Posts Tagged ‘Unity’

Black and White

November 26, 2011

Black and White

I am an artist – a child of the universe, rich in laughter, love and life, who dares to unwrap the universe’s gifts in my own truth. I create “Wonderfully Whimsical Works of Art by Sharon Martini” in which the colors black and white feature prominently. I outline the solid blocks of vibrant color that make up my pictures with black lines, and partner black and white in the borders.

As much as red – bright, blood, scarlet, primary red – is my absolute favorite color, I do not consider my creations complete without an abundance of black and white. To me black and white are the yin and yang of my creations, balancing out my compositions. Sort of day and night, dark and light, without either of which, none of my illustrations can be whole.

I love the way the contrast of the colors together, side-by-side, create harmony and balance, equilibrium in my drawings, informing me of their completion. Individually, their active energy sparkles, sharpens, defines and renders tangible my imagination. For me, the colors black and white are necessary, both stimulating and calming components of my two and three-dimensional creative world.

In contemporary Western society however, these two colors can facilitate chaos, consternation and frequently, cruelty. Black and white typically symbolize opposites; the dichotomy of good and evil, love and hate, angels and demons. They are loaded with cultural, spiritual, societal and linguistic connotation. To ascertain why this might be, when for me, black and white means artistic bliss, let’s take a look at the “stories” of black and white, beginning with the color aspect?

If you take a color wheel, you will find red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, and hues in between. No matter how hard you twist, turn, or spin the wheel though, you will not find the colors black or white.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, color is defined as, “The visible aspect of things caused by the differing qualities of the light reflected or emitted by them. A dye, pigment or paint that imparts a hue and skin tone.” So far so good, I am, as I mentioned earlier, partial to black and white paint in my artwork.

Delving further into definitions, black is defined as, “The achromatic color of maximum darkness; the color of objects that absorb nearly all light of all visible wavelengths.” White is defined as, “The achromatic color of maximum lightness; the color of objects that reflect nearly all light of all visible wavelengths.” Ah hah! Black and white are colors, of a kind. They are achromatic colors – colors without hue yet incorporate all colors on the color wheel.

Fine, fabulous so far. Let us now peek at some black and white synonyms. For black we have, soiled, (as from soot,) dirty, evil, wicked, depressing, gloomy, angry, sullen, morbid, dark. And white ones include, but are certainly not limited to, light-colored, pale, blank, unsullied, pure, snowy, incandescent, clean. Oh my! The scales are definitely tipping in favor of one color over the other, instigating division, as we dive into descriptions. I mean, if it’s a choice between “evil” and “gloomy” or “incandescent” and “pure,” is there really any competition?

Still, it’s only language. With the aforementioned lists in mind, let’s compare some traditional, religious and/or societal interpretations and meanings.

  • The medieval Christian sect known as the Cathars viewed black as a color of perfection.
  • In the Ifá tradition the orisha Obatala is represented with white – calmness, morality, old age, and purity.
  • In the Japanese culture, Black is associated with honor, not death. Kuro (black) is a symbol of nobility, age, and experience. The black belt is a mark of achievement and seniority in many martial arts.
  • In Japanese culture, White is associated with death. Shiro (white), symbolizes serfdom, youth, and naiveté. In Shotokan karate, a white belt is a rank-less belt which comes before all other belts.
  • Black is a symbol of mourning and bereavement in Western societies.
  • In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese and Indian tradition, white is the color of mourning and death.
  • In the Maasai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, black is associated with rain clouds, a symbol of life and prosperity.
  • To whitewash, means to obscure the truth by issuing a blanket of lies. Also it is the action of burying or shoving someone’s face into the snow, as a form of bullying, or harassment.

From those few examples one can see that mixed in with the purity, calmness, perfection and mourning of the black and white color stories, there is much contradiction and confusion. It’s all in the interpretation, and consulting again the color wheel, I am reminded that black and white are everywhere and nowhere.

So, I am sticking with mine own interpretation – balance, harmony, artistic bliss and equilibrium. It is, quite simply, black and white.

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Color Conscious…

November 7, 2011

“Brownings, Please” So exclaimed the headline of the Jamaica Gleaner, one Sunday, September last. Even before reading the article, and fully aware that I am still learning to fully comprehend variegate Jamaican vernacular, I felt quite secure in my determination that this was not about cooking. I was reminded of a TV programme I watched last year while flying back to Portland, Oregon from Montego Bay.

That show was CNN’s “Kids On Race: The Doll Study Revisited.” In a recreation of a 1947 experiment, a group of children were asked to choose the good, bad, ugly, pretty or “one that looks like me” doll from drawings ranging in hue from pale pink to dark chocolate, or, white to black. Almost across the board when asked to select the “doll” with positive traits the children chose the “white” one. When picking the negatives, yep you guessed it, they picked the darkest dolly, the “black” one.

Though not my first time observing this type of experiment and sadly, not surprised, my heart still ached as I questioned, again, how it was that, Anno Domini 2011, sixty plus years on, with the leader of the “free” world a milk-coffee-colored cousin, that the “barely out of diapers” future leaders of our world (and as current headlines imply, suit clad corporate leaders) continue to learn, and believe to the detriment of hue-manity, these putrid but persistent lessons? What are we adults teaching our children? And why are we adults perpetuating the madness? Obviously something is a miss. (Incredulous, I ask myself, and anyone who can hear, “Why are we still having this conversation?”) Something is not working, or then again, maybe that was the plan all along. But I digress.

It has shocked and saddened me during my journeys to the land of my parents, my ancestors; the home of my own vagabond, or wandering, soul, that the same self-hatred and disdain for one’s darkness, blackness, abundance of melanin, visibly evident African heritage, that reigns and rages, in the United States of America (and beyond) permeates this – rich, bounteous of spirit, heart and life – little island of Jamaica.

My mother had told stories of when as a child, being darker of hue and shackled with the twin shame of poverty, her “place” was in the back of the classroom at the “good” school she attended, and even that only because her mother washed its floors. Still, I say to myself that was then…

Will we, and I mean all of hue—manity, learn the truth of whom we truly are and what skin shade simply is at its core? Can we purge ourselves of the poisons we have been fed, disguised as lessons and learning; the blatantly illogical yet pernicious lies that corrupt us, our colors, our consciences, our compassion? Can we reclaim our power, take back our hearts, reaquaint with ourselves? Can we become the conquistadores of our own personal Freedom?

What if one knew that melanin is what colors us, what paints us uniquely in shades from milk to midnight; that technically, it is due either to abundance or deficiency, that we humans become black or white.

What if it was common knowledge that melanin is what darkens our skin, our hair, our eyes? Melanin helps us hear, colors our hearts, our blood, liver, the marrow in our bones, and gave “birth” to the stars.

What if you knew that melanin is protector, reflector, diviner, deflector, healer, highway-to-the-Divine; the almighty alchemist; the chemical of life? One-drop being sanctifier not stain – the key to life’s door?

What if you knew that billions of dollars of global government monies have been spent, and are continuing to be spent, studying melanin…and its magic?

Melanin is the most absorbent material known to man. It is melanin in a synthetic form that provided the insulation protecting the electrical wires of the now retired NASA Space Shuttle.

What if these truths were known to all human kind?
Imagine with me for a moment…

A rending of the cloak of inferiority, victim-hood, self-hatred, worn by the melanin-infused among us; this cloak woven and gifted “in the name of love, and God.”

The silencing, once and for all, of the perpetually repeated lies of white supremacy. The diminishing of the potency and power of color prejudice, and its big daddy racism.

We all, each one of us of every hue, have (are) melanin. What if we all knew and understood this?

What if commonsense/the universe/Sophia/wisdom/Goddess/God, whispered and we listened, really listened to her, “If you need a touch of melanin just to function, might that suggest the more you have, the greater thou can be?

Could humankind walk hand in hand, freed, no longer needing to run, hinder, hide, detach, crush, control, squelch, the “other;” able finally, to let go, relax and open to the unique foibles and fortes of each individual, no matter their skin tone?

Imagine knowing, deep in your heart, in the marrow of your bones, in your soul, in your melanin, that, like chlorophyll to plants, melanin to man, is the alpha and the omega?

No person, rule, wrong, “Doll Study” or “Brownings, Please” could ever take that away.

Thanksgiving/A Day of Mourning

November 25, 2010

Today, November 25, 2010, is another one of those all-American Thanksgiving holidays. It is a day when those privileged to be American (or reside there) are freed from the grind of work – and paid – so they may gather with their friends and families and stuff themselves silly on turkey, booze and all the other accoutrements associated with the Thanksgiving celebration. To revel and take pride in the benevolence, fortitude, generosity, and all-around goodness of the American pioneers, and particularly in this case, the Pilgrims. Maybe the dinner table is decorated with colorful paper turkeys created by the Bobs and Belindas, and Shaniquas,  Johns and Sulayvans under the guidance of and assisted by gluey digited teachers.

It is a shame that the Thanksgiving tale we are told is a lie (along with lots and lots and lots of other tales we have been told, but today is Thanksgiving’s turn.) The actual truth is just a teensy, weensy, bit, (and I do use this term facetiously) different.

For an Native American perspective and to read a surpressed speech click here.

We are all human beings made from the same matter, with equal ability for malevolence and good. Unfortunately, due to the wickedness of some and the intentional withholding of information and truth, we are not meant to realize that we know this. It is inherent in our hearts. But our hearts are so hardened and coated in crust and learning.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” We, humanity cannot heal, cannot come together until we re-remember that we all are one. Dare to be empowered. Free your mind so you may liberate your heart, so it can beat in unison with all.

Enjoy your turkey, but chew, swallow, and be sated, in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Human salvation …

October 23, 2010

This Martin Luther King quote was in an email I received today. It resonated so much that I simply had share.

Does it speak to you?

A Song For Healing

July 25, 2010

November last year I was awarded one of three McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, Lilla Jewel Fund For Women Artists, Social Justice Awards.

I am in the birds
I am in the bees

My commission was to create an art piece that depicted social justice. My creation entitled, “Mirror, Mirror…There I Am!” was unveiled at MRG’s “Justice Within Reach” Fundraiser, April 10, 2010. (Find it here at www.sharonmartini.com, or www.mrg.org.)

I am in the trees
I am in the seas

When Sheryl Sackman, the Development Director of MRG telephoned to tell me I had won, I am not ashamed to say, my giddy inner, old-fashioned, twelve year-old was unleashed. Grinning, naught but glistening white dentition in pajamas was I on the other end of the line.

I am in the ocean
In the wild
I am in the child

Elated I danced around my house – I had won an award! Then, out of breath, boogied unceremoniously back to reality, I wondered whom I could tell; who could stand to hear my happy news. Later still, I worried that in my exuberance (or delirium,) I had misheard. Maybe Sheryl had not, in fact, told me I was a winner?

I am in the winter
In the wind

Social justice is truth. It is the recognition that we all are human, descended from the dark, melanistic mother. “From out of Africa.”

I am in the summer sun
The soil
I am in your heart

Social justice is the knowledge that we humans exist in tandem, together and entangled with nature in all its incarnations. Social justice is wholeness.

I am in the storm
I am in the breeze
I am in the farm
I am in the field

Social justice begins with me. It starts with my seeking, finding, accepting and loving, unconditionally, the “I am” in me and being able to recognize her reflected back in everyone and everything I see.

I am in the hour
In the dark
I am in the day

Social justice is possible, I would never have entered the contest if I did not believe that. But social justice cannot exist without the human lest it remain a pithy, yet impotent, phrase, large letters on a placard, waving furiously, futile, in the air.

I am in the book
I am in the beast

We are forgetting the human. We are forgetting how to be wholly human sharing space, place, vulnerability and truth. Social justice is elusive.

I am in the famine
In the feast
I am in the fire

I am human (or at least I try.) I know pleasure. I have known pain. I know loneliness and longing. I have known sorrow. I know self-love. I have known betrayal and rejection, yet I know joy. Social justice is joy.

I am in the glory
In the story
I am in the man

Social justice is oneness. We have forgotten the oneness of nature, of us, and our place within it, as parts and pieces of the puzzle.

I am in the winter
I am out of Africa
I am in your soul

Social justice is love. We have forgotten pure love. We are forgetting our source.

I am in the world
I am in the mother
I am in me

Social justice is liberty. It is equality. Social justice is humanity remembered. It is humanity healed. Social justice sings:

I am human
I am home
I am human
I am here
I am human
We are whole

This column was originally published in the July, 2010 edition of The Southwest Community Connection newspaper.

The Shadow

June 11, 2010

Me, My Shadow - I!

It is within me
All about me
It is me

My mirror
My muse
My reflection
My ruse
It is me

It is my left leg
Or maybe right
My daytime
Or my night
It is me

It is my sunshine
It is my pain
It is my thunder
It is my rain
It is me

It is my trail
It is my wail
It is my own personal Holy Grail
It is my magic
It is my menace
My terrific
Or my tragic
It is me

It is my womb
It is my wonder
It is me

It is dispassionately awaiting
My evasion
Or my embrace
It is my path to peace, purgatory,
Or wherever
However, I get to choose

It is my lifelong partner
Beckoning me to dance
If I dare
And with whom I will die
With, or without, care

Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!

May 5, 2010

This is the piece McKenzie River Gathering Foundation commissioned me to create and unveiled at “Justice Within Reach” April 10, 2010. Below is my Artist Statement and the story behind this piece my sons think is “awesome.”

Mirror, Mirror ... There I Am! by Sharon Martini

My mission with my art is to unite all people in joy.

With my exuberantly colorful, intuitive artworks, starring brown characters, I bring to the forefront, with candor and humor, the truth that we all, no matter our color or culture, are the same – inherently human – entitled to, love, peace, equal treatment and joy.

I aim to give voice, visibility and a leading role in the pictures, and on the stage of “the theatre of humanity and life,” to the dark-skinned among us, whom are so often omitted from any positive, joyful, energetic and life-giving “productions.”

In this piece, “Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!” created for MRG, these ideas are central. Social Justice, I believe begins, and ends, with being able to see oneself everywhere, in the sun, the moon, the birds, the bees, the sea, the trees, and especially in all humans of every hue, but especially the dark, melanistic peoples.

Social justice, to me, begins with the ability to be comfortable and confident in who I am, to understand and know, we all are one, with each other and every living thing. The mirrors in “Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!” with each glimpse, “reflect the I in me, so I may see, the me in you, and every living being” of each and every person who peeks at the piece.

Creating art in a variety of media – fabric collage, paint, words, nature, metals and music, I aim to unite all people in joy, to touch you with truth and make you smile.

We often forget, in these our modern, increasingly stratified, multicultural times, the healing power of a simple smile. When we smile we are so much more open to everything!

Communal storytelling fosters a sense of human connection

April 16, 2010

Reminiscing one day with my sister, she reminded me of how I used to keep her awake — snotty with laughter, at bedtime — regaling her with stories about naughty Nabeel, a little boy who had a penchant for riding “bare-back” upon the cat’s ear. She had me chortling, and snorting, as I remembered those times, now well over three decades ago. I was instantly transported to a time in my life of belonging, when I truly felt loved.

Humans since the beginning of time have beguiled each other with stories, personal and communal, fables and sagas. Some of these tales have been, in our sophisticated civilization, pooh-poohed as mere myths, fabrications of the mind and imagination. Yet these stories, like the figments of my own fantasticality, have a tendency to stay with us — to root us, and remind us, of where and what we have come from. And that is the beauty of a story, no matter how odd, fanciful, incredulous it may be, it is still a story, someone’s or, many people’s story. It still has power and meaning and place. Even history, that amalgam of facts and many a fanciful folk tale, at its core, is simply collections of “his” “story” and, of course, “her” “story,” “our story.”

It has been said that what once was old becomes new again, and again. Will Fuller, Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc, Schools Committee Chair has dreamed up a way to bring back the way of our ancestors, for one night, (to start), to the Multnomah Arts Center. On Friday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m., “Sharing Our Family Stories,” sponsored by The Office of Neighborhood Involvement and Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc., Small Grant Program, will debut.

“Sharing Our Family Stories” is an evening of personal history and storytelling to celebrate the varied lives and experiences of all people in Southwest Portland. Inspired by Robert Gray Middle School’s Project R.E.A.C.H. and Jackson Middle School’s “Peopling The Nation” Family History Project, where eighth-grade students conduct in-depth research into the background (ethnicity, religion, immigration routes and life highlights) of one family relative, or ancestor, and relate their individual stories, orally and visually, to members of their school community. The original intention of these family history projects was, in my opinion, to afford the children opportunities to learn about and from each other, to dispel or at least begin to diminish the power of the myths and stereotypes of “the other.” A way, I like to think, to help them “know,” particularly in this era of multiculturalism, that we are all, no matter color or culture, inherently human, with rich, different, yet equally important stories.

The aim of “Sharing Our Family Stories” is to foster human connection, healing and community in Southwest Portland. Robert Gray and Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students will facilitate the cross-cultural, cross-generational roundtable dialogues with community members. The students will first recount their personal chronicles. All who listen will be invited to share their own tales.

“Sharing Our Family Stories” is an invitation to all to break bread together (light snacks will be provided), to meet, human to human, heart to heart, at the table of unity and take turns at being storyteller. So each person may, like the ancient storytellers, griots, and fabulists of lore — whose role it was to educate, nurture, entertain, and ultimately unite their people in love, play their small but mighty part in uniting, in humanity and love — our neighborhoods, our community. The ancients knew that the need to be heard is inherent in all humans. To be heard is to belong. To belong is to be loved.

Everyone has a story to tell. What is your story? Your epos or memoir might star, instead of a mischievous munchkin wildly riding the cat’s ear, an unctuous uncle who sailed in on the big ship Newgate; a chief whose ancestors came with the territory, or a mother Goddess who flew Boeing over the sea. It is your story to tell. Please do.

For additional information and to reserve your place at the community story table e-mail schools@swni.org, or telephone 503-764-5501.

Sharon Martini is an English “mummy.” She lives in the Bridlemile neighborhood with her two sons, several pets. A local singer and actress, she also writes and illustrates little picture books.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 Edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper.