazine covers, I can’t help to feel incredibly selfish. It’s really about confronting my own insecurities by creating these visual vehicles that allow me to exorcise my demons from adolescence. Beauty is at the core of it all. How we definite it. How I define it. My wallflower girls are definitely an extension of what I had always hoped a part of me would be like – fun, sexy, playful. I have to admit, I was the textbook wallflower all through my pre-teens to college. Never the girl to be asked to dance (sigh) and I quickly became pretty self-conscience about it all. However, my wallflower prints are definitely not shy or shrinking violets. They embrace themselves fully without apology. I learned a lot from them. Another note about the pin-up girls, I think pin-ups are sexy. That may ruffle some women’s’ feathers because the pin-up genre is a male construct which objectifies women. But that is such a loaded conversation to have. I mean, how many women take sexy photos for their husbands or dress up sexy when they go out for drinks? The line in the sand is always shifting as to what is exploitative depending on who’s drawing the line. I see my girls as powerful and sexy. Formally, I love floral patterns and color. Using the old wallpaper was the perfect solution for a background. They’re printed on a square format, referencing a box. That box refers to what we do as human beings with having the need to categorize and place everything and everyone neatly into their box. My girls are placed in this space not of their own will but are saying ‘No problem. I can exist in here, but I’m going to own it as well’. Funny thing about the pin-ups, though. I’ve received more complaints from Black women. Isn’t that ironic?! As if I were creating derogatory images of black women. And then we’re back to the line in the sand.
My magazine covers were very fun for me because I got to do a little writing. That’s something I’m not great at but enjoy doing. Again, this is about beauty and the beauty industry. I also raise the question about what black is and what it isn’t. I’m hopeful to not sound judgmental about the society we live in. I have my degrees of materialism and superficiality for sure. But there are extremes and beauty magazines prey on women’s self-esteem. They’re constantly telling you that you need to be fixed. And the real burn is anymore, the women smiling back at you from the covers don’t really look like that in real life. The images have been enhanced digitally creating a false and unobtainable standard. So, making up my own magazine called Bougie made sense. I’ve been called it a few times in my life and to be honest, I’ve never thought I could be accurately described that way. However, this was a great chance to fully embrace my superficial side and just get shallow. It was fun! I may try to flesh out some of the tags I made up like ‘Are You A Strong, Black Woman? Find out in 25 questions. I mean really, what would those questions be? Even funnier, it’s being implied that if you answer add up to x amount, you could be a strong, black woman without actually being black or a woman. I’m going to have to try that out.
The opening went really well thanks. I overheard a couple of people talking as they were looking at the magazine covers. One person said, ‘Is she an artist or a comedian?’. I should write a book – ha, ha! I’ll talk to you soon!