I’m a self taught artist who was initially taught by my father. When my mother took me and my two siblings to Chicago without our father, I had to train myself . Lessons such as color mixing exercises using oil or water based paints and figure drawings were from my fathers lessons. In Chicago we lived with family members, then in the Chicago Housing projects. In my new school people discovered that I loved art. I was influenced by teachers who introduced their us to great artists like Romare Bearden , Charles White, Faith Ringgold and others. I was happy to hear the sounds of my people’s music and accomplishments from around the world, spoken in various languages from African to Portuguese to French to Spanish and all other languages that I discovered were the voices of African people.
Art, discovery and a little research taught me that my people had a hidden, rich, culture. This wonderful information helped to create a quiet, satisfied me.
Because my family and the outside world of the ’60’s America was in turmoil. I discovered something that was just plain crazy. I discovered from my mom that we didn’t have the ability to do various, simple, human things. My initial comment was, “Are you kidding me, really! ” It was sad information for a young person to hear. At first I thought it wasn’t true. I thought, she had to be joking, but, WOW, it was true. I began to see proof of horrific oppression everywhere.
My art continued because the larger world scared me. I saw in the news and in front of me (at times) that some poor people were being destroyed mentally and physically by, (of all services!) the police. It wasn’t just the police, everyone was involved. This hatred was driven by media, small businesses, civil services and of course by angry (ourselves) and hateful individuals. All because we were Black people who wanted to be average men and women. Chicago had built storage units for poor black people that could not be protected (or would not be protected) by Firemen/stations or secured by the Police. They were called the Chicago Housing Projects. Inside of these storage units only a few people stole from their neighbors and felt untouchable. Still most of us managed to keep a great group of people in our building safe with self protection. Gangs were not rampant but we had people(gangsters) who moved in later on. On the whole, we were ignored and susceptible to whatever came our way.
People lived their lives, played and loved anyway. Especially children, many of us formed a great bond. In the early years we played with, knew and protected each other. I continued to question our situation, actions/reactions of family, friends and neighbors as they continued to struggle for themselves and their children. Many families found their own successes (lets say this again)… anyway. On the other hand, many children (including myself) became depressed, sick and lived in what slowly became mentally and physically challenging conditions, all inside of our 13 small upwardly stacked, spaces.
It cleared my head a little when people offered to pay the little they had, for my art. I finally felt that I had some worth. Most of the work requested by people in the building were portraits of themselves or their children. I began to feel like I was helping my family a little when I started drawing for other people. When I attended Dunbar Vocational High School, demands for art really picked up. I gained a tremendous amount of information and experience from my commercial art class at Dunbar. I grew quickly in the field of commercial art because we used the skills we learned to work for companies and individuals in the community.
Both of my college experiences were disastrous. I didn’t have enough money to go to the elite, American Academy of Art (or any college, for that matter) I also had no Idea, that I was too poor to attend. I was accepted into the school and thought that I could get a scholarship or grant. I did receive a scholarship which was actually a loan. I made this opportunity a duty to myself to succeed, and I did, but it wasn’t pretty.
When I attended the U.W., Madison My financial aid never came before the end of September. So, I had to get a couple jobs. I was always under stress to catch up. Luckily my boyfriend, now husband, came with me to the U.W., Madison. Neither one of us had money, but he knew what we wanted, was psyclogical calm. My Husband has a great since of humor. I had great art teachers. Unfortunately, when I was an undergrad, the environment at the U.W. was never comfortable enough for me to create great artwork, I did my best and graduated form the University with some complications, but, I graduated.
Going to college and getting a degree/degrees was a action that many of my advisers believed could get me a tiny measure of documented, accomplishment.. At first, companies and institutions seemed to consider the certificate, more than my art. It was a certificate of written accomplishment, that I had to have, if I wanted the opportunity to achieve my goals. My advisers where right at the time. (of course that time has passed) I used my skills to be a part of dozens of exhibits.
In 1984 I graduated, with a B.S. in art, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, then returned to school for a Bachelors of Education, so that I could teach. Later, I earned a Master of Art -Education degree while teaching. I taught, starting in 1984 as a substitute teacher, then as a short-term ED teacher, then a A.R. teacher and finally, an art teacher for 23 years in Madison Wisconsin. Overall, including my first 4 years as a substitute teacher, I’ve spent 31 years doing what I wanted to do..teach art. I retired in 2013. I continue to create artwork/ freelance at home.