In The Eye Of The Calm
(the pupil of "Peace Meditation of the Third Eye", by Robyn Mahone-Lonesome; All pics enlarge.)
A lot of self-help guides advise you to express your feelings to the intended, in the form
of a letter, if you can't communicate them verbally. "Speak Out!", the exhibition attended by myself and Mr. K at the
Frank H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center last weekend, had me thinking about the shows description as a correspondence, giving voice to a group of women––The Harlem Girls Quilting Circle––addressing issues affecting them, me, and whether you know it or not––you too.
I am largely a knitter, but I like to look for the connecting threads between diverse mediums to obtain inspiration. This show had my head spinning. The issues, investigated through the modern manipulation of a trad feminine form––the techniques, color, power, size, and beauty––bum-rushed my brain in a kaleidoscopic convergence.
The result, was a viscerally, sensory experience; your first thought is not the "gee, these are really nice quilts," kind of pleasantness you get from other shows of similar medium. When you enter, and the first quilt you see reflects the past and present state of Harlem, N.Y., now a real estate epicenter, depicted in a marvelously cohesive member-assigned block quilt––it's more like "Wow, what the *&#@?!"
Harlem On Their Minds
The messages, while personal to the circle, were certainly not intended for an inaccessible audience; and believe me, the audience came out in force! The issues––injustice, the criminal system, economics, health-care––aren't new, but that's not the point. As the blandness of email makes it easier to delete what you don't want to deal with, the attraction of these quilts, is quite the corollary; like letters written in a sensuous hand, on handmade rice paper with a
Faber-Castel––their beauty renders the subject matter even more compelling to read, no matter how chilling.
But unlike paper correspondence, this is too powerful to be mentally balled up and thrown away as some of the same guides advise, the importance being "closure". No y'all, this is a trad form of expression turned on its head, to express everything from outrage to a mechanism for coping. And true to our sistah selves, the imagery was bold and to the point––but hey, how else are some folks eventually going to "get it?"
"Speak Out!" isn't all about facing confounding issues. As in life, there are ways to cope, and these methods are displayed in works that soothe and heal, through balance and meditation. Paula Wynter's diptych, "Meditation: All The Pain And Suffering In the World", and "Meditation: All The Happiness In The World", is inspired by the practice of Tonglen. Unfinished works, they invite the viewer to add to the sending out of the pain and suffering of themselves and others, and then to send out happiness to us all. "Peace Meditation of the Third Eye" comes with an actual mantra to repeat.
At The End Of The Day, Why You Should Go
The HGQC is an independent circle of Harlem based sistahs who meet regularly to quilt. Together for a number of years, their works grace many private collections. In order to share their refreshingly modern perspectives with the public, they raise money for, and mount many of their own exhibitions. This group effort enables you to enjoy a stereotype-free experience, lacking censorship from the technique dominated, lulling shawl of passivity of many local group shows. I'm sending a HUGE shout out to the Cultural Center for hosting this show; and to my girls at HGQC, for inspiring me with new ways to communicate.
Now, I'ma say this once more. If you're looking for new ways to communicate, there will be a panel discussion with the artists about their way of working together, on April 30th, and then––African-inspired quilting workshops on the 7th, 14th, and 21st of June; for more info, contact Monthina Williams at the center––RSVP early for these, my friends, the instructor is Ife Felix, one of the founders; these workshops don't happen often, and they fill up quickly. So be there, or you're only a square!