I'm thrilled to announce the mural is finally complete. It's a bit difficult to describe how excited and proud I am to share this painting with Davidson and all of those who have been a part of this experience. I would like to give many thanks to everyone who sent words of encouragement during the project as well as to all of my supporters at Davidson in the form of the many faculty and staff who made my visit a memorable and truly amazing experience.
Though I am thrilled for what this image represents where Davidson came from and signifies where we are going. It is hard not to have a heavy heart in light of the current events surrounding the national story of Trayvon Martin. If anything it only solidifies that as a country we have so far to go. I heard the news of the verdict along with the rest of country late Saturday night while I was spending time with my oldest brother Neal. The tragedy of Trayvon's story made me realize he's not just one child but he represents every brother, son, nephew, cousin, friend etc in America. I remember my own brothers playing in our neighborhood going from one of their friends homes to the next. I hope that his story will make us all reevaluate the stereotypes and treatment of others. My prayers are with the Martin family and for the future of this country.
Today marked the second to last day that we'll work on the mural and we were able to get a lot accomplished. The day began early as usual and l plotted out everything that needed to be done. We had a chance to meet a Davidson local who knew Beadsie Woo and was excited for her inclusion in the design.
Before finishing for the day Bill and Gary conducted a final interview with me to discuss my inspiration, challenges and personal experiences that gave rise to the composition. It was great to talk them both through the end to end process of the project. It is hard to believe that by tomorrow it will be complete. I am looking forward to seeing the final result of our work, but it is also sad to know that my time here is coming to an end. Again.
Check out some of the details of the mural below!
In the final stretch for completing the mural.
Working on this mural for the past two weeks only with spotify and random conversations between me and Isabel filling the room it'd be impossible not to let your mind wander. That's the most enjoyable part about painting- the world around you seems to fade into the distance and it's only you and the materials to make something beautiful.
With the subject of diversity the focus of the mural, I've found myself questioning "what does it mean to be diverse, to embrace differences and celebrate multiculturalism?" Is it about filling quotas with students, faculty, staff, or having a certain number of buildings dedicated to its cause? These were the questions that circled my thoughts- never really coming to an answer. These questions were rhetorical, or so I thought.
During the course of these two weeks Isabel and I have learned a lot about one another. Mainly as a result of me peppering her with questions and she's nice enough to oblige and in return I am incapable of hiding whatever I'm thinking therefore supply all thoughts unsolicited.
Family has been a major topic of conversation especially since we both come from fairly large families. It was on the first or second day of painting that Isabel described how two of her three younger brothers were adopted from Ethiopia five years ago (when they were 10 and five years old). She described how it was fun being a part of the adoption process since she was old enough to understand what was going on and how she couldn't imagine the family without them. Though it makes it a bit hard to follow some of her stories about her family as she makes no distinction when referring to one of her "little brothers."
Yesterday I had the pleasure to meet her family as we all met up to grab lunch near Davidson. When I met Isabel's mom, LeVan, I immediately understood where Isabel got her big smile and warm and friendly nature from. Also there was her older sister and three younger brothers. Their family is beautiful and the picture of diversity. Later her mother joked "we do get funny looks sometimes when people try to figure out the relationship when I walk in somewhere with one of the younger boys."
It was clear that LeVan didn't see the different colors of her children, but rather as any mother would, she saw the children she was raising to adults. The love and pride she had for each of them was evident as she talked about all of the kids' various summer activities and academic achievements. She also described how she was adamant about how the younger brothers keep a connection with Ethiopia. It was clear that this one of the many definitions of diversity- realizing there is always a time to celebrate one's heritage but that's its not defining character that should separate us, but rather a connection we can all share in.
Yesterday was one of the highlights of my time at Davidson thus far. The college an intimate reception to discuss the mural project and to preview the mural to date. During which we were all surprised by Leslie Brown, the first African-American student to attend the college and one of the First Portraits of the mural. Leslie described after seeing this blog he decided to come to the Meet & Greet.
Isabel and I were both thrilled to meet him and unsurprisingly he was as lovely as everyone had described. He had a chance to meet my parents who had a chance to learn about his experience attending Davidson.
LEFT: Leslie with his portrait on the Davidson Mural
Note: Isabel's BLOG
I have always considered myself fairly athletic. Not athletic in the sense that I'm good at any particular sport but rather that I consider myself as in pretty good shape. That and I'm a bit competitive when it comes to working out. I'm probably that obnoxious girl on the treadmill next to you that needs to be running the fastest or longest and when someone stops before me (even if they'd exercising twice as long) I do a mini victory dance because they stopped due to my "mad-awesome-olympic worthy fitness." Well, this morning was the definition of eating a big ol' slice of humble pie. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Now before you jump to any conclusions, my competitiveness is a direct result of my upbringing (sorry mom and dad). I am the youngest of four children (two boys and two girls). My oldest sibling, Nicole, always adored having a little sister and she was enough ahead of me that I was more like a life size doll and the epitome of idolizing my older sister. However, my two older brothers (Neal and Drew) not-so-secretly wished that I was the third brother. The way they saw it, since Neal was generally in charge of me and Drew during babysitting and the summers, Neal would treat me just like another boy. That included "football camps," wrestling and basketball... A lot of basketball. This also included a lot of hand-me-downs which I LOVED so I could be just like my older brothers. Since Drew and I were only 14 months apart we were in constant competition with sports. I remember being the only girl on the elementary school basketball teams and I'm sure until the age of 12 I didn't realize I wasn't a boy. Now, fast forward 14 years and few less boys' clothes but keep the competitive nature and that's me today.
My parents arrived into town last Thursday and they were excited to spend time with family friends here in Davidson. Beth and Bobby are the family I babysat for during my entire Davidson career and as a result became somewhat of a second family while I lived in North Carolina. Therefore, every time my parents are in town we make an effort to see them. Last night my parents and I had dinner with Beth, Bobby and the kids. After dinner, catching up and a few rounds of BS (the card game NOT in conversation) Bobby mentioned a fitness program that he started leading in the town for guys called F3 (Fitness, Fellowship and Faith). F3 is a bootcamp style exercise regime that is hosted on campus. Due to the success of F3 they created F4 (for women) and finally F5 (for families). He asked if I'd be interested in meeting on the football track in the morning to join in the F5 session. My rational side said, no I had too much work in the morning, however it was my competitive side that spoke up and replied "absolutely!" I figured, F5 was for kids... no big deal. Mistake #1
I woke up early this morning, to meet the 7:55 start time on the track. The morning was relatively cool but not much of a breeze. When I walked onto the track I saw the others gathering, some had just finished F3 and others F4. We started out light with a bit of warm up and core strengthening. It was only about 15 minutes into the workout when I realized how hot it was. This was NC in the middle of summer, and I was wearing my full length lycra running pants (mistake #2). But I figured, I run, take spin like it's going out of style, do yoga and mat pilates, no way Bobby's class could out do me. Plus, there was a five year old there. If he could do it I could. Mistake #3 thinking that I have more energy than a 5-yr old.
30 minutes into the exercise which included short jogs, resistance training and a few intervals, I actually started seeing stars. Was it the heat? The lycra? Or the fair share of white wine I'd had the night before at dinner. Whatever the cause, WHY ARE THESE KIDS SO FIT?! They were running circles around me. Literally. Seriously, WHY IS IT SO HOT?!
After opting out of running the stadium stairs, because I'm afraid of heights (that's a lie), I walked a lap around the track and waited until they finished up. Finally, Beth had arrived, after finishing her F4. At this point I assumed we'd pretend to do a bit more exercise then leave. No. Beth jumped straight into the routine full force. Why is it SO hot outside!?!
After another 20 minutes I thought I was dying. It was embarrassing. We finally finished with some core strengthening which was easy enough since it required sitting down. As I stumbled off the track, pining for a cold shower I concluded, competition is overrated and those kids are definitely on steroids :)
Working on the Firsts Portraits
Today marks the second day I've worked on the Davidson Firsts portraits.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, these portraits signify important milestones in Davidson's history of integration and promoting diversity on campus.
The three (of the six) portraits I've worked on thus far include:
Lillian "Beadsie" Woo
If you happen to be in Davidson or anywhere on the East Coast, drop in on Monday, July 8th (12pm - 1pm) for a Meet & Greet hosted by Davidson College for a chance to chat and learn more about the mural project and my artwork.
Hope to see you there,
Details below or RSVP here
The day started out early as usual. I'm generally a morning person but the combination of jetlag and breakfast at the Guest House are just additional motivations for getting up early.
The mornings are great since Sissy or Kelli are always around whenever I get up. I move from my room to the formal dining room and set up my computer and grab coffee, granola and yogurt. If I'm feeling like a deserve a treat (which has been everyday for no real reason except because I'm back at Davidson which obviously warrants a treat) I grab a slice of the zucchini breakfast bread. Sissy informed me that the zucchini comes from Davidson's newly acquired organic farm and the bread is made down at Vail Commons (the main dining area on campus) and delivered to the guest house.
Over breakfast I review the images from the previous day's progress and determine which section of the mural requires more work or which section to focus on for the day. Afterwards, I grab my camera and laptop and I'm off.
I headed to the union around 8:30 since I was determined to correct some details on President Spencer's portrait before Isabel arrived. A few minutes after I set out the materials for the day Bill Giduz, Davidson College's Director of Media Relations, and a fellow, Robert, arrived to inform me he'd sent a note to local news publications about the project and several had been in contact with him as they were interested in running pieces on the mural and my progress to date. But he also described that he wanted to send them a photo of me with the mural that "needed to be taken in the next 20 minutes," as he was in between appointments.
Bill and Robert quickly set up lights and posed me using "Isabel's ladder," as a prop. Do you remember when you had to take high school year book photos and every time they told you to smile, it was as if you'd forgotten how to. Rather than smiling an awkward grimace spread across your face and you were suddenly blatantly conscious that your awkwardness would somehow be captured on camera. That never happened to you? Well, it did to me in high school and it happened again over the next 20 minutes. However, by the end of it we were having fun, though Robert looked a bit bored by us all as he realized Isabel and I could go on for hours :)
After they left, I began to work on the "First Portraits." This would be a series of six portraits representing the various significant firsts at the college such as the first international student, the first African American student, first woman to graduate Davidson and so on. All of these firsts represent a significant milestone in the college's history and path towards embracing diversity and inclusion on campus. Today, I began on the portrait of Leslie Brown who was the first African American student to integrate at Davidson when previously the college had only admitted white Americans to attend. I hope that I have a chance to meet Leslie, who recently visited the college, before heading back to London.
As a tribute, I "photobombed" the time-lapse camera that is set up to document our progress with a picture of Leslie's college portrait (see below).
My soror and best friend, Ebony Harley, paid me a visit while we were painting. I've such an amazing time talking to everyone who has come by to see the mural and chat. I will post the invite to the official Meet & Greet scheduled for July 8th from 12pm- 1pm. Hope to see you there :)