"There goes summer!"
My brother sent this text to me and our two siblings when it was announced a few days ago that Los Angeles would be sheltering in place through July. Or maybe it's August. Since then, the city or perhaps the Los Angeles Times—has walked back this declaration. It's hard to keep track.
As for me, summer was cancelled, or rather, became a non-starter, when the following email arrived in my in-box late yesterday afternoon.
I had to write about Mommy. It was painful at times. I was conflicted. Can one be open with another's secret? She came to me early one morning. I felt her guiding me, urging me on. Yes, I could breathe life into her story and give her life. Even in death.
On Facebook I follow the group "The Golden Age of Illustrations," along with some 148,000 others. The images are lush, gorgeous, brilliant. This one stopped me in my tracks. A naked black woman. And is that Jesus? The post explained that the illustration, by John Farleigh, appears in the 1933 book, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. The author? One Bernard Shaw. As in George the playwright.
It's nearly impossible to find images of black people in this feed. The men, women and children are usually pink and rosy-cheeked. I immediately clicked "Like" when I came across a cartoon by E. Simms Campbell, an African-American artist whose works were the first to appear in popular national publications, including Life magazine in 1931, and created Esquire's wide-eyed mascot, Esky.
I wanted to know more. So I did what any other self-respecting arbiter of instantaneous gratification in the 21st century would do.
This painting’s genesis lies in the mystical. I was attending a retreat conducted by the abstract surrealist artist Rassouli, whom I first met in a course he taught at Agape, “Painting with Spirit,” in 2006. My participation in the class itself was the outcome of a long and hard negotiation I had the temerity to make with God.
I felt a strong call (I am being gentle here, it was actually a forceful push) to enroll in an introductory spiritual principles course at Agape. The only thing is, I didn’t want to.
I like to make stuff...and think about stuff.