My daughters are incredible artists.
I’m not just saying this because I’m their mother.
Well, maybe I am.
Creative little buggers, the two of them.
They get it from their mama. And their daddy, too.
And a few wonderful artist friends who teach them about Jacob Lawrence and William H. Johnson, Faith Ringold and Ann Tanksley, Romare Bearden and Mose Tolliver, Jimmy Lee Suddith and contemporaries like Franks Deceus and Tamara Natalie Madden, too. They are taught to revere these creators–for what they’ve overcome as African American artists in a world that simply refuses to give them the respect due.
For the genius in their fingertips.
For the beauty they bring to our world.
To honor these artists, I sign up my daughters for classes with Jackie Ellett, a wonderful art instructor who teaches third graders in the public school system here in Georgia. She’s always teaching them super interesting things about history’s most incredible artists, and she doesn’t hesitate to mention artists like Bearden and Johnson in the same breath as Picasso and Van Gogh. Indeed, she had the girls create these self-portraits in tribute to the folk artist Mose Tolliver. This piece is Mari’s–reserved, simple, restrained. Just like her.
This orange one is Lila–fiery, wide-eyed, free. Just like my little one.
I remember the day they made these portraits; it was a Sunday afternoon, and they were particularly geeked because all of their buddies were in the class with them, including their cousins Miles and Cole. Jackie gave them a quick lesson on Tolliver (they knew him already, thanks to their mother, who regularly stalks Tolliver’s work) and then encouraged them to really think about what they look like. Then she handed my babies the paint and let them have at it. Both of them went for the boldest, brightest colors they could find, and then proceeded to use at least a gallon of brown for their faces and went nuts with the black to fashion their twists. I was proud that they saw themselves as chocolate beauties; it certainly translates in their work. In these portraits, my girls seem happy–happy to be exactly who they are. Kinda reminds me of that Angie Stone song, “Happy to Be Me.” (That’s Angie singing it live up top. Listen. Think. Enjoy.)
My babies’ self-portraits hang in our kitchen, along with a bazillion other paintings they’ve created.
I’m proud of them.
They make me giggle.
I hope they do that for you, too.