Lessons in Art and Piano

Pure exhaustion made me miss my “Focus on Black” post last Friday, so I’m posting this morning to avoid the same mistake this week.

Today, I’m using children’s art to “introduce” African American artist Romare Bearden.  Even though Bearden is far from an “unknown” artist, few people know who I’m talking about when I reference his work:

Considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, Romare Bearden’s artwork depicted the African-American culture and experience in creative and thought provoking ways. Born in North Carolina in 1912, Bearden spent much of his career in New York City. Virtually self-taught, his early works were realistic images, often with religious themes. He later transitioned to abstract and Cubist style paintings in oil and watercolor. He is best known for his photomontage compositions made from torn images of popular magazines and assembled into visually powerful statements on African-American life.  -from Biography.com

Last year, my favorite (now retired) second grade teacher, Mrs. Crarey, introduced her students to Bearden’s work. They studied his art, noted his interest in jazz music–which influenced some of his art–learned about his collage technique and then created their own Bearden-esque masterpieces. [Click an image for a closer look]

The children used rulers, pencils, Sharpies, crayons, and markers to imitate Bearden’s collage style. As you can see, they used piano keys patterns for their borders.

I pretty much love everything Bearden created.  The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou is my favorite, probably because it was the masterpiece that inspired African American playwright August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, one of my favorite plays.

The piece was inspired by jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams who collaborated with Bearden’s wife, Nannette, on a musical and dance composition.  If you are familiar with Henri Matisse’s The Piano Lesson and The Music Lesson, you will see his influence on the work as well.

There are two versions of the work–the original:

Romare Bearden’s  “The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou” (popularly known as “The Piano Lesson”). Watercolor, acrylic, graphite and printed paper collage on paper.

And a signed lithograph:

Romare Bearden, “The Piano Lesson,” Lithograph

For more about Bearden’s life and influences, click the links below:

The Bearden Foundation’s page features more resources such as a timeline and an impressive collection of Romare Bearden’s artwork.

Until next time…

Sunflowers, Roses, and Coincidence

Life is busy, busy, busy, but I had to drop by on my lunch break because I found myself chuckling a little about the coincidence between last week’s Microblog Monday post and an interaction with one of my good friends.

At the end of a birthday dinner she hosted for her husband and other February-born relatives Saturday, my friend gave away the red roses that adorned most of the tables. Only the “kiddie table” held a vase of sunflowers.

She offered me the roses. Then read my face, “You want the sunflowers.”

Indeed.

Lately, more than usual, I need to surround myself with the sunny blossoms and, like them, seek the light…

I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.  –Helen Mirren as Chris in Calendar Girls

If We Love Each Other…

I read something this morning that nearly brought me to tears–a comment written in response to a blog post about God’s love for us. The post, written nearly two years ago, had few comments, but one comment in particular caught my attention. It was written by a man who for several years dealt with a series of really bad circumstances and came to the conclusion–after a lifetime of belief–that God does not love him. The saddest thing, however, is that the comment sat beneath the blog post with no response for a full year before another “random person” stumbled upon the post and read the comment.

A full year.

Even after the “random person’s” response, neither the author of the post nor the Christian organization that hosts the site responded. In nearly two years.

If it hurt me, imagine how much it affected the man who so bravely and desperately cried out. He needed an answer. He needed a virtual hug and assurance of God’s intimate concern and love for him.

He got crickets.

The thing that keeps me sane and walking upright in this world is knowing that God absolutely loves me, but I first experienced God’s love through others.

It is God’s love for and in us that allows us to love sincerely and deeply; it is His love that permeates our being and generates love action. It’s nearly impossible to experience or “possess” Divine Love and not be transformed.

Loving God and understanding His love for humanity results in reaching out to hurting people, living out His presence in our lives, and showing the world who He is–through acts of love.

Without human manifestation of God’s love, His love is simply theory.

Bears, Legends, and Foxes! Oh My!

I have a lot of postcard blogging to get caught up on. I have a few moments while waiting in the pickup line for my little one to get out of school, so why not “kill a bird” while I’m at it.  😉

Few things tickle my soul more than finding cuddly bears in my mailbox. Fran and Christine, two of my Love Notes pals, manage to keep my mailbox beary happy.

To add to my vintage bear postcards collection, Fran B. sent a wonderful (8×10) “giant post card” featuring a mother bear and her cub.

“Mother Bear and Cub Hiking, Yellowstone National Park. The fascinating picture of a mother bear and cub was taken near Norris Geyser Basin where the little cub received his first lesson in the art of entertaining visitors in Yellowstone National Park.” Haynes Studio Inc, Bozeman, Montana.

Fran was curious about the condition of the oversized postcard upon arrival, and as you can see, it was in pristine condition.  (The slight bend near the top was unfortunately from my transporting it in my over-packed work tote).

Like the vintage bear postcards featured in a previous post, these bears were shot by Haynes Studio, Inc.

Speaking of mother bears and cubs, Christine sent a postcard featuring “The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

Sleeping Bear Dunes, National Lakeshore Park. “The beauty, the lore, the legend, the lakes and rivers, the forest woodlands and the recreational opportunities create an unsurpassed stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. This view from the top of the dunes shows lovely Glen Lake.”

In case you can’t read the legend:

[Native Americans] tell of a mother bear and her two cubs who long ago tried to swim across Lake Michigan. Nearing this shore, the exhausted cubs lagged behind. Mother bear climbed to the top of a bluff to watch and wait for her offspring. They never reached her and today she can still be seen as the “Sleeping Bear,” a solitary dune covered with dark trees sand shrubs. Her hapless cubs are the Manitou Islands that lie a short distance away.

So sad, but so beautiful.

I received the black bear below just yesterday. Christine was in Colorado, saw the postcard, and thought of me. How sweet!

Colorado Black Bear. “This Colorado native lives throughout the mountainous areas in the ‘Centennial State,’ but is seldom seen, due to its timid nature.”

When Eileen V, another Love Notes pal, posted an adorable fox postcard in the group, I swooned because …well foxes.  A few days later, I found the foxes in my own mailbox–courtesy of Christine B.

Foxes by Amy Hamilton

This is such a fun, educational postcard.  My favorite is the Fennec fox. Do you have a favorite fox?

I’ll get to more postcards soon–when I can squeeze in a moment or two for scanning.

Until next time…Have joy!

 

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

James Weldon Johnson, 1871-1938. Poet, novelist, statesman, civil rights leader, lawyer. Artist, Winold Reiss (1886-1953). Pastel on artist board.

The song dubbed “The Black National Anthem” should need no introduction, but I learned last October–moments after I posted an article focused on the University of Florida’s playing the song at the arrival of white supremacists on campus–that many Americans are not familiar with the song. In fact, one (Euro-American) friend uncharacteristically responded by declaring UF’s actions “racist.”

[We’ll save discussion about how that action could not have been “racist” for another time].

My friend’s judgment was based on the title of the article. She had never heard the song.

That surprised me. I’m pretty sure I initially learned the song at the majority white elementary school I attended, so I assumed it was standard for elementary kids in the U.S. Not so, I guess.

So what is the “Black National Anthem?”

The  “song,” actually entitled “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was written as a poem by African American poet James Weldon Johnson to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was later set to music by Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson.

The song gained popularity, was adopted by the NAACP, and was dubbed “The Black National Anthem.” But if we pay close attention to the lyrics, we’ll find that even though the song resonates with African Americans, it speaks to a broad American experience, one that in spite of its “informal” title, celebrates our collective history, freedom, and unity, one that speaks of faith and hope. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” feels more inclusive than the official national anthem of the U.S.A., “The Star Spangled Banner.”

I invite you to read the lyrics.

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Then, listen to this amazing arrangement sung by the “Choir of the World,” the Aeolians of Oakwood University:

See the Poetry Foundation for a a brief biography which references James Weldon Johnson’s extensive bibliography. A favorite for many is God’s Trombones.

A Quiet Moment to Consider the Pretty

This moment…quiet. I hear my colleague’s voice through the walls. Other than that, I’m relishing a sweet quiet that I haven’t had all week.

I need this moment.

“A Modern-Day Castle,” Photo by Celia

I’m taking advantage of this unhurried silence to look through the box of pretties I keep in my office–beautiful photos taken by my many photographer friends on swap-bot.  I ran across a set of photos by Celia, a Sharp Shooter I have not “seen” in ages. Her photography is lovely and I distinctly remember the package, though I received it many years ago–before I started blogging.

“Never Too Much Red,” Photo by Celia

The photos deserve more than my eyes, so I’ve decided to share them because, maybe, you need a pause in your hectic schedule; maybe, you need a moment or two to consider the pretty.

“Blown Kisses and Blushes,” Photo by Celia

From the modern-day castle to the bright red flowers filling the frame; from the sweet innocence of blown kisses from one blushing child to another to teddy bear love…

“Precious Teddy,” Photo by Celia

These images fill me with good things, help quiet my mind, and make the silence sweeter.