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.
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!
African Americans have made some crucial contributions to art and culture. The Colorado Black Arts Festival is proof. Live African drum and bass, blues, gospel, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, soul and world beat music fills the air. Multiple mediums, from fiber to photography, are displayed by notable and up and coming African American artists. Might want to have an appetite when you come, it’ll be tough to walk past the food court without stopping.
I’ve been taking a break from blogging for a while. I am far more visual than I am wordy, so at times, I just focus on the images. There are some new ones I want to share with you, but first, I have something to tell you about. I recently applied for a small business grant.
FedEx is offering to award $25,000 to the small business with the most votes. With that kind of money, I could create some great new products for you guys. I have some ideas for my Women Behaving Badly series that would help women and girls everywhere learn more about their place in history. So many women have contributed to the building of this country and our way of life. We should know who they are.
To that end, I want to print posters, informative postcards, collectible card decks (like baseball cards with stats and all), basically beautiful educational tools. Ideally, some would be for sale while others will be distributed to school aged kids. I want to inspire our young people, especially our young girls to enter high power, high paying fields like STEM, politics, business… fields in which the feminine touch is in short supply.
I am asking for your help. Please vote for me so that I can make my plans a reality.
UPDATE: The ballots have been cast and unfortunately, I have not been chosen this time around. Thank you to everyone who took time to vote (and help me troubleshoot my buttons). I will let you all know about any future opportunities that arise.
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.
Happy new year everybody! I know, it’s already been a month since the year started. I just been so busy working on projects, I’m only now finding time to gather my thoughts. I would love to show you what I’ve been working on but I want to make sure I respect the privacy of my clients.
Teaching at Girls Inc.
What I can share with you is something I’ve been waiting months to do. I have moved my Women Behaving Badly paintings to Girls Inc. of Denver, where they will hang until March 3rd. When I started this series I wanted to inspire young girls with the deeds of the women who have helped to shape our society. I wish I’d had these women as role models when I was young. Now the students of Girls Inc. can see these paintings every day and read about the lives of these amazing women.
In addition to showing my work in their halls, I’m also teaching three classes a week at Girls Inc. These classes are combination of history lesson and art lesson. I begin by walking through the halls with the girls, looking at the paintings and telling each woman story as I know it. Then we had back to the classroom to review and I find out which woman inspires each girl and why. I ask if there’s anyone else they find inspirational and take note of their responses.
The younger girls are given handouts of women they can research for their own paintings. The older girls get to do independent study of woman of their choosing . I asked him to tell me a story. By day 3, we take a break from academics to do art class. The first day is all about collage where I teach about technique as well as ways to think about color, shape and subject matter. The next day we do some acrylic painting with the same ideas in mind. These will be the key elements of their final project.
The last two classes are where we put it all together. Each girl is given an 18″ x 24″ wooden board to work on and is given the task of telling the story of the woman she is selected through image, word and color. I want them to work on wood so that they see it as a final piece, not just another throwaway school project. I wanted to feel special.
The Final Product
Over the course of eight weeks, I will have worked with second grade through fifth grade. The third-grade class is already finished and the fifth-graders are halfway through. At the end, we will hold an exhibition showing off the girls work to family and friends.
I am loving this opportunity to work with young girls and to hear from them what traits they admire most in the women they’re learning about. I love their openness, their enthusiasm and their spirit of exploration. I can’t wait to see what the next five weeks will bring.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friend Mike Rosenbaum, a caricature artist here in Denver. He and I had gone to school together, but haven’t hung out in a long time. We immediately made plans to catch up. He told me about this life drawing session at the Lakewood Cultural Arts Center, so we headed over there on Thursday.
Life Drawing in a Nutshell
If are an artist and you have never been to a life drawing session, I highly recommend that you go regularly. I hadn’t gone in over a year, but it came back pretty quickly. Different sessions have different formats, but the basics are:
- Short gesture drawings, usually 1-five minutes per pose
- Longer poses, about 10 minutes or so
- Slightly longer poses 20-30 minutes each. Here the model is usually seated or reclined, though some will stand.
- Long poses of 40 minutes to 2 hours. For the longest of these, the model will take a break at the halfway point to rest, then resume the pose to the best of his/her ability.
The session I went to last week had about five 1-minute poses, five 5-minute poses, one 10-minute poses and four poses that were between 20 and 30 minutes long. One minute per pose is a harrowing pace if you’re not used to it. It is, however, essential. If you can figure out the pose at one minute, with 20 or 30, you will have so much more time to work in the details. This makes it all worthwhile, to me.
Below are the drawings I did last week. One is missing because I gave it to the model. Sometimes they will take art in lieu of tips, though tips are encouraged as well.
Thanks for stopping in! Don’t forget that this Saturday is the Meet The Artist reception for Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library. I will be there from 2:30 -4:30 pm to answer any questions you have about the art and the series.
A Custom Portrait for Someone You Love
Women Behaving Badly is moving to the Blair Caldwell Library. If you missed the last showing at Coffee at The Point, this is your chance to see these paintings for the first time. If you have seen them already, there are some new women on the walls, so it will still be fresh.
Women Behaving Badly is like an artistic history lesson, telling the stories of women past who have contributed to the world we live in, but whom we know very little about. His-story needs to be rewritten to include the women who have turned their passions toward the betterment of us all.
The art is going up on the walls October 24th and will be up until December 10th.
Meet the Artist
Reception is from 2:30 – 4:30pm on Saturday November 12