Painting Black Women From History, From the Heart


Painting Black Women From History, From the Heart

Back in the early 80’s, I left Columbus Ohio to attend College in Pueblo, Colorado. For the first time in my life I was around another culture besides Black and White people. I was exposed to Mexican Americans and Latino artists for the first time. My second semester of college I had to go into the military to pay for college. I lived off campus near downtown when I returned from Basic Training.  It was a very hard time. I finally  got a  job at night at the mall. To make some extra money I entered a mural contest with local Mexican artists. We had to paint a mural on the vacant  windows in the Vail Hotel. I was so poor that I didn’t have enough money for paint. I brought some food colors, Comet, and paper cups. I mixed the food color with the Comet and water. I painted a mural on the glass window of a Black woman standing tall. It was how I felt even though I  had not eaten for a few days, I was tall inside.

imagesdaliAn older white lady noticed my attempts to paint and befriended me. She invited me over for lunch at her  shop. We became friends. Her name was Vadna Pomeroy. She had lived with Salvador Dali in Spain for several years. She exposed me to his art and style. She told me wild stories about  visiting his castle. It was fascinating to hear such personal accounts of a renowned artist. My brother Charlesimagestime Dillard  had painted  an imitation of his Persistence of Memory  many years ago. It look identical to the original. Vadna encouraged me to keep doing my art because my struggle would define my paintings.

I was beginning to become enriched with  the appreciation of art from other cultures. As I said, in Columbus there were only two kinds of people: Black and White.  My artistic  world was beginning to take on color as an artist.  From Vadna’s encouragement I began studying Salvador Dali. I fell in love with his art. I understood more about his political pieces he painted.  I was inspired. I discovered Diego Riviera  later.  Matisse  and Edward Hopper became  my favorite artists also. But I was still painting Black women but why? Why was I so driven to paint Black women? Why didn’t I start painting Cubism or Surreal art? I was inspired.. right?

amenwoman chainThe fact is I am a Black woman. I realize that these artists are like me because they painted who they were, what they saw, and their culture around them. I grew up with a strong  Black mother (Louise Dillard). I had strong Black sisters. (Pinky, Wanda, and Darcel).  I had strong Black aunts. I was tall inside because they made me tall.

I  grew  up seeing strong Black women artists around me. I recall curating a show at the recreation center in Columbus Ohio. I had to pick up art from Aminah Robinson from her house. I had the several pieces of art already on display. She lived down the street from by brother on NelsonimagesCAQPC558 road in Columbus. I pulled up to her house and she opened the door. I had known her a for a while  from Ace Gallery, but I had not had the  time to just talk to her one on one. She always wore such a bright warm smile. I spent  about an hour  or so talking art with her. She  showed me a chair she had been carving that had her family history on it. She pulled out a book that was  a 6’  scrap book of felts and fabrics that told  the story of her son and family’s history. Woven in the book were  photos, beads, cut outs, and designs that  told a beautiful, abstract story of family. She expressed how she admired my work and we agreed to exchange pieces. She inspired me to be who I am and to tell my story. As an Artist she touched my life deeply.

bather1Over the years I have tried to do just that.  I try to tell in my art the story of Black women on wood, paper, and canvas. Our history is wide, deep, loving, and strong. It is full of faith, fears, peace, joys, and resiliency. This past year I discovered photos of Black women on the beaches in Asbury, New Jersey in 1908. It was a  beach resort   in the 1900’s for Blacks to swim at. It was segregated. Many of the pictures showed the joy of loving the sun on our beautiful golden skin. I also found photos of White women on the  beach in the 1900’s.  I replaced them with Black women to fill in myPraying in The Sprirt imagination of what it must have been like for them to swim also in a different section of the segregated  beach.

Over the years I have done many series of paintings. Black women will always be a centerpiece in that body of work I am committed to creating. We are full, tall, short, light brown, dark brown, golden, red bone, bronze, bright, and caramel. mammaEvery painting I paint of Black women, there is a piece of me in it. In every hue of brown and depth of movement I found I added my self. They are me and I am them. From Sunday Morning hats to small Black girls on steps, I paint Black women from the heart, soul ,and spirit of who we are. In every stroke I feel our survival and our faith to endure. Dali, Diego, Hopper, and Matisse  encouraged me to use my voice to our  tell story…our  story in paint as they told theirs. I paint what I see and feel in each historical Black  photo I discover. Every day I wake up and  look in the mirror, the brown skin around me reminds me… paint that Black woman you see. I have never painted a self-portrait, then again maybe I have….Tarry Child2







2 thoughts on “Painting Black Women From History, From the Heart

  1. Divine Peace and Blessings to You and Yours, I ‘developed’ a Spiritual Talisman out of my desktop. I have many images of black women on my desktop of which I have added your beautiful paintings. Pictures tell their own stories irreverent of the so-call European ‘story tellers’ intent to deceive! At one time in New Orleans history, a black woman was required by American LAW to wear a cloth head covering; as if the ‘darkness’ our skin was not a good enough tag. I view the images of black women even from various cultures to 2011. It amazes me ‘how far’ we have come! We have “White Miss Ann’s” hair wigs on our heads (add her behaviorism’s, voice mimicking, mental state and so forth..), we READILY display that we have learned the ‘ASS-PASS’ game well from “White Miss Ann.” We as black women pull our clothes off ‘freely’ now for every occasion! Our ‘female bodies’ have openly become our ‘pass’ to partake of White America. The ‘bikini’ that is NOT designed for our strong black bodies, have become our ‘fashion ideal’ irreverent of HOW ridiculous we look! We have come along WAYS?? Through it all, YOU TRULY MAKE MY DAY AND KEEP ME INFORMED! I THANK YOU and THE HIGHEST DIVINE POWER for CREATING this web site as a SPIRITUAL PORT by which I can BE myself! Departing in Divine Peace…


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