Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze

Record-mapping draws the wide and narrow, the recognized and not known earlier to the present. All through my residency at the Aminah Robinson house, I examined the impulses driving my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and uncovered a kinship with the textile artist and author who built her household a inventive risk-free place. I crafted narratives as a result of a mixed media software of classic buttons, antique laces and materials, and textual content on cloth-like paper. The beginning level for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the producing all through this venture was a photograph taken extra than a century back that I identified in a family album. 3 generations of ancestral moms held their bodies nonetheless exterior of what seemed like a badly-crafted cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

Three generations of gals in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s household album. Museum art talk “Time and Reflection: Guiding Her Gaze.”

What ideas hid powering their deep penetrating appears to be like? Their bodies suggested a permanence in the Virginia landscape around them. I realized the names of the ancestor mothers, but I knew very little of their life. What were being their techniques? What tunes did they sing? What desires sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What ended up the evening appears and working day seems they listened to? I wanted to know their feelings about the world about them. What frightened them? How did they chat when sitting with pals? What did they confess? How did they talk to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These queries led me to creating that explored how they have to have felt.

Research was not plenty of to convey them to me. Recorded general public record normally distorted or omitted the tales of these gals, so my record-mapping relied on memories linked with feelings. Toni Morrison called memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a kind of willed creation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a distinct way.” The act of remembering through poetic language and collage helped me to superior realize these ancestor mothers and give them their say.

Photos of the artist and visible texts of ancestor moms hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson dwelling.

Doing work in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my family members record and my innovative crafting crossed new boundaries. The texts I produced reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-cut shapes drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I reduce excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented recollections and reframed unrecorded heritage into visual narratives. Colour and texture marked childhood innocence, feminine vulnerability, and bits of reminiscences.

The blackberry in my storytelling became a metaphor for Black life constructed from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the substances of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends accumulating berries in patches alongside country roads, the labor of kids gathering berries, placing them in buckets, strolling along streets fearful of snakes, listening to what may well be in advance or hidden in the bushes and bramble. People recollections of blackberry cobbler recommended the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black families lean on to endure wrestle and celebrate life.

In a museum speak on July 24, 2022, I related my imaginative ordeals through the residency and shared how queries about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry selection exhibited at the museum expressed the expansion of my writing into multidisciplinary form. The layers of collage, silhouette, and stitched designs in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Street Ahead,” “Sit Side Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the previous and imagined recollections. The closing panels in the show introduced my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a very likely enslaved foremother. Even though her life time rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, investigate unveiled sparse traces of biography. I faced a lacking web site in history.

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

Aminah Robinson understood the toil of reconstructing what she referred to as the “missing internet pages of American historical past.” Utilizing stitchwork, drawing, and painting she re-membered the past, preserved marginalized voices, and documented historical past. She marked historic times relating life times of the Black group she lived in and beloved. Her get the job done talked back to the erasures of heritage. Therefore, the residence at 791 Sunbury Street, its contents, and Robinson’s visible storytelling held special this means as I labored there.

I wrote “Sit Facet Me” in the course of silent hrs of reflection. The times following the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” needed the grandmother and Sweet Boy or girl to sit and obtain their power. The begin of their conversation arrived to me as poetry and collage. Their tale has not finished there is more to know and claim and consider.

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


Photograph of “Sit Side Me” in the museum gallery. Impression courtesy of Steve Harrison.

Sit Facet Me
By Darlene Taylor

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

Sit side me, she says.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her warm, dark eyes cloud. She leans ahead
near adequate that I can follow her gaze.

There’s significantly to do, she states,
putting paper and pencil on the table.
Write this.

Somewhere out the window a chicken whistles.
She catches its voice and shapes the higher and lower
into words to reveal the wrongness and lostness
that took me from university. A female was snatched.

She bear in mind the ruined slip, torn book pages,
and the flattened patch.
The words and phrases in my palms scratch.
The paper is much too limited, and I simply cannot generate.
The thick bramble and thorns make my palms even now.

She can 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 experience like to be a lady,
her fingers slide throughout the vinyl desk floor to the paper.
Why end producing? But I don’t solution.
And she never make me. Rather, she potential customers me
down her memory of getting a woman.

When she was a female, there was no college,
no books, no letter crafting.
Just thick patches of environmentally friendly and dusty purple clay highway.

We consider to the only street. She appears to be like considerably taller
with her hair braided against the sky.
Just take my hand, sweet baby.
Collectively we make this stroll, maintain this outdated street.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend long the street.

Pictures of cut and collage on banners as they cling in the studio at the Aminah Robinson property.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The street bends. In a spot where by a female was snatched, no one says her identify. They chat about the
bloody slip, not the misplaced lady. The blacktop road curves there and drops. Simply cannot see what’s ahead
so, I pay attention. Insects scratch their legs and wind their wings over their backs. The road sounds
safe and sound.

Each working day I stroll alone on the schoolhouse highway, trying to keep my eyes on in which I’m going,
not exactly where I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying textbooks and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An motor grinds, brakes screech. I stage into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy taste of street dust dries my tongue. Older boys, suggest boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
laugh and bluster—“Rusty Lady.” They push fast. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the highway. Solar beats the crushed hen.

Chopping by the tall, tall grass, I choose up a adhere to warn. Tunes and sticks have energy more than
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish less than my toes. The ripe scent would make my belly
grumble. Briar thorns prick my pores and skin, building my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I try to eat.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the style.

Books spill. Backwards I slide. Pages tear. Classes brown like sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg. Blackberry stain. Thistles and nettles grate my legs and thighs. Coarse
laughter, not from inside me. A boy, a laughing boy, a necessarily mean boy. Berry black stains my
costume. I operate. Home.

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

Sweet baby, grandmother will say. Good girl.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse road.

Images of artist reducing textual content and talking about multidisciplinary writing.


Darlene Taylor on the steps of the Aminah Robinson household photographed by Steve Harrison.

Jamie M. Hansen

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