Over the past few weeks I’ve worked on a painting that actually started back in the 1990s. I was making fabric sculptures and dolls then and was part of a show at the University of Memphis Gallery, along with other fabric artists. They made a nice catalog so I still have a good picture of it. I created a doll that honored the African American soldiers that had been maimed by war.
I made these strange dolls and sculptures until about 7 years ago, when I moved to an apartment that was too small to collect all the fabric, wire and materials I felt I needed to create them. I did them by hand, and all that sewing with big needles through thick layers was taking its toll on my hands. I then took up drawing and painting. I also felt somewhat limited by what I could do with fabric in creating gestures, complexity, and backgrounds. But some of the ideas I had are still with me, and this soldier has stayed on my mind.
My son and I are having an art show in a very large space at Crosstown Arts, on March 3, 4-8 p.m. (430 N Cleveland). The size of the walls has inspired us to work on larger surfaces, so I embarked on painting the largest canvas I’ve worked on so far, 24″ x 48″.
I was able to do more with the figure and build on the idea of transformation, integrating more of nature into it. I wanted to illustrate the ideas of being rooted with the sadness of losing mobility. I followed my instincts as I created the painted.
I thought a lot about the word lost pertaining to the loss of limbs. In Soldier’s hair, I worked in the phrase “I didn’t lose them, they were stolen.” War steals so much from us all.
When I started this, I expected Soldier’s expression to be angrier, but I couldn’t quite get him to scowl. There is anger, yes, but more strength and more of a sense of the divine.
I’ve always thought that God is among us — not in the churches, necessarily, but in the people around us, those not posing as divine but who are illuminating the dark corners of everyday life
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