The artistry of the old script captivates me. Much of the journal was mundane, cataloging of how many sheets she washed or what she ate for dinner…but pages in, I learned in 1929 she attended a family reunion and she archived the names of most the 100 attendees. Her pride in the connection was obvious.
I tore a page from her handwritten list of reunion attendees and it was the first piece I placed in this painting, UR Welcome Here.
What loomed for me as I worked was Hattie’s pleasure in her belonging. Of finding her tribe.
Belonging/not belonging has been a lifelong theme for me. Am I part of the tribe or an awkward outsider?
Those moments “outside” make my heart race: Going solo to an art show, trying yoga for the first time, not knowing a soul at a party...
Most recently when Trump introduced his travel ban, I felt a pang in my heart. My awkward outsider moments seemed trivial. I was a kid again playing that game:
What would I do if I was caught up in the apocalypse of Nazi Germany. How would I protect myself, my family, others?
And with Trump’s blatant rebuff of “others”—I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
This painting unfolded as my voice around the notion of belonging:
I painted this open-faced person with simplicity and innocence. With eyes filled with hope. The face of someone who is deserving : of a chance…of belonging…of the opportunities my family was met with when they came to America.
I don’t like that game of “what would I have done in Nazi Germany”—it always leaves me scared. So I find comfort surrounding myself with others who stand in solidarity against the rising tide of hate crimes and discriminatory speech.
In 1929, Hattie Rusk documented her enchantment of being with her tribe. Everyone deserves to find their place. And in the tradition of America, they deserve to be welcomed as a vibrant part of our fabric. Lest we forget, that is what has always made America great.
So here, as one artist, I reach out abroad and at home…to say in my strongest, badass voice….UR Welcome Here. Namaste