Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze


Background-mapping attracts the large and narrow, the recognised and not known past to the current. Throughout my residency at the Aminah Robinson property, I examined the impulses guiding my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and identified a kinship with the textile artist and writer who manufactured her household a innovative secure room. I crafted narratives via a combined media software of vintage buttons, antique laces and fabrics, and textual content on fabric-like paper. The starting position for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the creating throughout this project was a photograph taken extra than a century ago that I discovered in a family album. 3 generations of ancestral mothers held their bodies continue to exterior of what seemed like a badly-built cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

3 generations of females in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s family album. Museum art chat “Time and Reflection: Powering Her Gaze.”

What feelings hid powering their deep penetrating seems to be? Their bodies recommended a permanence in the Virginia landscape all around them. I realized the names of the ancestor moms, but I realized minimal of their life. What have been their secrets? What tunes did they sing? What desires sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What were being the night sounds and working day appears they read? I required to know their feelings about the world around them. What frightened them? How did they communicate when sitting with close friends? What did they confess? How did they communicate to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These queries led me to writing that explored how they have to have felt.

Investigation was not enough to carry them to me. Recorded public background frequently distorted or omitted the tales of these ladies, so my background-mapping relied on memories linked with emotions. Toni Morrison called memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a form of willed creation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a specific way.” The act of remembering through poetic language and collage helped me to much better realize these ancestor moms and give them their say.

Photos of the artist and visual texts of ancestor moms hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson property.

Working in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my relatives history and my creative crafting crossed new boundaries. The texts I designed reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-slash shapes drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I slice excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented memories and reframed unrecorded heritage into visual narratives. Colour and texture marked childhood innocence, feminine vulnerability, and bits of recollections.

The blackberry in my storytelling became a metaphor for Black lifestyle built from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the ingredients of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends gathering berries in patches alongside country roadways, the labor of youngsters accumulating berries, putting them in buckets, walking along roadways fearful of snakes, listening to what may possibly be forward or concealed in the bushes and bramble. People memories of blackberry cobbler suggested the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black family members lean on to endure struggle and celebrate lifestyle.

In a museum converse on July 24, 2022, I related my creative encounters in the course of the residency and shared how issues about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry collection exhibited at the museum expressed the growth of my crafting into multidisciplinary sort. The levels of collage, silhouette, and stitched designs in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Highway Ahead,” “Sit Facet Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the previous and imagined recollections. The ultimate panels in the show launched my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a probable enslaved foremother. When her life span rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, exploration exposed sparse traces of biography. I faced a lacking website page in historical past.

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

Aminah Robinson understood the toil of reconstructing what she called the “missing webpages of American heritage.” Employing stitchwork, drawing, and painting she re-membered the past, preserved marginalized voices, and documented record. She marked historical times relating daily life moments of the Black community she lived in and cherished. Her get the job done talked again to the erasures of background. Hence, the dwelling at 791 Sunbury Street, its contents, and Robinson’s visible storytelling held exclusive that means as I worked there.

I wrote “Sit Facet Me” for the duration of quiet hours of reflection. The days soon after the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” necessary the grandmother and Sweet Baby to sit and assemble their strength. The get started of their conversation arrived to me as poetry and collage. Their tale has not finished there is additional to know and declare and consider.

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


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

Sit Side Me
By Darlene Taylor

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

Sit facet me, she says.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her heat, dark eyes cloud. She leans ahead
shut plenty of that I can observe her gaze.

There is a lot to do, she claims,
putting paper and pencil on the table.
Publish this.

Someplace out the window a bird whistles.
She catches its voice and designs the large and small
into terms to reveal the wrongness and lostness
that took me from faculty. A girl was snatched.

She keep in mind the ruined slip, torn e book web pages,
and the flattened patch.
The text in my palms scratch.
The paper is also brief, and I just can’t create.
The thick bramble and thorns make my arms still.

She usually takes the memory and it belong to her.
Her eyes my eyes, her pores and skin my pores and skin.
She know the ache as it passed from me to her,
she know it like sin staining generations,
repeating, remembering, repeating, remembering.
Remembering like she know what it really feel like to be a female,
her fingers slide throughout the vinyl desk surface area to the paper.
Why cease creating? But I really do not remedy.
And she really do not make me. In its place, she leads me
down her memory of remaining a woman.

When she was a girl, there was no faculty,
no guides, no letter creating.
Just thick patches of environmentally friendly and dusty crimson clay road.

We just take to the only road. She appears to be like much taller
with her hair braided from the sky.
Consider my hand, sweet little one.
Collectively we make this stroll, maintain this old street.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend extended the highway.

Photographs of slash and collage on banners as they dangle in the studio at the Aminah Robinson home.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The highway bends. In a area where a female was snatched, no one says her title. They talk about the
bloody slip, not the shed woman. The blacktop highway curves there and drops. Can not see what’s ahead
so, I listen. Insects scratch their legs and wind their wings previously mentioned their backs. The highway appears

Each individual working day I wander on your own on the schoolhouse highway, retaining my eyes on exactly where I’m heading,
not where by I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying publications and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An motor grinds, brakes screech. I step into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy taste of road dust dries my tongue. Older boys, mean boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
chortle and bluster—“Rusty Lady.” They travel fast. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the street. Sun beats the crushed fowl.

Reducing by the tall, tall grass, I select up a adhere to alert. Music and sticks have electrical power around
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish beneath my ft. The ripe scent tends to make my belly
grumble. Briar thorns prick my skin, building my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I try to eat.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the flavor.

Textbooks spill. Backwards I tumble. Web pages tear. Classes brown like sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg. Blackberry stain. Thistles and nettles grate my legs and thighs. Coarse
laughter, not from within me. A boy, a laughing boy, a imply boy. Berry black stains my
costume. I operate. House.

The solar burns as a result of kitchen home windows, warming, baking. I roll my purple-tipped fingers into
my palms.

Sweet youngster, grandmother will say. Intelligent girl.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse street.

Pictures of artist slicing textual content and speaking about multidisciplinary producing.


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

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