Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze

History-mapping draws the huge and slim, the known and mysterious earlier to the current. Throughout my residency at the Aminah Robinson dwelling, I examined the impulses behind my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and observed a kinship with the textile artist and writer who built her home a creative harmless house. I crafted narratives through a mixed media application of vintage buttons, antique laces and materials, and textual content on cloth-like paper. The commencing stage for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the producing throughout this challenge was a photograph taken additional than a century back that I located in a spouse and children album. A few generations of ancestral mothers held their bodies nevertheless outside the house of what looked like a badly-created cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

A few generations of females in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s family album. Museum art talk “Time and Reflection: Powering Her Gaze.”

What views hid driving their deep penetrating appears to be? Their bodies instructed a permanence in the Virginia landscape all over them. I realized the names of the ancestor moms, but I understood very little of their lives. What had been their techniques? What music did they sing? What desires sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What were the night sounds and working day appears they listened to? I preferred to know their ideas about the environment all-around them. What frightened them? How did they discuss when sitting down with mates? What did they confess? How did they chat to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These issues led me to crafting that explored how they need to have felt.

Investigation was not enough to convey them to me. Recorded community heritage frequently distorted or omitted the tales of these girls, so my history-mapping relied on memories related with feelings. Toni Morrison termed memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a sort of willed creation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a distinct way.” The act of remembering via poetic language and collage helped me to greater comprehend these ancestor moms and give them their say.

Photographs of the artist and visual texts of ancestor moms hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson household.

Performing in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my family members history and my innovative composing crossed new boundaries. The texts I developed reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-reduce styles drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I reduce excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented memories and reframed unrecorded background into visible narratives. Color and texture marked childhood innocence, feminine vulnerability, and bits of recollections.

The blackberry in my storytelling turned a metaphor for Black lifestyle made from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the elements of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends collecting berries in patches along state roadways, the labor of young children accumulating berries, putting them in buckets, going for walks together roadways fearful of snakes, listening to what may possibly be in advance or hidden in the bushes and bramble. All those recollections of blackberry cobbler instructed the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black households lean on to endure battle and rejoice lifetime.

In a museum communicate on July 24, 2022, I relevant my creative ordeals all through the residency and shared how queries about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry selection exhibited at the museum expressed the enlargement of my crafting into multidisciplinary kind. The layers of collage, silhouette, and stitched patterns in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Highway Forward,” “Sit Side Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the past and imagined reminiscences. The closing panels in the exhibit introduced my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a possible enslaved foremother. Even though her lifetime rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, investigate revealed sparse lines of biography. I confronted a missing web site in background.

Photograph of artist’s gallery chat and discussion of “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census.”

Aminah Robinson understood the toil of reconstructing what she termed the “missing webpages of American record.” Utilizing stitchwork, drawing, and painting she re-membered the previous, preserved marginalized voices, and documented record. She marked historic moments relating lifetime moments of the Black community she lived in and cherished. Her do the job talked back again to the erasures of background. Therefore, the house at 791 Sunbury Highway, its contents, and Robinson’s visible storytelling held exclusive meaning as I labored there.

I wrote “Sit Side Me” through peaceful hours of reflection. The days just after the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” required the grandmother and Sweet Baby to sit and acquire their energy. The start off of their conversation arrived to me as poetry and collage. Their story has not finished there is a lot more to know and claim and consider.

Photograph of artist reducing “Sit Side Me” in studio.


Photograph of “Sit Side Me” in the museum gallery. Graphic courtesy of Steve Harrison.

Sit Facet Me
By Darlene Taylor

Tasting the purple-black spoon towards a bowl mouth,
oven heat sweating sweet nutmeg black,
she halts her kitchen area baking.

Sit aspect me, she claims.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her heat, darkish eyes cloud. She leans forward
close more than enough that I can stick to her gaze.

There’s considerably to do, she suggests,
positioning paper and pencil on the desk.
Create this.

Somewhere out the window a chook whistles.
She catches its voice and shapes the superior and low
into phrases to explain the wrongness and lostness
that took me from faculty. A lady was snatched.

She recall the ruined slip, torn ebook web pages,
and the flattened patch.
The text in my hands scratch.
The paper is too brief, and I simply cannot generate.
The thick bramble and thorns make my arms still.

She will take the memory and it belong to her.
Her eyes my eyes, her skin my pores and skin.
She know the ache as it passed from me to her,
she know it like sin staining generations,
repeating, remembering, repeating, remembering.
Remembering like she know what it experience like to be a lady,
her fingers slide across the vinyl table floor to the paper.
Why prevent producing? But I really don’t remedy.
And she really don’t make me. Instead, she qualified prospects me
down her memory of staying a woman.

When she was a woman, there was no faculty,
no books, no letter creating.
Just thick patches of inexperienced and dusty purple clay road.

We get to the only highway. She appears much taller
with her hair braided in opposition to the sky.
Choose my hand, sweet child.
Together we make this walk, keep this aged road.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend extended the road.

Images of slice and collage on banners as they cling in the studio at the Aminah Robinson residence.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The highway bends. In a location where by a girl was snatched, no one particular says her name. They speak about the
bloody slip, not the missing female. The blacktop highway curves there and drops. Just cannot see what is in advance
so, I hear. Bugs scratch their legs and wind their wings previously mentioned their backs. The street sounds

Every single working day I walk by itself on the schoolhouse highway, preserving my eyes on in which I’m heading,
not in which I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying publications and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An engine grinds, brakes screech. I stage into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy style of highway dust dries my tongue. More mature boys, necessarily mean boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
snicker and bluster—“Rusty Female.” They generate rapid. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the street. Sun beats the crushed fowl.

Chopping via the tall, tall grass, I pick up a adhere to alert. Songs and sticks have electric power in excess of
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish beneath my toes. The ripe scent helps make my belly
grumble. Briar thorns prick my pores and skin, generating my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I eat.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the flavor.

Publications spill. Backwards I fall. Web pages tear. Classes brown like sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg. Blackberry stain. Thistles and nettles grate my legs and thighs. Coarse
laughter, not from inside me. A boy, a laughing boy, a imply boy. Berry black stains my
costume. I operate. Dwelling.

The sun burns by means of kitchen area home windows, warming, baking. I roll my purple-tipped fingers into
my palms.

Sweet youngster, grandmother will say. Intelligent woman.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse street.

Photos of artist reducing text and discussing multidisciplinary crafting.


Darlene Taylor on the steps of the Aminah Robinson dwelling photographed by Steve Harrison.