Poets and Artists
Museum Pick: April 6 - May 4, 2009
On the back of the cards, Alice Walker writes: "I believe women know what we need.
It is a matter of looking deeply into our lives, our dreams, our failings and successes
and understanding ourselves, our deepest selves, in relation to them."
When I was nine years old, Alice Walker became my neighbor. One day she moved in just one mountain over from our family property up in the Anderson Valley. In some thirty years that we have known each other, Alice and I have shared many a chicken dinner at the home of the mountain matriarch and visionary artist, Sue Hoya Sellars; we have enjoyed walks in the garden, times of meditation, drank sweet homemade wine on Alice's deck, spent many Christmases playing with her late black lab, Marley Mu, and most of all, we have enjoyed conversations about what it means to be women and to love deeply and with an open heart even in the midst of suffering.
As a young woman, I looked up to this beautiful woman with dreadlocks and honey words. Of course, I later discovered her work, which has played a crucial part in my feminist development and my growth as an artist committed to women's work. In particular, I have learned a lot watching Alice's friendship with Sue Hoya Sellars, a woman who is both my "other mother" and my art teacher. Watching them, I've learned when to speak my mind, when to hold my tongue, when to talk politics and when to dance instead.
Over the years, Alice and I have discussed the notion that being "happy" is one of the most radical political moves we can make today. And indeed, to be in Alice's presence is to experience the gift of a happy woman. She always says, "Any happiness you get, you've got to make yourself." I remember painting together one day and Alice telling her painting that she loved her (meaning the woman in the painting). Her spontaneous ability to be blissful inspires everybody around her to call on the bliss within, and share their joy whenever possible.
About five years ago it was Sue's 70th birthday and Alice suggested doing a "fireside chat" between her and Sue. I organized the event as well as a retrospective of Sue's paintings. Following that event, I worked with Alice on a design project for a Thanksgiving Gratitude event she was hosting. The publishing company I am part of, Palm of Her Hand, created the invitations and event posters, which included graphic design, my illustrations and Alice's poetry. The combination was such a big hit that folks began asking for copies of the posters and greeting cards. So, at Alice's request to "make some available at the gallery and see what happens," we at Palm of Her Hand did!
We designed and launched a line of six cards with Alice's poetry and my illustrations. In August of 2007 we had a coming-out party for the cards, where Alice shared with us the meaning and story behind each poem. She then encouraged all of us to dance saying, "Hard times require furious dancing." And so dance we did! She even suggested the sound track to assist us in this endeavor--Tina Turner's 24-7.
My prayer is that this kind of collaboration, intentional creativity paired with positive media and educational programs, will further the revolution toward honor and dignity for women and girls, and indeed, all people. Palm of Her Hand leads with a focus on women's work because we know that when a mother honors herself, her children are more likely to honor her, as well as themselves, others, and the whole planet.