I dreamt that I was nursing a tiny, dark newborn baby. The baby latched right on.
(Excerpt from my Dream Journal, February 2021)
George Floyd’s murder and the rise of the BLM movement ignited in me a deep desire to contribute somehow to this crucial cause. What could I, a privileged middle-class white woman, do about this? I prayed about it, using one of Julia Cameron’s mantras:
“I am willing to let God create through me.”
(Cameron is the author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity).
One of my gifts is drawing portraits. In making a portrait, I lift an individual up into the light to be recognized, to be seen. When Amanda Gorman walked onto the Inaugural stage with her brilliant yellow coat and ballet hands, I knew I had to draw her, and in so doing, she unlocked my prayer: I knew what I could do. Her portrait was the beginning of this new series of portraits, The Women of Color Project. I started creating a portrait a day in late January, throughout February, which is Black History Month, and into March, Women’s History Month.
I felt called to make this series. Typically I draw from life, but many of my subjects are deceased or were not accessible. Even if I could have traveled and had some of my subjects sit for me, COVID-19 made that option prohibitive. I had to use photographs. I found photos of WOC to work from online—photos of living WOC like Amanda Gorman and photos of WOC who are now deceased. From these photos, I worked in mixed media to create 46 larger-than-life portraits of WOC artists, politicians, abolitionists, musicians, poets, writers, actors, and dancers, many of whom are well known and many I’d never heard of. I posted the portraits daily on my Instagram account along with information about each individual that I’d garnered from my research. I wanted to amplify these beautiful, brave women’s voices. While working on the portraits, I often felt the presence of each woman, as if I was channeling her spirit. I listened and learned something powerful from my “sitters,” and it is my hope that their voices will ring out and be heard by all who view their portraits.
Click on the images below to view the work full size and read the caption:
Image at top: Martha Miller, Coretta Scott King, charcoal and pastel on paper, 40 x 29 in., 2021.