Over the years I have painted hundreds of paintings from every topic you can think of on black history. It is exciting to paint and work from old photos. But one of my favorite things to paint is Umbrellas. There is something about the fact they shelter us from rain, sun, and storms that is dear to my heart. This series from the flower cart sellers on the streets of DC Easter of 1946 was a thrill to paint. Once I started painting the textures of the flower I waited with painter’s enthusiasm to paint the umbrella. I completes about 3 painting so far from those photo with more to comes. The first piece I created with a deeper understanding of why I loved umbrella was back in 1999. I had a small gallery downtown in Colorado Springs with my husband. A German man came in one day wanting to buy a painting I did of black women sitting under an umbrella reading a love letter. She was someone in my mind that was in Europe on a bridge thinking about love. I think I had watched a 1940’s romantic war movie that week and wanted to show what black love must have been like during WWII. He could not speak very good English I gave him my card. His daughter called me and wanted to come by to see if I could get him a reproduction of the painting since the original was sold. It was a watercolor on hot press paper.
They came over the following day. She translated for him that the painting had great meaning because of someone he loved during the war. I assumed she was a black women and he was a soldier for the Germany Army. His eyes were filled with so much pain and tear as he express his passion to bur the painting. He was willing to pay anything for it. I agreed to do the painting for him for very little. My heart went out to him.
He came back the following week after I was finished with the painting. I handed him the painting of the women reading the letter. He stared at the painting with great longing. He thanked me and held my hand tight. I hugged him and his daughter. I never saw that man again but I knew he felt a connection also to the women and the umbrellas on the bridge.
Umbrella protect us from rain, sun, and storm. I renamed my business Blu Umbrella Studio several years ago before it was called Black Revival Studio. I still have a line of cards called Blu Umbrella. I believe we have a spiritual umbrella with God that helps us weather the hard time in life. I never quite analyzed it until recently. I have been driven this month again to paint umbrella again!
The concept that God shelters us through the storms in life is a cornerstone in my faith. Behind the umbrella you know as some point the sun will shine. Storms are normal in life, but never every day. Seeing the clear sky and the cloud is what life is all about. However it is comforting to know that God can shield us when the things in our lives began to change.
It is in my faith in Jesus Christ that I get through the storm. I have learned to turn the storms in life into paintings. As an artist I find so many of the things I do that are documented in my art. Little things I create have great emotional significant. Many of the people I create in artwork are under the umbrella alone. They are reading letters, thinking, or waiting for the storm to pass. I am an introvert . It seems that most of my time I spend alone with my family. I am always thinking and creating from life. I love rainy days because the rain slows the world down some. There is even more time to think and create on deeper level from the small pats of rain the land on my window. I don’t own an umbrella, but I thinking about starting a collection.!
My umbrella period in my art that started over 10 years ago is just beginning to take shape. As I look at impressionist painting by Renoir I find the same genre of umbrellas brought to life. When I see African paintings of market places with women carrying bags with umbrella held high, I think about the sun and blazing heat they are sheltering themselves from. It’s their daily storm. Umbrella are powerful simple components that speak volumes of the struggle and survival of life, spirit, and soul. Love and umbrella, loneliness and umbrella, hope and umbrella will be a theme I will carry out in hundreds of more works of art to come. Life is full of storm and….. art documents life!