December 8, 2022


Art Is Experience

Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze

Record-mapping draws the broad and narrow, the known and unknown past to the current. For the duration of my residency at the Aminah Robinson house, I examined the impulses behind my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and located a kinship with the textile artist and author who manufactured her home a inventive safe and sound room. I crafted narratives as a result of a mixed media application of classic buttons, antique laces and fabrics, and text on fabric-like paper. The beginning level for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the creating in the course of this task was a photograph taken more than a century back that I identified in a loved ones album. 3 generations of ancestral moms held their bodies still outside of what appeared like a improperly-constructed cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

A few generations of girls in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s relatives album. Museum art converse “Time and Reflection: Driving Her Gaze.”

What views hid guiding their deep penetrating appears to be? Their bodies prompt a permanence in the Virginia landscape around them. I realized the names of the ancestor mothers, but I realized little of their lives. What were being their techniques? What music did they sing? What needs sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What were the evening seems and working day seems they read? I needed to know their feelings about the environment around them. What frightened them? How did they discuss when sitting with mates? What did they confess? How did they communicate to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These inquiries led me to composing that explored how they must have felt.

Investigation was not more than enough to convey them to me. Recorded general public background typically distorted or omitted the stories of these women of all ages, so my historical past-mapping relied on recollections associated with thoughts. Toni Morrison known as memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a kind of willed creation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a specific way.” The act of remembering through poetic language and collage served me to greater comprehend these ancestor moms and give them their say.

Photographs of the artist and visual texts of ancestor mothers hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson home.

Functioning in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my family heritage and my inventive composing crossed new boundaries. The texts I developed reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-minimize styles drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I minimize excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented reminiscences and reframed unrecorded record into visible narratives. Colour and texture marked childhood innocence, female vulnerability, and bits of recollections.

The blackberry in my storytelling grew to become a metaphor for Black life created from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the elements of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends collecting berries in patches together place streets, the labor of children accumulating berries, putting them in buckets, walking along roadways fearful of snakes, listening to what could be in advance or hidden in the bushes and bramble. Those people reminiscences of blackberry cobbler proposed the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black people lean on to endure struggle and rejoice lifetime.

In a museum speak on July 24, 2022, I relevant my resourceful activities through the residency and shared how concerns about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry collection exhibited at the museum expressed the growth of my composing into multidisciplinary variety. The levels of collage, silhouette, and stitched styles in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Road Forward,” “Sit Aspect Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the previous and imagined memories. The final panels in the show launched my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a probably enslaved foremother. Whilst her life time rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, analysis revealed sparse strains of biography. I faced a lacking site in historical past.

Photograph of artist’s gallery communicate and dialogue of “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census.”

Aminah Robinson recognized the toil of reconstructing what she known as the “missing web pages of American background.” Working with stitchwork, drawing, and painting she re-membered the past, preserved marginalized voices, and documented record. She marked historic moments relating everyday living moments of the Black community she lived in and loved. Her operate talked back to the erasures of history. Consequently, the dwelling at 791 Sunbury Highway, its contents, and Robinson’s visible storytelling held distinctive that means as I labored there.

I wrote “Sit Aspect Me” in the course of silent hrs of reflection. The days following the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” expected the grandmother and Sweet Youngster to sit and acquire their power. The commence of their discussion came to me as poetry and collage. Their tale has not ended there is extra to know and claim and envision.

Photograph of artist reducing “Sit Facet Me” in studio.


Photograph of “Sit Aspect Me” in the museum gallery. Picture courtesy of Steve Harrison.

Sit Facet Me
By Darlene Taylor

Tasting the purple-black spoon in opposition to a bowl mouth,
oven warmth perspiring sweet nutmeg black,
she halts her kitchen baking.

Sit aspect me, she says.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her warm, dim eyes cloud. She leans ahead
shut ample that I can stick to her gaze.

There is considerably to do, she states,
inserting paper and pencil on the desk.
Compose this.

Somewhere out the window a hen whistles.
She catches its voice and shapes the large and reduced
into terms to clarify the wrongness and lostness
that took me from college. A lady was snatched.

She recall the ruined slip, torn e book internet pages,
and the flattened patch.
The words and phrases in my arms scratch.
The paper is as well small, and I cannot write.
The thick bramble and thorns make my hands even now.

She will take the memory and it belong to her.
Her eyes my eyes, her skin my skin.
She know the ache as it handed from me to her,
she know it like sin staining generations,
repeating, remembering, repeating, remembering.
Remembering like she know what it sense like to be a lady,
her fingers slide throughout the vinyl desk area to the paper.
Why prevent crafting? But I don’t remedy.
And she do not make me. Alternatively, she potential customers me
down her memory of being a girl.

When she was a girl, there was no university,
no guides, no letter creating.
Just thick patches of inexperienced and dusty red clay road.

We choose to the only road. She appears to be like much taller
with her hair braided in opposition to the sky.
Take my hand, sweet boy or girl.
Jointly we make this stroll, maintain this previous street.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend prolonged the highway.

Images of slice and collage on banners as they cling in the studio at the Aminah Robinson residence.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The road bends. In a put wherever a girl was snatched, no just one states her identify. They communicate about the
bloody slip, not the shed female. The blacktop street curves there and drops. Can’t see what is ahead
so, I listen. Insects scratch their legs and wind their wings higher than their backs. The highway appears

Each individual day I wander by itself on the schoolhouse highway, preserving my eyes on wherever I’m heading,
not where I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying textbooks and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An motor grinds, brakes screech. I action into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy flavor of street dust dries my tongue. More mature boys, necessarily mean boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
chortle and bluster—“Rusty Lady.” They generate speedy. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the street. Sunshine beats the crushed fowl.

Slicing as a result of the tall, tall grass, I pick up a adhere to warn. Music and sticks have electrical power over
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish below my toes. The ripe scent helps make my stomach
grumble. Briar thorns prick my pores and skin, earning my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I try to eat.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the flavor.

Guides spill. Backwards I fall. Web pages tear. Classes brown like sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg. Blackberry stain. Thistles and nettles grate my legs and thighs. Coarse
laughter, not from inside of me. A boy, a laughing boy, a mean boy. Berry black stains my
gown. I run. Dwelling.

The sunlight burns through kitchen area home windows, warming, baking. I roll my purple-tipped fingers into
my palms.

Sweet little one, grandmother will say. Intelligent girl.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse street.

Pictures of artist chopping text and talking about multidisciplinary creating.


Darlene Taylor on the measures of the Aminah Robinson home photographed by Steve Harrison.