"When I grow up, I want to keep on growing."
This comment by Iyanla Vanzant was made about a book I've just ordered: Age ain't Nothing but a Number. It features articles, stories and poems by noted African American women authors on the subjects of aging and ageism. Having just made my appointment for the 'reward of reaching 50' aka the colonoscopy, I'm feeling like I need some positive words right about now. Of course, through it all work continues; meeting the deadlines of upcoming shows while keeping up with everything else going on--buying a home, son graduating from middle school, coordinating the end of my classes, preparing for teaching summer camp (thankfully, I only have two weeks this year!), participating in my Art Salon group, and dealing with the rest of what life dishes out...makes me tired just writing about it! Another book I'll order will join those already in my art book collection: Creating Their Own Image, the History of African American Women Artists. From Publisher's Weekly: "The first book-length history of African-American women artists is brimming with discoveries. Lisa Farrington, who teaches a course (from which this book takes its name) at New York's Parsons School of Design, proceeds roughly chronologically, beginning with Reconstruction-era weaving and quilt work by artists like Kentucky's Louiza Francis Combs and with the marble sculpture of Edmonia Lewis.... Farrington is the author of two monographs on painter Faith Ringgold, and her appreciation for and mastery of recent work comes through on every page. Most of the 150 color and 100 b&w reproductions, generally placed at the margins of the text but sized generously, are from this period, from Carol Ann Carter's installations to Laylah Ali's colorful and disturbing graphic work. The result makes for a terrific introduction to contemporary art by African-American women as informed by a legacy that is just beginning to be pieced together and understood."
I have a personal connection with one of the artists mentioned: Edmonia Lewis, shown here along with one of her neoclassic sculptures, Death of Cleopatra. While at Wellesley, I was chosen (since I was the only Black art history major on campus) to do primary source research for an art book being developed by author Harry Henderson, and world renowned collage artist Romare Bearden. Wellesley College archives housed letters by Anne Whitney, a 19th century art patron, who, it was believed, had encountered Edmonia Lewis in Italy during the 1870's. I spent months combing through the thin, onion-skin paper covered with brown-inked spidery handwriting, and indeed did find several references to Lewis in the letters, which resulted in 11 footnotes in A History of African-American Artists From 1792 to the Present. My reward at the end of the project was to meet Romare Bearden, who was called Romie, though I didn't call him that, of course! I remember climbing up the 10 flights of stairs to his 5th floor walkup apartment in New York city, being awed by the canvases and by just being in his presence. I was so awed, I didn't even think to ask for his autograph! It took another 18 years from that meeting, in the summer of 1975 for the book to be published, and to my surprise and delight, I was mentioned in the Acknowledgements! The book was one of my mother's last gifts to me, which makes it even more special.
So, like Iyanla, when I grow up, I want to keep growing, and learning, and being inspired by the words and art of writers and artists both past and present.