Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Quality of an Embrace

In the darkness of night, when sight is of little value, I reach over for an embrace that seems to await me...without hesitation or force and am engulfed in loving acceptance. An embrace that is not based on how good I look but how good I feel. Within this embrace the shores of security is reached that seemed a journey away, just a moment ago. It is not the size of the embrace or the heft of it but the sheer fact that it is reciprocal and without expectations.

 The value of an embrace goes by unnoticed in many cases because they are freely given by loved ones and friends as a beginning or closure to a rendezvous. Even then the quality of it can touch us deeply because each is embedded with years of trust. Nothing is more welcomed than a friends arms that says "I'm here for you."

My mother shared such an embrace. One that was spongey in its initial draw, that seemed to absorb me with its acceptance, that washed over me with an abiding love, that singularly said I belonged to that I achingly miss to this day.

 These are among the gifts of life we cherish but place no relative value on in the marketplace of commodities. They are the real physical needs that are eschewed in place of shiny objects that don't give back. We fill our days in pursuit of those things that will not embrace us in the dead of night nor soothe us at the break of day.

 If we made the embrace our goal, rather than riches, maybe we wouldn't have to fear an affront from loved ones, friends, strangers and peoples we don't know. Maybe a wall to separate us would crumble in the space of an embrace, where fear is replaced by love and happiness is truly a pursuit. I am not saying an embrace will bring world peace but it goes a long way toward bringing peace into your world.  Today maybe a good day to give and receive a hug.

TUNSTULL From Fashion to Fine Art 
A new book by Glenn Tunstull and Jelani Bandele

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Final Moments with Kyle

The heaviness of the day was further emphasized by the thick grey ceiling of clouds that snuffed out any ray of sunlight that would lift the sadness in our hearts as we prepared to say our last good bye to our cat, Kyle. Our two cats were our binding pillars that held us together like a family, attached to every movement and utterance a family cat is likely to make, we would talk endlessly of what he and his sister, Keyla, were up to. Ironically, the more weight he loss because of illness, the younger he looked, until he almost reverted to being a kitten in appearance. Now what is holding us together is the impending sense of loss that will finally and forever wash over us as we ring the death knell that will lay him to rest. The entire process of deciding his fate has weighed like Solomon's judgement on us...the power of life and death. We now move forward in the direction of removing him from life's misery and carrying him to the point of finality at his equally saddened vet's office.

Not wanting to believe he is going to be gone forever we hold on to each second, watching each breath hoping for a familiar whimper, a reassuring gesture, a helpless meow. As he lay limply in my arms, we deliver him to his vet who tries to calm our fears with a soft and encouraging explanation of what we can expect in this process. It seems so benign for all it's deadly results. We try to recall moments in his life with one another, that will stay in our hearts, but the sting of tears makes it impossible to complete the sentiment. With nothing left to say, we turn him over to the vet who administers the succession of shots that renders his virtually lifeless body to a body without any life in moments.

Once the lifeless body of Kyle was placed into a biodegradable box, sealed with tape the emotions slowed to a trickle, the flood of tears receded and finality sets in. There is nothing left to do or say and no one left to say it to. Though relief replaced the heavy weight of sadness, a shroud of disbelief now blocked the sun that now fill the skies.

Photo by Joe Steele

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Time is your perception

Time waits for no one and no marches on whether we are aware of it or not...but does it move at the same speed for everyone and everything? For each of us time moves at different rates depending on our perception of it. For instance, a watched pot never boils, as the saying goes, but that same pot will burn the moment you take your mind off of it. Time is a construct that we measure in a systematic way that seems to mark its passing in a regular and consistent increments, but that construct bends one way or the other based on our perception of it. Watching a clock has a different impact from watching the sun cross the sky...each recording time in disparate ways.

That awareness is key to how we enjoy the lives of those around us and whether we devote time to them so they are truly long term relationships. Many people that we have known for the same amount of time have different impacts on us based on how much actual time we spend with them. Not to say you have to devote actual face time, but certainly conscious time thinking of them and yes communicating with them. Oftentimes we think we have the "luxury" of waiting until a more opportune time, only to realize either the depth of our friendship has thinned or disappeared altogether. Time will not wait until it is opportune for you and neither will your friends.

Social media has increased our connection to a multitude of friends but it hasn't increased the depth of those friendships. The assent of "Liking"friends posts is not the same as speaking on the phone or better yet having lunch with someone you care about. The pursuit of brevity in our communications is literally a shortsighted concept that seemingly deflect friendship rather than attach them to us in a meaningful way. The back and forth banter of a telephone call is a missing commodity today that we can remedy with a simple call.

We are now spending conscious time with our pet cat Kyle, who for almost a dozen years has been a constant source of pleasure to us but now is at an end of life stage in our relationship. Now we spend every waking moment in his presence, absorbing and sharing our love, capturing every inkling of his beautiful spirit before time slips away, as we perceive it, too quickly.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Lightness of Love and Support

As I approached the gallery, people were already inside and out awaiting my arrival greeting me with hugs and kisses. Looking through the windows I saw the interior filled with light and color and my works displayed for the first time. They danced on the walls like musical notes, each piece flowing into the other like a choral group intoning songs of happiness. Zita Cousens had used her magical touch to array them beautifully once again. The opening night at Cousen Rose Gallery held the lightness of a birthday celebration where the giddiness of friends and loved ones lifted me. The overwhelming crowd gathered early and stayed late taking in both the work and one another, as old friends and new acquaintances. The astonishment in the eyes and quick questions of discovery were a joyful experience for me. Newness was in the air. Viewers, who were seeing my work for the first time that night, stepped in at a point in the arc of my creative expression, and long-time supporters expressed joy in seeing a new me on canvas. In prior years I may have been filled with nerves and apprehension, but this time I was free of them and happy to share a new birth in my work, and a renewed relationship with those who have been supporters for so many years. The ebullient smiles, hugs and cheers were a symphonic chorus of approbation; and the guests, as colorful as the works themselves, became extended canvases. Many old friends were hugged and many new ones met. Joe Steele held court as friends from all over came to support us on that special night. The success of any venture, whether it's a union, move, job, rearing children or an opening, depends on the support of friends and colleagues who assist you directly or indirectly in shaping those goals and implementing them. Many of those same folks were there that night doing what they do best...supporting a loved one. Photos by Jelani Bandele and Joe Steele

Thursday, November 13, 2014

By any other name...

I must have said a mouthful at a recent late lunch with a couple of friends, when I tripped over multiple euphemisms in describing my people within the same sentence. My friend, Renaldo Barnette, said blankly, "I can't use all those terms...I just prefer to say Black." Although I use that term as well, along with many of the other interchangeable ones, it struck me that my willingness to jump between them came with qualifiers, that required an "in the moment" mental calculus.

Unlike other racial groups, as Black people we have to continually address how we want to be referred to. This seemingly age old discussion remains unrelenting among ourselves. That is different from how we want to be described, which is fraught with its own challenges because of the range of looks that are encapsulated in the "Black" community and the historic sensitivities some terms continue to have. Add to that the options that are the result of national, ethnic and religious variations, and a plethora of terms abound. Where someone is from, how they look or language they spoke would determine whether they were Black, Negro, colored, a person of color, African American, African, Caribbean, Latino, light-skinned, dark-skinned, fair-skinned, mulatto, and the N-word notwithstanding.

I prefer having the choice of terminology to make, but, wonder if they add to a lack of cohesion as a people, or, does it provide us with a greater expanse. Unlike "white people" who universally gather under the singular term, by willing default, to describe themselves, but with a slight scratch of the surface could be found to have a plethora of extractions that remain hidden unless asked, we have been known to repeatedly search for an acceptable universal moniker. No other people deal with this ongoing challenge that unwittingly speaks to a history that is equally unique.

As a nod to how our friends influence us on these decisions, I find myself using the more encompassing and broadly descriptive term of "Black" when I speak of my people now...that is until something better comes along.
The range of Blackness

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Drawing on Style

Two drawings, I had done when very young, seemed to rise up last night—in unison with some of the greatest fashion artists of that time, at the he highly celebrated exhibition, “Drawing On Style” in London—to illuminate the story of a time of grace, elegance and unfathomable skill in the world of fashion.  The overwhelming crush of admirers, fashionistas and collectors filled the space to capture a moment in time when the deftness of a line told immeasurable stories of style, movement and panache.  The elbow-to-elbow crowd, assembled beneath these testaments of fashion creativity to revere the dynamic yet subtle art of fashion illustration.  Having participated in such exhibitions in the U.S. before, I’d not seen a media frenzy of this magnitude preceding a show.

My works, prominently displayed in the line up of illustrations in the main room, could be seen from outside the front window as we arrived. The glitterati in attendance included British fashion icons Zandra Rhodes and Bruce Oldfield, both of whom I encountered on my very first visit to London in the 70’s.

Also in the mix were several of the great artists from the 40’s through the 70’s, there to see the work and meet the hands that influenced our own work so many years ago. Stories of professional encounters, rhapsodies of stylistic nuances and finely detailed awareness of what it took to achieve these master works were shared lusciously by this select breed of artist.

If the current appreciation for this collection of vintage fashion drawings is any indication, the future holds a bright light for this unique expression of beauty.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The candidate arrives in Claverack

Standing in the cold with Cyndy Hall, our Columbia County Democratic Chair, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Sean Eldridge, the Democratic congressional candidate, outside the Post Office on Saturday afternoon. Though the temperature had climbed into the 30’s, we retreated into Claverack Food Mart’s homely backroom cafe for the comfort of coffee and warmth. Our cast of political activists was familiar, if not expected, leading the charge for early momentum in the next election. As we waited, strategies for increased Democratic registration and getting out the vote were discussed, along with concerns ranging from power lines to airport expansion issues.  Periodic updates on Sean’s location fed our anticipation and served to hold us patiently enthralled of his arrival.

He suddenly appears, with his Superman good looks and energy level, along with his marriage partner, Chris, and his campaign manager, Michael. After a brief greeting, he launched into a passionate discussion of the issues he sees challenging our local community, as well as, national political concerns. He made for a stark contrast in positions and solutions with the current Republican incumbent, Chris Gibson. His succinct yet encompassing review left me encouraged by how internalized these positions have become for him and his desire to work on them. He asked us to voice our own thoughts, regarding both local and national issues in a brief around the room temperature check. The discussion ranged from the involvement of youth in the campaign to broadband coverage throughout the county. The small group had wide support within the community and is known for their efforts to improve circumstances for all. Joe Steele, Enid Futterman, Marty Davidson, Peggy Lampman and Ian Nitschke has been among the strongest voices for change and were among those there to conduct the “candidate’s door knocking caravan” throughout the hamlet.

It didn’t escape the attention of many that our Democratic meeting was being held under the Fox News station blaring overhead, as a counterpoint reminder of the challenges we have ahead. With a smile from the proprietary sentry, a delicious pizza was shared amongst the entire group, with recognition that an army travels best on a full stomach. The petition to include Sean Eldridge on the upcoming November 4 ballot needs the signature of every Democratic voter possible. Please contact Enid, Cyndy and Vicki to sign the petition.