Indigo-dyed, rescued Mali scarf remnants, thread, gouache
6 2/3 x 3 2/3 feet
A few years ago, I asked: What Happens to Our Words When They Are No Longer Spoken? My mother published over 500 poems at the time of her death in 2016. Giving visual voice to words no longer spoken that only exist in written form is a core part of this series.
In the series, my mother’s words lie underfoot, and are seen, read and experienced by looking down and crossing over them. The main piece and the fragments are placed in each doorway, possibly referring to the passage from life to a different understanding. This is not meant to be a morbid or literal reference, but rather an understanding and acceptance of the life cycle and celebration of one woman’s thoughtful views on her life and her world. This installation brings me full circle through my practice, patching the pieces together of the past so as to move on.
In the main piece, the poem Headwaters, the words of the poem wind their way down the blue textile. The poem references my mother’s vision of a positive, moving and powerful future of civil rights in the United States. The blue in this case refers to uniforms of the Afro-American workers in the local cigarette factory. The color blue has been crucial to my practice since my residency in Iceland and my search for a particular blue in my work.The marks from the lines left from the wooden slats of the canvas shade are like lines on a lined piece of paper. The letters are partially obscured by the line: the words are fleeting and not completely to be seen. I think of this style as a kind of shadow text. The disintegrated canvas shade cloth (or “dis-integration”) is a play on the sociology of racial integration and segregation. Disintegrating cloth is integral to much of my work called “modern boro” or, indigo-dyed material that have been degraded or worn and patched many times over generations.
In the 30s
in Durham, North Carolina
we didn’t say Blacks
and no one spoke much about civil rights
but most afternoons about 4,
I saw the Movement begin.
A swift brown current
from the cigarette factory in the center of town
into those sun-white streets,
of tight, bright-blue uniforms
into their own heady History—
that ardent river,
as those Carmens surged toward us,
would one day storm new streets and sidewalks,
from the past,
fountaining, looping, twisting, threading
a steadfast channel into our futures.