Along with the new paintings, I will make available posters and prints of the old paintings. Each piece will be accompnaied by the story fo the woman in it, making this event a history lesson as well as an art show. Opening night is October 7, 2017 and the paintings will be hanging up the entire months of October and November. So come to Cofffee at The Point from 6-10 pm. I look forward to seeing you there.
In the 1980s, Toni Morrison had been going through the recorded history of slavery and came across something that disturbed her. Ina newspaper clipping about runaway slaves was the story of a woman who did the unthinkable. When it was clear that she would be captured, she killed her own child. She said that she would rather see the child dead than watch it grow up as a slave. This story had a profound effect on Morrison. Her obsession with this tale developed into the novel Beloved.
In Beloved, an escaped slave woman tries to kill herself and her two children rather than return to slavery. One child dies, but the woman and the other child survive. Years later, they are living free lives when the ghost of the dead baby comes to stay. She arrives in the form of a teenaged girl and it is some time before her true identity is discovered. Published in 1988, Beloved won Toni Morrison the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. No African American woman had ever won a Pulitzer before.
In 1993, Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Again, she was the first African American Woman to win this prestigious award. At the podium, she said “I felt I represented a whole world of women who either were silenced or had never received the imprimatur of the established literary world…. It was very important for young Black people to see a Black person [succeed]…. Seeing me up there might encourage them to write one of those books I’m desperate to read. And that made me happy.”
I have to agree with her there. The term role model exists to describe someone who can show us how to be in the world. These people serve as examples of the kind of person we can become. it is vitally important for children (and adults) to have examples they can relate to. When you relate to someone, you can imagine yourself becoming as great as they are, as famous as they are, as wealthy as they are. Growing up, I did not have any role models with whom I could relate. I did not have a famous Black female artist to look up to, so I cherry picked and cobbled together my own vision of who I wanted to become.
Women Behaving Badly exists for those women and girls who wish to relate to their role models. For them, I have reached back into time to find the Great Dames of the past. These women went off the beaten path so that we would follow in their footsteps.
You know what I love most about this series? I love delving into the lives of the women I get to paint. Many of them, I had heard of, but didn’t really know what they were famous for. Take Toni Morrison, for example. Growing up, I knew that she was a famous African American Author. I knew her books were popular and I would often confuse her with Alice Walker (shameful, I know).
I had no idea, until working on Women Behaving Badly, that she was the first African American woman to not only win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as well. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for her book Beloved, which was turned into a movie in 1998. I remember seeing the trailers on TV, but I was at boarding school at the time and wasn’t able to drive to the theatres.
Anyway, back to Toni Morrison. Her parents had moved to Ohio to escape the racism of the South in the 1920s. In school, she was one of very few Black kids and was the only child who could already read in the First Grade. This was because her parents understood the value of a good education and taught her to read early. I can relate. I was also an early reader and would spend my school days waiting for my classmates to catch up. Toni Morrison used her time differently. Fueled with ghost stories and tales of Southern Black inventors, she would weave narratives of her own, though it was years before she would call herself a writer.
After high school, Morrison attended Howard University. Her father had to work three jobs to afford her tuition so she took full advantage of her education. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in the classics. In 1953 became the first person in her family to graduate from university. She then went on to earn her Master’s in English Literature at Cornell University in 1958.
After all that schooling, Morrison went to work at Random House as a textbook editor. At the time, she was one of the very few female African American editors. Realizing how rare this was, she used her position of power to introduce young Black women writers who probably would not have been published otherwise. She also began work on her first novel, The Bluest Eye. This book about a young Black girl who imagined herself to have blue eyes and fair skin, was a commentary on the ways in which standards of beauty and personhood affected those who didn’t meet those standards.
What set The Bluest Eye apart from other stories at the time was the fact that it was told entirely from the African American perspective. Morrison made a point of not “translating” any of the language or story elements for a White audience. “Dostoevsky wrote for a Russian audience, but we’re able to read him” says Morrison. “If I’m specific and I don’t over explain, then anyone can overhear me.”
…to be continued…
When I was in school, I did not do well in history class. I mean, I did well enough to pass, but I didn’t get why we needed the course. It was all names and dates of people and places that seemed to have no relevance to my life. Now that I’m older, I see that we do a disservice to students when we make history boring. The fact is, history is full of STORIES. Everybody loves stories. If that weren’t true, there is no way the movie, television and gaming industries would be as big as they are today.
In recent years, I have learned more history in story form. I started out with historical fiction, stories of fake people set in real places, times and events. Those led me to look for stories of real people in history. Not only have these stories been interesting in their own right, they have finally become relevant. Learning the history of Women’s Suffrage has helped me appreciate my right to vote and to participate in political discourse. Those women fought long and hard (over 100 years) to have their voices heard. I owe it to them to take part.
Learning the history of the Civil Rights Movement makes me appreciate the fact that I am a full citizen in this country and am mostly treated as such. I was born well after the era of fire hoses and lynchings. It also reminds me not to accept injustice when it is directed at me or at others. History has taught me the vital role allies play in righting wrongs and in moving us toward progress and equality. Those who have inherent power should use it to help level the playing field for others. Those of us seeking that equality should accept help when it’s offered. Progress does not happen only by the efforts of the few, but by the efforts of the many.
In my series, Women Behaving Badly, I seek to answer three questions about each woman I depict: Who is She? What did She do? Why does She matter? To me, that last question is the most important and is what was missing from my history lessons all those years ago. Why should I care? Because it is all connected. It’s the butterfly effect. Seemingly small events and decisions from the past reverberating throughout the present and the future. Answering that question over and over again has given me new insight into the world around me. It has also made me more curious than ever before.
There has been a lot of horribleness in the news lately. There have been shootings, bombs, vehicular homicides…. The amount of violence, especially in places long considered safe has been overwhelming. The thing that hits us the hardest, though, is the undercurrent of racism and bigotry that has risen to the surface.
Many people are shocked that not only do these ideas persist, but that they are so strongly held. They can’t understand how, in a world that is so connected that one group can so hate another that they would call for a shutdown of their rights. And indiscriminately cause their deaths. It is enraging to watch it all happen. And it is frightening to be a member of not one, but several of the groups being targeted.
I am a Black, queer woman who is part of a mixed race couple. This doesn’t feel like a safe climate for me and my wife. There are those around me, ready to take up arms, to do battle. They are on the front lines at protests. They send calls to action to the powers that be, beseeching them to do the right thing and pass legislation to combat what feels like the rising tide of hatred and bigotry. These are the warriors, and we need them.
Five years in the Marine Corps have taught me that I am no warrior. I am an artist, a creator. As such, direct confrontation doesn’t work for me. My medium is subversion. I want to make people think, to reconsider their positions. Tell a person they are wrong, and they get instantly defensive. Tell a person a story, and they cannot help but look for themselves in that story.
I started to tell the stories of women from all races, nationalities, and walks of life through my series Women Behaving Badly. I want people to see themselves in those stories, to consider how they may be like those women, and think differently about women in general. Originally, I aimed these stories and this art at women and girls. I wanted to inspire them to be more than they thought they could be. Now, I see that these pieces can become a vehicle to combat an ideology that puts people into a box with an incorrect label in order to stop them being their full selves.
To quote the Netflix series The Get Down, “when you know better/ then you gotta do better/ each one teach one/ come together”. Warriors, stay on the front lines, we need you there. But, if like me, you know you don’t fit in a the front, we still need your help. Spread art, spread knowledge, spread the stories that tell of our mutual humanity. Reach out with your heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Erykah Badu painting is officially off the market.
Some friends of mine have had their eyes on this painting since I first showed it. My putting it up for sale gave them the chance to buy it and now it’s in their home.
Now is a great time to pick up that painting you have been eyeing. Come to the website, and place your order.
I have recently come to a decision about my business. I wish to concentrate on my series Women Behaving Badly. I have spent the last year working on various projects for clients, and while it has been rewarding, I fear it has taken me away from my true passion.
The Women Behaving Badly series has brought me to new levels with my art. The series has brought more meaning to my life than anything I’ve done so far. It has made me see how my art can touch people and inspire them to be and do better.
I realized that it has been almost a year since I’ve painted one of these amazing women. That realization did not feel good. So, I am getting back into it, doing more extensive research and experimenting with new techniques that will push the envelope of storytelling and visual appeal.
The challenge to my being able to do this is funding. I need to pay studio fees, buy supplies, and pay for prints of the paintings when I’m done. I know that not everyone can afford originals, so I provide posters and other reproductions so that anyone may enjoy and learn from my work. I have a Patreon account (kind of an ongoing Kickstarter) which I will flesh out with perks that pertain only to this series. However, what will help me most will be to sell some paintings.
If you have been with me these last few years, you will remember my series of famous musicians: Synesthesia. That series did a lot to build my audience, and honestly, my business. I took music I loved and artists I admire and painted them with all the joy their work has brought me. I honed my watercolor skills with those paintings, got comfortable painting in public, stepped up my marketing game…. Those paintings brought a lot to my life as an artist and as a businesswoman. Now it is time for me to let them go so that I am free to devote time and energy to Women Behaving Badly. My loss is your gain.
I will cut the price of my Synesthesia paintings by 50% to fund my new series. By buying one, you are allowing me to:
- Study and paint women who have been left out of the history books
- Create zines and compilation books telling their stories
- Reach out to schools with this series as a curriculum
- Print posters, postcards and other materials
- Make videos of my process and of me telling each woman’s story.
I feel as though I started something huge and now I have to give it time to grow. I love my clients and am grateful for the work we did together, but this series has been calling me and I have to go to it now. If you believe in it as much as I do, help me make it an ongoing reality. Buy one of my old paintings (you know which one you’ve had your eye on) or contribute via Patreon.
Thank you for being with me on this journey. Let’s do something amazing!
Hi everyone! It has been AGES since I’ve written to you here. I will admit that I had a bit of a writing slump this past year. I had a hard time putting words together. But I am back now and I have some things I am excited to tell you about!
For now, I want to talk about art fairs and festivals. Now, if you have been following me on social media, you will have seen that I have done a few this year. The most recent of these was the Colorado Black Arts Festival this past weekend. Three days in the hot sun, sharing my art with my community. This was my fourth year and, as always, it was exhausting and exhilarating.
During these things, I get to connect one-on-one with hundreds of people, a few minutes at a time. I get to learn what people value in my work and what they wish to see. Likes on social media don’t quite convey the same thing. I can see where eyes linger, breath is held and bodies react and I know instantly which pieces resonate with which people.
I also learn about pricing. If I put a painting up for sale on my website, I don’t get much feedback. I don’t know why someone didn’t buy it. When someone tells me, “someday I will be able to afford your art”, I get a better understanding of what is going on. In the beginning, I brought large paintings for high prices, thinking that with one or two sales, I would meet my financial goals. This thinking was not wrong, per se. It’s just that there is a barrier to entry for many people. Now, I take prints, posters and smaller works of art that I am happy to keep under $200. Sure, I now have to make more sales to see the numbers I’d like to see in my bank account, but I am building my patron base.
It being my fourth year at the Colorado Black Arts Festival means that people who go every year now look for me. They say things like “I hoped you’d be here this year”. Often, these are people who bought something from me the year before and are looking to add to their collection. This is incredibly valuable. Any business owner knows that your best customers are the ones who come to you again and again. Now I have repeat customers.
In watching the older artists, I learned the value of nurturing these relationships. A woman who has been going to the Black Arts festival for over 30 years told me that she sold 18 paintings in a single day! THAT is where I want to be.
Check out some of my photos and videos from the weekend. Feel free to ask me any questions about getting into festivals, booth setup, or anything that comes to mind.
Women Behaving Badly is moving to the First Baptist Church of Denver! This series by Denver artist Adri Norris celebrates women who were leaders, activists, and innovators in a variety of fields. From worker’s rights to Bluetooth technology, Title 9 to the Nobel Peace Prize, these women and their work profoundly shaped our modern world. This series strives to tell their stories of bravery, determination, and relentless rule breaking. After all, well behaved women seldom make history.
The collection will be hung in the hallway and on display every day from 7:30am to 6pm. This showing also includes two opportunities to meet the artist: Wednesday March 15th at 6:30pm and Sunday March 19th at 12pm. Whether you’ve been following the series from day one or are encountering the work for the first time, you don’t want to miss this!
I may have mentioned this before but I love listening to podcasts. My list seems to grow every month as more, interesting series come to my attention. I stared listening to Radio Lab a few years ago and it was like my gateway drug. Podcasts allow me to insert information into my brain while I am working and inspire me to apply new concepts to my art.
It was through podcasts that I learned of some of the women I painted or my Women Behaving Badly series. I heard their stories, learned of their deeds and asked myself, why have I never heard of these women before? So, I set myself to the task of using my art to teach others. I felt as though I had finally found my purpose.
Listening to Hidden Brian today, I heard an episode which added to my motivation. The topic of the episode was unconscious bias as it relates to women, particularly women in leadership roles. Women who have the “masculine” traits necessary to be seen as good leaders are often considered overbearing and unlikable. When women display the expected “feminine” traits of being caring and compassionate, they are assumed to be weak and incompetent. The podcast calls this the “double bind”. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
The end of the podcast suggests that if we are to get women out of this double bind situation, we need to change society’s perception of women. I have chosen to showcase women in history as my way of changing that perception. I highlight women leaders, inventors and healers of nations. Not only do they inspire me, our society needs to see them as contributors to who we are. We need to let go of our unconscious biases and see value in the feminine.
Check out this episode of Hidden Brain to learn more. And go to my Women Behaving Badly blog to learn more about the series.
If you live in the Boulder area and you are looking for some unique gifts for your loved ones:
Come check out the BOULDER CREATIVE COLLECTIVE‘s Holiday Jubilee! Experience some freakin’ rad local artists, apparel brands + more in their awesome warehouse space in East Boulder! Coffee + cocktails will be available for purchase.
Afro Triangle will be selling original drawings and paintings, fine art prints, portrait commissions and more. I’ll see you on Saturday!