Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The "Portraits" Project

Emma Jenkins Richardson, My Grandmother, while living in Pensacola, Florida during WW II
Joe Richardson, My Grandfather, while living in Pensacola, FL, During WW II

My grandmother, Emma Jenkins Richardson

JoAnn/Joanne Richardson, My Mother at uncle and aunt's house in Montgomery, Alabama

My Mother as a baby with my grandmother at uncle and aunt's house.
My mother as a baby with my grandfather at uncle and aunt's house.

My mother as a baby

My mother

My mother

My mother JoAnn/Joanne and uncle, Joseph Richardson, as children in 1955

My mother dressed for a program and parade in Montgomery in the 1950s
My mother and uncle at Christmas in Montgomery in the 1950s
My mother and uncle at Christmas in the 1950s

My mother at age 10
My uncle, Joseph Richardson, as May Day King at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Montgomery, with the Queen, a girl named Mary, and baby sister Pam

My mother as First Attendant to May Day Queen at her school

My aunt, Pamela Richardson, as a toddler with her doll and stuffed animal at Christmas

My aunt Pam with her doll at Christmas
My grandmother, Emma Jenkins Richardson, with my mother and aunt Pam
My aunt Pam's graduation from kindergarten

My aunt, Pamela Richardson, as May Day Queen at Booker T. Washington Elementary

Clipping from the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper featuring my aunt as May Day Queen at BTW

My Mother's high school graduation picture (BTW)
My uncle's high school graduation picture (BTW)

My aunt's high school graduation picture (Jeff Davis)

My high school graduation picture (St. Jude Educational Institute)

My debutante photo from the program booklet, April, 1989

My cousin Keri Smith's debutante photo from the program booklet, April, 2004

My cousin Megan Smith's debutante photo from the program booklet, April, 2006

Images of my grandparents in Pensacola, Florida during WWII in the 1940s, as well as various vintage family photos taken in Montgomery, Alabama beginning in the 1950s that inspired my Portraits Project in Art quilting. The images of my mother and aunt from the 1950s and 1960s with the black dolls that my grandmother would buy them growing up also stand out to me in our family photo collection; also see the post on this blog on "Black Debutantes" for more family photos that have helped to inspire this exhibition.

Various Images of my grandparents in Pensacola, Florida during WWII in the 1940s, as well as various vintage family photos taken in Montgomery, Alabama beginning in the 1950s that inspired my Portraits Project in Art quilting

The Portraits Project

My second solo art quilt exhibition entitled “Portraits II: From Montgomery to Paris” has been very exciting to develop as a follow-up to my first, “Portraits from Montgomery to Paris,” which debuted at Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama July-September 2008 and was also featured at the Carol Tatkon Center Art Gallery at Cornell University in 2011. Four pieces from this show were also featured at the Mairie du 5e in Paris, and two at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in the city when I was invited to the city as a “Cultural Envoy” by the U.S. Embassy in France for the Paris opening of its national quilt exhibition, “Un Patchwork de Cultures,” under the sponsorship of a grant from the U.S. Department of State in its Speaker Series. Selected works from this show have also been featured in several other places, including a 2009 exhibition on “Black Debutantes” at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

The body of quilts from “Portraits” are the subject of the short film by Anne Crémieux and Géraldine Chouard entitled “A Portrait of the Artist”(2008), which was shot on location in Paris, France and highlighted an interview with the scholar Patricia A. Turner. Pat Turner also discusses the “Portraits” project in her book Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters. Quilts from “Portraits” are also featured in Lauren Cross’s film The Skin Quilt Project (2010).

Already, works from “Portraits II” have been in circulation. In January 2009, the very first quilt produced on the road to this new show, which features President Obama, was first presented in Paris, France prior to the inauguration in the U.S. and went on to appear in Roland Freeman’s “Quilts for Obama” at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. for most of that year. It is also featured on the commemorative poster for this monumental quilt exhibition, which went into two encores, including a final encore on request of the Congressional Black Caucus and the mayor of Washington, D.C. My quilt featuring Michelle Obama was added to the final encore of “Quilts for Obama" that began in September 2009. The Obama quilts that led off “Portraits II,” as well as those featuring Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison, were also featured in the exhibition at Cornell University at the Carol Tatkon Center Art Gallery. The production network for “Portraits II” is hard at work and very excited about the new show opening in January, 2015 and aims for it to be featured in several venues.

“Portraits” included four series in all, including “Family,” “Paris,” “Political” and “Hollywood.” Smaller series within the “Family Series” include series entitled “Wedding,” “Baby,” “Self-Portrait,” “Education,” and “Debutante.” Portraits II continues to develop all of the foundational series and incorporates several more, including “Black History,” “African American Literature,” “Alabama Women,” and new versions of “Daughters of Africa” and “Delta,” which I began in the early 1990s. The “Portraits” project recalls May Day celebrations in Montgomery, Alabama dating back to the 1950s, as well as Easter parades, school programs, and birthday celebrations. It recreates debutante portraits from the 1970s to the 2000s. In the process, it captures a side of black life, particularly in the U.S. South, less frequently discussed. As the curator Georgette Norman describes “Portraits” in the 2008 catalog for the show at Rosa Parks Museum, it “draws on aspects of Montgomery and Civil Rights history, but focuses on family showing the dignity and beauty that always existed . . . Portraits
. . . captures in new form family photos and memories, and also treats political and cultural figures from Martin Luther King to Scarlett O’Hara.“

The words “new form” well speak to the approach that I take to quilting, as do my comments at the opening of the film “A Portrait of the Artist,” which mention my goal of “pushing quilting as far as I can, so that even the question, ‘what is a quilt,’ is ultimately raised.” All of my quilts usually include at least one feature that is challenging to pull off; I refer to them as “special effects.” I once made a casual and offhand list of the eclectic features that constitute my mixed-media quilting style above and beyond the foundational fabrics. They include hats, jewelry, shoes, fingernails, ribbons, eyelashes, synthetic hair, orthodontic braces, buttons, safety pins, boas, fruit, beading, flowers, glasses, mirrors, and ties, among others. The quilts for the new show expand the body of special effects that I incorporate and take my architectural “three-dimensional” quilting style and the notion of the “built quilt” in some new and quite exciting directions. I draw all of the images on my quilts by hand and paint them with fabric or acrylic paints; I do all of the quilting by hand.
Many people describe them as “quilts unlike any I have ever seen before.” Below is a comprehensive listing of the works that so far make up my multi-year “Portraits” project in art quilting, which I began in 1999 and by the time that it culminates in 2015, will have been developing for over 15 years.

Portraits II: From Montgomery to Paris (2015)


from Family Series #2, Including Baby and Children, Education, Debutante and Self-Portrait Series, Including Various Installation-style Works

“Debutante Daddy: Joe Richardson Presenting Daughter Pamela Richardson As a Debutante in National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Beta Beta Chapter Cotillion, Garrett Coliseum, Montgomery, Alabama, April 10, 1976” (Joe Richardson, b. July 11, 1915 and Commemorating 100 Years in 2015) (Debutante Series). Installation-style panel 1 of 3 (Composition 2011-2014)

“Debutante Pamela Richardson Presented by Father, Joe Richardson, in National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Beta Beta Chapter Cotillion, Garrett Coliseum, Montgomery, Alabama, April 10, 1976” (Debutante Series) Installation-style panel 2 of 3 (Composition 2011-2014)

“Debutante Mama: Emma Richardson, Mother of Pamela Richardson in National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Debutante Cotillion, Garrett Coliseum, Montgomery Alabama, April 10, 1976” (Debutante Series). Installation-style panel 3 of 3 (Composition 2011-2014)

“Jo Ann and ‘Junior Man’ II: Cowboys at Christmas.” Installation-style quilt
Special Thanks to T-Shirt Express for Screenprinting Background Photographs (Composition 2009-2014)

“Pam as Booker T. Washington May Day Queen” (Composition 2009-2014)

“Riché Deianne Richardson as Jr. Gayfer Girl in 1983 at Age 11 and Dressed for the Group Photo, the First Event after Graduation from Poise-Charm Classes at Gayfers Department Store (formerly Montgomery Fair) in Montgomery Mall"(Family Series, Education Series, Self-Portrait Series) (Composition 2012-13) Special Thanks to T-Shirt Express for the T-Shirt Design and Production

“’Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes!’: Keri Diamond Smith and Megan Chereé Smith, School Days at St. John-Resurrection"(Family Series, Education Series)
Installation-style quilt (Composition 2005-12)

“Riché Deianne Richardson: Profile in the State of Alabama” (Self-Portrait) (2011-2014)

Political Series

“Obama Time: Always (Congratulations, Mr. President!)” (Composition 2008-09)

“The Magnificent Michelle Obama, Our First Lady: ‘Strength and Honor are Her Clothing’(Proverbs 31: 25)”(Political Series) (Composition 2009)

“Mary McLeod Bethune: One of America’s Greatest Sweethearts and the World’s Best Leaders”(Composition 2012-2014)

"Clarence Thomas’s High Tech Lynching?: Inferior Court Justice to Be"(Political Series) (Composition 2002-12)

"Condoleezza Rice: From Birmingham to the White House" (Alabama Women Series, Political Series) (Composition 2011- 2012)

“The Journey of Condoleezza Rice”(2012)

“’W’: President George W. Bush, #43”

Civil Rights Movement: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Series

“Rosa Parks, Whose ‘No’ in 1955 Launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Was Heard Around the World”(Commemorating 100 Years, 1913-2013) (Civil Rights Movement Series, Black History Series, Alabama Women Series). Dedicated to Georgette Norman (Composition 2006-12)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to a Dream for America” (Also Black History Series) (Composition 2012-2014)

“E.D. Nixon: Father of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Civil Rights Movement” (Black History Series) In Memory of E.D. Nixon, Jr., a.k.a. “Nick LaTour” (Composition 2012-13)

Paris Series

“James Baldwin: From Harlem to Paris” (African American Literature Series) (Composition 2012-2014 )

“’Richard Wright: From Mississippi to Paris (African American Literature Series) (Composition 2012-2014)

“Audrey Tautou as Amélie”(Composition 2011)

Hollywood Series

“Charleston's Finest: Clark Gable as Rhett Butler" (Composition 2006-12)

“Dorothy Dandridge Playing Carmen Jones” Installation-style quilt
(Composition 2012-2014)

“I Wanted to Really Build Something: To Sidney Poitier with Love” (Composition 2012-2014)

“The Marvelous Marilyn Monroe” Installation-style quilt (Composition 2011 -2014)

Black History Series

“Daughter of Africa, Mother of African American Literature, Another American Revolution” (Black History Series, African American Literature Series, & New Daughters of Africa Series). Dedicated to Honorée Jeffers (Composition 2010-12)

“The Great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass: ‘I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday’; Birthday Unknown but Celebrated February 14” (Black History Series) Dedicated to Class of 2009, Suger High School, Saint-Denis in Paris, France Installation-style quilt (Composition 2010-11)

“Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison”(African American Literature Series) (Composition 2010)

“The Vision of W.E.B. Du Bois”(Composition 2012-2014)

Portraits from Montgomery to Paris(2008)

from Family Series #1, Including Wedding, Graduation/Education, and Debutante Series, Three Installations, and Artist Self Portraits

"Sunday Afternoon on Palafox Street in Pensacola, Florida during WWII": Emma Lue
Jenkins Richardson (Composition 1999-00)

Sunday Afternoon on Palafox Street in Pensacola, Florida during WWII: Joe Richardson (Composition 2000-01)

"JoAnn and 'Junior Man': Easter Sunday, Montgomery, Alabama, 1954"(Installation)(Composition 2001-04)

"Pam's Graduation from Kindergarten at Mrs. Drake's"(Installation) (Composition 2005-08)

" JoAnn Richardson: Graduation Picture at Booker Washington High School"(Composition 2005-06)

"Joseph Richardson: Graduation Picture at Booker Washington High School"(Composition 2006-07)

"Pamela Richardson: Graduation Picture at Jefferson Davis High School"(Composition 2005-08)

"The Honeymooners: Celebrating 47 Years: Emma Richardson"(Composition 2005-06)

"The Honeymooners: Celebrating 47 Years: Joe Richardson" (Composition 2005-08)

Riché Deianne Richardson: Graduation Picture at St. Jude Educational Institute of 'The City of St. Jude' (The Last Camping Place for Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers in 1965) Self-Portrait (Composition period. Special Thanks to Dr. Kelly Gianetti for Sterilized Orthodontic Appliances (Composition 2005-06)

Riché Deianne Richardson, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 1989" Self-Portrait (Composition 2006-08)

"Keri Diamond Smith, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 2004"(Composition 2006-08)

"Megan Chereé Smith, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 2006"(Composition 2006-08)

from Paris Series #1

"Playing Venus Hot to Trot?: Josephine Baker"(Commemorating 100 years, 1906-2006)(Composition 2001-05)

"Remembering a Dutiful Daughter: Simone de Beauvoir" (Commemorating 100 years, 1908-2008)(Composition 2004-07)

from Political Series #1

"The Ties that Bind: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy"(Composition 2002-04)

"A Tie, Too?": Malcolm X" (Composition 2002-04)

from Hollywood Series # 1

"Playing 'Mammy': Not Hattie McDaniel!"(Composition 2006-08)

"Sweet Scarlett?: Vivien Leigh Playing Southern Belle"(Composition 2006-08)

Early Work Retrospective

Soft-sculpture doll honoring purple uniform of Alabama Association of Federated Youth Clubs, completed in 1987 at age 16 (Second place prize winner in annual state crafts completion)

Soft –sculpture doll made in 1989 at age 18 to decorate dormitory room at Spelman College freshman year

“Delta Love”(first art quilt produced in 1992 as a new member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in Spelman College’s Eta Kappa Chapter; this organization also first exhibited Riché Richardson’s art when featuring this piece in an exhibition on Spelman’s campus in 1993)

“My Family Quilt”(1993)

“Destiny’s Child: Borrowed Robes”(1994)

“Daughter’s of Africa”(1993)

Africa Quilt (1995)

Africa Quilt (1995)


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