Music of the Heart & Soul
Through March 2
Art Center Sarasota
As a contemporary African American artist, I joyously live and work at the intersection of multiple worldviews and cultural legacies.
In my life and my artwork, I celebrate pluralism and explore the dynamic complexity, gifts and paradoxes of my life as a member of the African diaspora. I recognize that all worldviews have their unique truths—and that each worldview, including my own, summons forth a complex way of creating and enjoying art.
I have chosen textiles as my primary medium. At its core, my work draws on Sub-Saharan African aesthetics and organizing principles of repetition, discontinuity/improvisation and layering.
My additional artistic influences come from western 20th and 21st century painting including African American and African artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The works in this exhibit are Spirit Portraits of Black Women who were pioneers in many musical genres. Spirit Portraits are textile collages or art quilts that represent the essence of the individual.
These are not representational portraits of specific individuals. Instead, I use fabrics and embellishments that convey aspects of the personality, life experiences and historical context of the subject.
My solo exhibit, Black Women: Music of the Heart & Soul, is on view at Art Center Sarasota through March 2.
In this series, I celebrate Black women singers, songwriters and composers who played groundbreaking roles in the history of many music genres, from opera to country to hip-hop.
The art work is grounded in traditional forms of quilt-making but presented through a contemporary lens with color, pattern and content.
Two of the pieces SOLD at the opening reception – and I am truly grateful to the collectors who are supporting my work.
I also appreciate the staff at the Art Center who work tirelessly and creatively to promote the artists and events. My Artist Talk is scheduled for February 15 from 5:30 to 7 pm. It is in person only. You can find the details here.
I will also give a virtual webinar in March 2024 on Spirit Portraits and will discuss my sources of inspiration, approach to design and use of new and upcycled materials in these works. You can find the details about this and other webinars here – and my online quilting workshops.
My goal in this series is to highlight the achievements of lesser known figures such as Caterina Jarboro, an early 20th century opera singer. She was the first Black opera singer to perform at a major opera house.
You can read about the artists in the
Black Women: Music of the Heart & Soul series,
and listen to their music
Caterina Jarboro, Opera Diva (2023)
In 1930, Ms. Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy. First Black singer to debut in an all-White company when she performed as Aida at the New York Hippodrome in 1933.
Her performances received critical acclaim and she played to standing room-only audiences. Ms. Jarboro toured the US and Europe for many years performing a variety of operatic and classical roles until the 1950s.
Of note, the Metropolitan Opera House (NY) offered her a contract but rescinded it when they discovered she was African American. When the Met later offered her a contract, she declined it.
(b. July 24, 1898 d. August 13, 1986)
Ella Fitzgerald’s Jazz Garden (2023)
Ms. Fitzgerald rose to prominence as a jazz singer in her teens. Her mother’s death led to a period of financial and domestic instability, including a short stay in reform school.
She overcame her situation to find a global platform to display her amazing talents.
(b. April 25, 1917 – d. June 15, 1996)
Flowers for Jazz Women: Sassy Red Shoes (2010)
Many early Jazz singers were known for their spirited public persona. They were strong, sassy and outspoken women who fought for recognition and fair treatment.
They also expressed their feminine side in performances and in private moments.
MC Sha-Rock: HipHop Queen (2023)
She launched her career in Brooklyn and was a founding member of The Funky 4+1, a rap group that released their first record in 1979 and appeared on national TV.
MC Sha-Rock was considered an equal member with the men in the group—paving the way for future female MC’s who emerged in the 1980s.
Victoria Spivey: Black Snake Blues (2023)
Ms. Spivey started performing with her family at an early age. She sang, played piano and composed songs while playing in bars and halls.
Her first recording, “Black Snake Blues” (1926) was a hit and she went on to perform and record for many years. She co-founded Spivey Records, a record label dedicated to recording blues, jazz and folk music.
The folk music revival reignited her performing career and she even recorded with Bob Dylan.
(b. October 15, 1906 – d. October 3, 1976)
Elizabeth Cotten: Folk Song Composer and Musician (2023)
She started singing and composing as a teen. Her most well known composition is “Freight Train.”
Her career was revived when she went to work for the Seeger family in the 1950s. She received much acclaim and began performing and recording during the folk musical revival of the 1960s.
Her songs are played in concerts and recorded to this day.
(b. January 5, 1893 – d. June 29, 1987)
Alberta Hunter: Café Society Jazz Singer and Composer (2023)
Ms. Hunter started her career in the 1910s as a blues and jazz singer and composer by performing in brothels and bars. With persistence and talent, she rose to perform in top tier clubs in the US and Europe by the 1920s.
She was a prolific composer and her music was recorded by such well known performers as Bessie Smith. She also performed in stage musicals including with Paul Robeson in Showboat in London in the late 1920s. Despite several decades of success, she retired to work as a nurse after her mother’s death.
Ms. Hunter briefly resumed her singing career in the early 1970s with recordings and interviews. In the late 1970s, her career fully revived with long overdue success.
Longtime friends in the New York music scene connected her to the owner of a Greenwich Village jazz club who contracted her for a 2 week engagement that lasted several years due to her popularity.
(b. April 1, 1895 – d. October 17, 1984)
Florence Price: Classical Composer (2023)
Ms. Price composed classical music but was virtually unknown until 2009 when her papers were discovered. Without that discovery, most of her contributions might have been lost forever.
She also composed music under pen names and performed music for radio shows. She was the first African American woman to have her work performed by a major orchestra when her symphony was played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.
(b. April 9, 1887 – d. June 3, 1953)
Lillian Hardin Armstrong Jazz Queen (2023)
Ms. Hardin Armstrong was a college-trained musician and worked hard to create a well-established independent career as a composer, jazz pianist and singer. One of her bands performed on NBC Radio in the 1930s.
(b. February 3, 1898 – d. August 27, 1971)
Carole Lyles Shaw was featured as one of five designers in the August 2021 Makers Issue of American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine and her articles have appeared in numerous international textile magazines. She co-founded the Sarasota Modern Quilt Guild and is a member of Studio Art Quilt Associates.