I Call this Perhaps.
Perhaps - used to express uncertainty or possibility (from Google - perhaps, the very definition of perhaps).
I find it both ironic and intriguing that Walker starts out Saving the Life that is Your Own: The Importance of Models in the Artist’s Life with a story about Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh is a Dutch painter known for his brilliance as much as he is known for his madness. I say madness because his most famous works were painted during his time living in a mental asylum and the stories of his life as odd as it is disturbing. When I think of Van Gogh, I think about how so much of his work comes from pain, confusion, and rejection. I think about his use of yellow to imitate emotions - lemon cadmium yellow used for moments of clarity and Indian yellow stain for moments of madness. But I also think about how his compositions, line work, and the complexity of his angles draws (stolen) from the great masters of Japanese printmaking. Or how unknown to many, his success after death is almost singularly credited by his widowed wife who seemed to have pulled him out from thin air.
So I wonder why Walker use Van Gogh to explain the lack of models? Van Gogh was not short of models. One of his best friends was Gauguin, an artist well-respected in the community of artist and Van Gogh himself ran within the same community. Perhaps she picked him because, like many others, she too was intrigued by his troubled life? Or maybe it is because his craft comes from painting the world as he wants to see it. It is no doubt Van Gogh perceived the world very differently. Perhaps this is similar to how Toni Morrison writes “the kind of books she wants to read” (Walker, 1983, p. 8).
Amidst reminiscing about Van Gogh and the early days of my artist life, art makes me think about legitimacy and lots and lots of pictures of Jesus. So much of what we know about Western art would not be possible without the appropriation of other cultures. Take for example Picasso and his well-known, over 42 million dollars paintings ripped from appropriations of African sculptures. Does it take someone like Picasso to legitimize art and to turn African images into art versus decoration? As for the image of Jesus, throughout history, the image has been used to evoke fear, hope, salvation, service, and colonialism, among many other understanding. So you are probably thinking about why I am so obsessed with all of this? This all ties to Walker’s (1983) concept of “the life we save is our own” (p. 14). The idea of “saving” still does not sit well with me. Because when I think about saving, all I can think about is all the paintings of Jesus and the cuts to my body and tongue from years of colonialism, all past, present, and future. A friend (Lauren Adams who is also in this class) suggests, perhaps we need to find an example of “saving” that predates or is not tainted by colonialism. In this instance, I feel like I lack a model. I lack models on how to save, give homage, give credit, and cite. In class, we talked about vertical versus linear power and the power of bringing someone to life on paper - but for the purpose of saving them and us, is this still not colonizing? Then I think about how the very act of writing this, THIS, still feels wrong to me because it is not the tongue of my mother but the tongue of my colonizer. So, I look to Lorde (2015) to question, can the master’s tool dismantle the master’s house?
Perhaps I cannot look past the binary because I have never saved anyone? I am afraid to save people because I do not want to steal their pain. Though I find solidarity with other women of color’s oppression, it is hard to claim their pain as mine because perhaps I do not know what my pain really is? I have never really sat down to talk about pain, it is taboo in my culture. Perhaps I have been taught my pain is invisible because women of color do not include me? Do I want their legitimacy, do I NEED it? Perhaps I should use this class to find myself in other women of color and make a home for other women of color within me. Perhaps this is the act of becoming. Perhaps maybe I can use this class to practice my voice as it has become. Perhaps this is practice.
I Call this Hate.
Hate - intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury (Merriam-Webster, 2017).
“How much was hate for Corregidora and how much was love.“ (Jones, 1975, p. 131)
In one line, Jones changed the way I perceived the whole story of Corregidora. The line was neither a question or a statement. If anything, the line brought clarity and conviction to the complicated relationship between Corregidora (and her embodied memories of her mother, grand mama, and great-grant mama) and the men in her lives. Although the story starts out with Ursa getting rid of Mutt from her life, he follows her like a lingering ghost. In her dreams, in her memories. He owned her, like how Corregidora owned her mother, grand mama, great-grand mama, and her. I believe they tell stories of hate not only to write their pain into history but as a way to preserve the memory of Corregidora. Call me cynical or lacking foresight, but I believe maybe the hate for Corregidora also included a longing for love. Because in the end, Ursa still hated Mutt, but without batting an eyelash, she returned to him. I wonder if this is a bigger reflection on how oppression makes us sick but without it, we cannot tell our stories.
Walker, A. (1983). In search of our mothers’ gardens: Womanist prose. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Jones, G. (1975). corregidora. New York, NY: Random House.
Lorde, A. (2015). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. In C. Moraga & G. Anzaldúa (Eds.), This bridge called my back: Writings by radical women of color (p. 94-97). Albany, NY: State University of New York.
Merriam-Webster (2017). Hate. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hate