Saturday, May 21, 2016

Going Through The Motions

With two oil stick drawings and three oil paintings created with the Fine Arts Venture Fund grant and a painting started last summer-- these six pieces were my contribution to the 115th Annual Student Exhibition at PAFA.
Two years ago, when I prepared for graduating from the post baccalaureate program-- dearest to heart more so than most educational pursuits-- Close Friend admitted that she wouldn't come, that the MFA program was “The Big One.” Lo and behold, weeks before “The Big One” arrived, she wouldn't make that either. I understood the why. Her wording of my life's events, however, delivered an internal degree of pain that gradually grew to tumorous capacity.
Both programs contained eventful amazement, a strand of wonderful gifts that not one could do alone. Although I honestly could have ended educational institutionalized relationship straight after post baccalaureate, there was something quite necessary about the graduate program. I certainly wouldn't have grown artistically closer to Titus Kaphar who told me to keep making paintings or taken profound direction from dynamic studio visits with Abigail DeVille, Jennifer Packer, and Ellen Altfest. I would have missed insight from David Dempewolf (and Yuka!), Kate Moran, and Scott Noel. And of course, further communication with the post baccalaureate crew, my surrogate family of Mark Blavat, Neysa Grassi, Jan Baltzell, and Michael Moore.
Still, many events transpired before "The Big One," others having little to do with Close Friend. Deborah, a kind, thoughtful woman, so strong and beautiful, was stolen by cancer. She, a mother to another comrade J, gave robust hugs, said "hi" to me during Skype calls to J, and often cared about my well being. She gave me a place to stay and a listening ear when I didn't have one. Deb and J had came to undergrad graduation. They stood at the top of the concrete stairs, right in the way of our class procession march. I hadn't minded the gleeful sight of them. I remember the joyous feeling, the happiness of seeing loved ones being present in an occasion that had been filled with strife and turmoil. My mom had came, Uncle Tyrone and Aunt Renita, Deborah and J, and other cherished Ohio pals. The moment was pure bliss.
On post baccalaureate graduation day, there was no such crowd for me. That I complied. My new friends had been enough. And I wished that for last Friday that had been enough, that I remembered that that was enough. 
Hope had sprung many, many blossoms. That hope burst into smithereens all at once.
On "The Big One" Eve, having gotten through prior days of tough juried final reviews, I attended the ASE Preview Party with sadness rampantly spreading through limbs, its needle prickling disease threatening to break through a happiness facade one timid poke at a time. 
Another night of no sleep arrived. No real sleep. I stared out at blankness, white sockets reddened and possibly enlarged.
On the day of “The Big One," I sat still, frigid and tired, lacking sleepiness. I was wide eyed and vacant, lax and unsteady. Eleven A.M. dragged on, creeping like a crooked thief wanting to steal the tears falling slowly down fat cheekbones. Two more hours passed. My body was a statue, mute and suffering, coaxed chivalry dying inside. There could be no false smiles crafted together when fatigued muscles lacked the courage, the strength. I wasn't an actress after all.
The new black and white dress waited. Fresh laundered tights wanted my feet to slip in them.
I could not move. I could not go to the shower. I could not wash the ocean from my face.
At 2:15 PM, the time to walk, I imagined the two G's sandwiched between-- Robyn and Dee waiting for the absentee me to separate them. I envisioned classmates gracing up the grand Historic Landmark Building staircase and posing for photographs right after the post baccalaureates were finished.

Coveted Masters of Fine Arts degree, a beautiful piece of notarized paper written with fancy Gothic script and an attached gold leaf seal, cannot possibly describe two wonderful filled years spent with esteemed faculty and treasured friends.
There is no place like PAFA. It's a remarkable historical place to graduate from. Among the brick and mortar stature, inside this special second home, are gentle, caring people who have shaped and watered seeds to my artistic and mental growth.
I heard that Melvin Edwards gave a moving commencement and that my hero Njideka Akunyili Crosby spoke beautiful reminiscence. I emailed her last week and hold onto her (surprising) reply's final sentence with inhaled breath:

I hope you are feeling better, and that our paths cross in the future.

Newly appointed graduate chair Didier William attended the ASE's public opening as well as local artists Danny Simmons, James Dupree, and the Tiberino brothers-- Raphael and Gabe.
I missed my favorite faculty and my best friends the most.

The work.
Thus, I conclude on a huge, resounding 'thank you' to friends reaching out to release me from the imprisoning clutches of isolated depression and pain etched grief. First to my best friend Asia, then my mom, the four post baccalaureate faculty- Mark, Neysa, Jan, and Michael, and my beloved co-workers-- Olu, Ebony, Ben, Megan, and Sonia for being wonderful people to hold onto. Plus Tovah, Lydia, Jonathan-- I love you guys so much. Peter Medwick and Greg Martino have also given rare generosity that will always be memorable.
My Philly family (with Ohio affection in between) is a great epic bunch of warm-hearted spirits.
I couldn't ask for anything else.

Sweet celebratory cards from my Ohioan bff, Asia-- writer/essayist/poet of the blog Inside My Creative Mind.
Surprise "happy graduation" dinner with PAFA co-workers Olu, Ben, Shareen (not a co-worker but very sweet gal and Ben's girlfriend), Megan, Sonia, and Ebony.


  1. So many congratulations! Your work is absolutely stunning. I can't stop looking at it.
    You also have a really beautiful way with words.

    1. Thank you so very much! I appreciate your compliments immensely. You're too sweet. <3