To be honest - I really can't stand reading. If and when I do, it has to be non-fiction and the narrator is usually a woman. I read what I can relate to. It's no different from art or music. Don't we all gravitate towards something that holds personal meaning for us? I do.
I pre-ordered Delta Jewels: In Search of my Grandmother's Wisdom, on Amazon. A couple of months seemed like an eternity. I was excited to get my grubby little paint stained hands on it. I was excited to see the images, as Alysia is a photojournalist, as well as a professor of Journalism at Ole Miss. I was excited because I knew the book was an oral history - straight from the Delta Jewels themselves. Mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great grandmothers. Oh, the stories and experiences they must have to share...
As I was reading the book...Alysia's husband, Bobby, contacted me about doing a commission. I was really hesitant, because much like reading, I loathe doing commissions. Most of the time what I'm requested to paint isn't motivating, nor inspiring - it doesn't come from within. Bobby suggested a portrait of the black and white image used on the book cover. That scared the shit out of me; photo-realism portraits is not my forte. Not even close. I told Bobby - to give me a week to think it over - I needed time to figure out how I was going to do this and even if I COULD do it.
There is common theme when reading the stories of the these 80+ year old women - some in their early 100's: Cotton. Cotton fields, to me, are beautiful. But I've never had to pick cotton. I never had to do such harsh manual labor as a child. My son never had to miss school to pick cotton, while children of privilege were able to attend school. So now I view cotton fields with a different perspective.
In the stories - cotton was pure hell. Pretty - yet torn flesh, and bloodied fingers picked it. Cotton represented no education - cotton represent oppression. Cotton wasn't cool.
I couldn't get the cotton out of my mind. I couldn't let go of that common thread from the Delta Jewels. Fricken' cotton.
She was able to release a hidden treasure of interesting, sorrowful, empowering and at times, humorous voices. Voices of women that I admire - and Alysia was the vessel that released those stories. She become the Delta Goddess. The Royal Crow became the protector - removing the cotton - the oppressive cotton.