By Stacy Hawkins Adams
I had an awesome time this evening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts participating in the National African American Read-In.
Along with those who gathered for the readings in front of designated pieces of art, I learned the history behind this beautiful painting (see right) by artist Eldzier Cortor (who died at age 99 last year, a short time after the museum interviewed him about this work). The piece was produced in the early 1940s and was owned by famous author Ralph Ellison.
After the museum curator shared details about how and why Cortor rendered this painting, I read two poems – “Southern Song” and “Sorrow Home ” – to the guests of all ages, backgrounds and hues who had gathered. The poems were penned by esteemed writer Margaret Walker and related well to the “story” told in Cortor’s art.
As a GRITS (Girl Raised in the (deep) South), I could relate to the images Walker painted with her words, and also to the emotion present in the eyes, posture and gesture of the woman featured in Cortor’s painting.
Both the artist and the writer seem to be grappling with the bittersweet notion of what staying in their beloved south means and what going would mean. There are wins and losses either way.
Do you find yourself at a crossroads sometimes? What is your measure for staying or going, for pushing through the dilemma to consider all options, and making choices that honor the best in you?
Consider telling your own story with a paintbrush or pen, and tell it authentically. For this is what “freedom of expression” permits, and ultimately, this is what makes both art, and our individual journeys, awe-inspiring to live and watch unfold.