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Nassau Thanksgiving Part 5

I

At breakfast, I overheard a Boston couple talking with a Canadian. One said the Casino is cheaper in the afternoons. Yesterday a man decided to spend only $2.50 each day in the machines. putting a quarter in each one. At one point the machine he had just fed paid off for $50. To someone else. Then someone played roulette and won  $50,000 – but that could just be a rumor.

Since we got a late start and missed the catamaran, we go to a gallery in a clothing store. I wanted to see “Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson” (primitives).  Bought gifts for the girls and Lorraine’s baby, Keelan.

Tonight we have early dinner reservations for the Bahamian Club and Le Cabaret on Friday.  John wished for Stevie at the B. Club.

II

Thanksgiving but seems like Thursday

A rental car would not be ready until late afternoon. We were just in time to get a bus to the catamaran! At Prince Georges Wharf, we see the boats that were recently confiscated by the harbor patrol making a marijuana bust. The ride out was by motor and back by sail and motor. The catamaran is not like the one rented on Martha’s Vineyard* but we did see a sea-plane skim the water and go up the ramp runway. (Crane’s Airline is the oldest.)

We go around Paradise Island to Cottage Beach. It is a part of Britannia Beach. The boat is driven right up on the sand. We stay there an hour:  swimming, snorkeling, drinking fresh coconut juice are available.

II

We realize we got a lot of sun and have not bought anything for Al. Shops were closed at noon on Thursdays. At McDonald’s we talked with a woman who looked like Trina and worked in a bank. She was critical of the market people as they are ‘not well educated.’ She said that accounted for their dialect.

 

I told her about the argument we heard and she said “They were expressing themselves well.” There is a song which says Bahamian marriages don’t last long.

We learned about the island of Eleuthra where a house can be rented on the beach. She said it is very beautiful and that the sands are pink in the sunset.  The natives use Sanders and Nassau beaches.

I wanted to go to another art gallery in Lyford Cay. It was written up in the newspaper. Perhaps tomorrow.

 

* Who knew?

Our only trip to Martha’s Vineyard was the week Elvis died and  Kennedy got in all that trouble. One morning I went to the historic gingerbread houses built by the Methodists. John and the children rented a catamaran.

I carried water, an apple and a pilot pen to use on parchment paper. These houses ring a large open area that had a stage in the middle. Chairs had been set up for the concert being held that evening. The grand piano, Steinway surely, was being played by the evening soloist, who went through the program.

No one else was there! I drew these houses in a pointillism method while the soloist played just for me. Unreal.

I was in such euphoria when I arrived back at our place. Only to learn that a plane had swooped down into the water near their catamaran. They had pulled the plane to a dock. And then, they realized that the key ring had fallen into the water. Gone keys to car, house etc.  tt took an hour and help to fish them out of the water and return to a safe shelter. I still can not believe they saved a plane.

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Thatched umbrella on white sand

Thatched umbrella on white sand

Nassau 1979 part 2

IV

We start calling the airport for our luggage. It opens at 10 but it is after that time. No one answers when someone answered, there was no news. Oh well, the weather is absolutely beautiful. Perfect to walk to the beach after the dolphin show.. Palm thatched umbrellas for shade. Brilliant white sand.

No swimming suits, so we take a bus that circles the island. Driver announces “We don’t go sightseeing. We provide transportation!” You must say where you are going and he will take you there. Not knowing where to go, he suggested the Cloisters, which is where he is going. We paid the exact fare (50 cents). It was a very short ride to the next hotel, gardens, and Cloister. Terraced gardens toward the Bay. Statues dot each level . On the left side is Franklin Roosevelt, right side, Stanley Livingston). They are enormously tall.

Flowers are in bloom and it is late November. Temperature low 8@s. We thought of not going to the highest level, We continued to followed the pillars. It was similar to J’s replica made with dowels and ivory soap, a school project.
We met a much younger couple, American blacks, They asked us to take their picture by the Cloister. Many weddings are held here. Walking back, we passed an apartment hotel with a kitchen @$30 a day.

At dinner time, I go to the lobby and find our suitcases on a dolly. Dressed up, dined at Villa d.’Este, Italian. Filling. Very filling.Spend time losing money in the slot machines. They can be played 24 hours. He wins $20

We cannot believe our good fortune to be in Nassau, and call it a night. Tomorrow is a big day.

Edited from my journal. (To be continued)

Note: Trip, at the invitation of Board President, Fisk University, to John S. Harwell, who, at a critical time, brought skills in managing University student loans (used as comptroller, Harvard University) to put Fisk in a solvency position.

Who knew?

I did not know it would take me so long to blog again. Thanks for following.

You can  quick sketches to see something new done by your hand.

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Bettye W. Harwell

Drawing using pencils, metallic silver on toned and printed paper
Cropped image scanned onto white background. My son (though he would deny it.)

Today, I was once again, trying to organize paper, just paper.  I am ready to write. I tell myself over and over, I will write today.

Today as I was sorting to gather all of the last 2 years of research  on my latest women series (more to come), I kept finding jottings and sketches and ephemera. Ephemera includes articles , photos, preliminary and just-because sketches.

This sketch is one of the few efforts to record my boys. Their personalities escape me visually. The girls I know visceral. Been there. Done that.

I thought today, this is not bad in capturing him or someone like him. A subject can see his/her  own image interpreted by the artist, and deny any relationship. Which is OK. Often the person grows into the painting. Sometimes they are so familiar with their faces in the mirror, reversed that they cannot imagine another angle.

I have done self-portraits, precariously clinging on the bathroom face bowl while checking the mirror. Who is that old lady and why is she staring at me? Happy Halloween.

I am researching an artist of mixed race, dating 1800s. One critic of her work describes her as having white features from the eyes up, and signs of her other parentage by her thick lips and coffee-colored skin.  The comments are from another long-gone era but echo today. This gifted lady was reduced by this critic to her ethnicity and not her talent. (Fortunately she received fame and some fortune with her talent.)

Who knew?

With all of the tools we have for organization, it is still difficult to organize paper. What if you throw away something you will need? Once the piles are made, then what? My papers are all sizes, all subjects, all precious. I find at the mid-pont, that I cannot remember which pile is for what. And today, I took this sketch to the computer to share with you as a way of preserving it.

Did you know?

I have been a sometime blogger for a long time. Last year I sold one of the women series  (Rosa Bonheur).  I have been working on these paintings for nearly three years. Selling one put a lot of pressure on me to determine what the exit strategy would be to complete the series.

I decided that for an exhibit, 30 paintings would be the magic number. So I have been for months  selecting the last ones. Every time I counted, the number to-do seemed to expand. Now I am up to choosing the final two. My list of good choices has grown beyond any definite closing number. I am committed to 30 or maybe 31 because of the sale. Pretty sneaky, I say.

Those of you who show and sell your work will understand that just finishing the work is not the end. Documentation, promotion, framing, if paintings, etc. Where was that business plan, carefully written last year?  I know that my iPad chews up the very data I have stored.

Getting organized

1. Put all of the pertinent files in one place.

2. Keep your reference material close at hand. I have accumulated, books, articles and online information.

3. Make a format that will set the style for each painting. Later you can adapt for promotional requirements.

4. Have that place where you can think and write which has lights, water and a way of telling time.

5. Take a break periodically whether you want to stop or not.

6. Do not think and write. Write and then come back to edit. If you know something is not accurate, mark it, write a question, or in some way leave yourself a note.

7. When you are certain, ask someone to read it, read it aloud to yourself or someone else, tape it and play it back. The flow will not show up at first.

Now, if I can just follow my own suggestions…and file those papers off the floor.

 

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In most endeavors, it helps to have a plan and a destination. That discipline is hard to come by for the flighty, creative thinker. I read the blogs I follow in the morning, and the mental curiosity can divert from the task at hand.

When I started entering shows, being admitted to juried organizations and exhibits, getting gallery representation was difficult. The owners and exhibit staffs wanted a body of work staying in the same style for at least 2 years. My work was too experimental and varied to interest them.

I got very good advice from other artists. Most I failed to try. Buy your glass and frames all one size. You can get the glass by the box and save money. Even when I started watercolors on the same size of paper, I was tempted to trim for the best results. And for style? My friend suggested I was a group show all by myself. When did the discipline begin?

The first main series of women started when I decided to stop  teaching and took a course. I wanted to do whatever I wanted to leave as a statement. The large format (square) paintings led to the women who helped desegregate transportation. There are ten paintings, some of them posted.

The current and most ambitious series is coming to a close. At least that is my plan.  A few years ago, in a new studio, I was intrigued with the story of Deborah Sampson. She was a MA woman who fought in the Revolutionary War. I did not know her story after living near Boston for 10 years!

And so I started a new series of similar women through history. There are many and each has a story to be told. I have selected a variety of women, countries, stories based on how interesting they were. The list could go on far beyond my telling.

I have decided to finish this series at 31. One has been sold (Rosa Bonheur). This would leave an exhibit of thirty. They are smaller that the transportation series (16 x 20) and acrylic rather than oil.

Note:

Whether a visual artist or a writer, a time comes when you have to attend to the business end. If you do not sell your work, it is important to decide on storage and whatever documentation you want to leave with your work. Toni Morrison had her manuscripts and revisions in her home when it burned down. Duplicates, cd’s etc. should be carefully preserved. Leave your work to a relative or friend who will be pleased to have it. Perhaps, they will publish some of your work. Many times the local library will accept your work.

Painters have a bigger problem. This series is smaller because my studio is smaller. Before you frame work, be certain to sign, photograph and document everything. For insurance purposes, place a value on your work whether you intend to sell or not.

Who knew?

A story I heard  about a painting and its value happened when the owner told her friend of its value. She cautioned her not to let it get away when settling her estate.

The day of the funeral the gaudily framed work of art was put under the bed in case the house was robbed. The painting was as ugly as  the frame. But it was taken to be evaluated. The dealer took the frame off and carefully looked at both parts. The painting is worthless, he said. It is a print on cheap cardboard. So disappointed was the new owner until the dealer explained. The value was in the lumpy, gaudy, dark frame. Each hump and bump was a rough gem or precious metal found on the many travels the owner had made. Uncut and unpolished, the value was most generous. So your smallest drawing might , if not already, draw a generous sale price.

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Ida002

Ida B. Wells was attending college when the Yellow Fever hit Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents and a sibling died leaving her the one to care for the younger children. She left Rust College to teach and placed the children with her aunt. Her life story of achievements and responsibilities is recorded in her journal.

While teaching she began to write under the pen name, IOLA. Later she owned a newspaper in Memphis, TN. This brought her face to face with legal (Jim Crow) discrimination that reversed many of the opportunities afforded Blacks after the Civil War.

Her own experiences included being thrown off a train. She had bought a first class ticket and refused to move from the segregated Ladies car reserved for white women. Ida sued the company and won a judgement. However, this was reversed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

She became an advocate for the rights of Blacks after several business men she knew were lynched. She was forced to leave the south but travelled widely for the causes she believed in. She was an early supporter of the Crisis magazine and the NAACP.

Her marriage to F. Barnett, a lawyer, made them a prominent couple and parents of 5 children. There are many named sites recognizing her contributions, including the Ida B. Wells museum in Holly Springs.

Who knew?

The list of her associates is long and includes my grandparents, William H.  and Annie Talbot Strickland. They were students at Rust College at the same time Ida attended. Her attitudes regarding Annie changed when Ida returned to Mississippi to attend my grandparents’ wedding. I learned of this by reading her biography (by) Paula Giddings (Ida:A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.)

Note:

It pays to check your drafts! I did exactly one year to the day. I do have an excuse. I have been busy. Soon to explain my project and its progress.

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Acrylic on canvas

by Bettye W. Harwell

One of the most collaborative  decisions parents make is to select a child’s name. Many books and articles compete with friends and family offering suggestions. And there have always been the unusual name.

After slavery, most African-Americans were able to choose a last name. This has made research more complicated. Two brothers might choose different last names breaking the way to trace documents. The cultural patterns of hyphenation varies. Some take the name of the mother. Others today might add the spouse.

Do the names fit the particular child? Many teen girls take another name to reflect their developing personality. For some a nickname lasts as the identifier.

My name went through transitions. I did not know when it started until I needed the original birth certificate for a passport. The State of Illinois sent me two pages, black with white text. There were changes and scratched out lines as if my parents were surprised at my arrival. (I was two months premature.)

I had often wondered who I really was and this certificate added to my uncertainty. My father had written me letters spelling my name in many versions. As a teen, influenced by a magazine, I changed the spelling myself. The federal government insists on using a different first name with my middle name while I use my maiden name. Note: Consider your potential spouses last name if you plan to use it!)

My brothers and I were up for adoption at one point. My older brother, the protector of identity, routinely sat us done asking “What is your name? ” It was an exercise to make us aware of our unique family bond. It served us well. It built character. It made me question who I am less.

Just recently I decided to look at the 1940 census. For some reason I kept putting it off. That is one census where I knew I would be found. There should be no mistakes like the ones found in earlier years. People were better educated and familiar with the forms, right?

To my dismay, at the end of the family grouping, one brother snd I are listed as the children of our legal guardians. I will go back when I calm down and try to find my older brother. But how do you correct a legal document? Can we take ‘facts’ at face value?

Who knew?

Age makes physical appearance seem more like family members. This often is experienced by adoptees, who share no common genes with their new parents. It is the shared history and family name that is important. You and I are who we are because of who we have become, and by our name. Does your name fit you?

My blog narcissushibiscusmandrake.wordpress.com  begins as a memoir in poetry.

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Encaustic wax on Paper

Out of the Dark is Light
by Bettye W. Harwell

In art, as in life, the darkest dark forms the brightest light. A painter sets aside a painting that does not ‘work’. Imperfect  Impulses with Aaron (wordpress.com) is a website demonstrating journaling techniques. A recent post, no video, describes a failed technique. When he attempted something new, it did not get the hoped for results.

I wanted to contact him and say, keep working on it. Put on more layers. In a scrape-off technique, some residue and texture remain. Continue to add, sand, add, scrape to create unexpected glow and depth. Then find the dark that will reveal the light. (A later post uses that page successfully.)

A result will present itself totally unplanned. Then the work will be done. I use a mat to find the best part to save. (Harder to select on canvas. Works on paper can be cut or torn to show the strongest composition.)

If after reworking, you still feel it is hopeless, you have not failed. It was a teachable experience. Start over and apply what was learned. Keep the failure. It may show more promise later.

Why the light in life?
I wondered how long it would take before the reputation of Nelson Mandela, first Black President of South Africa, would be attacked. His services are to cover ten days. World dignitaries and regular people will show their respect for an amazing life. Any death is an opportunity for self-reflection. Are we living our best life?

I wondered if it would take the full ten days before the knives came out. No. Not even two. The words used in the past by people, who themselves were protective of terrible atrocities, dredged up names he was called long ago. Questions have been raised. When did Mandela become a man of peace? When did he stop being a rebel? Was he a communist? And more.

The dark terrible history of the people of South Africa, both Black and white, forced the brightest light. It shaped the man. It shaped a government.

Lessons are learned from both the bad and the good. Some are influenced to emulate the political successes of Mandela, the leader. Others have taken on the resistance skills of the apartheid government. Is America using tactics which limit the apirations of all its citizens? Will we be the model for other governments?

Why compare one leader to anyone but his (or her) own self? Obama/Mandela or Washington/Mandela? Mandela paid his dues after personally enduring his country’s power. Obama has lived a very different life.

Mandela was not chosen to form an army and fight a revolution. He did not form another country, as Washington did. He used freedom and the rights of citizenship for all to make the country of his birth better. Washington and the Founding Fathers used an army and a new government to defeat the British. They accepted a constitution and government calling a large part of the population 2/3 of a man, had no universal right to vote and no recognition of women as full citizens. Mandela used his election to include all citizens fairly.

Who knew?
No man is better or has a higher station than any other.

Newt Gingrich and Senator Cruz are getting a backlash for speaking about the loss of a leader, Nelson Mandela.

Written December 8, 2103

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