Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Long Artist Statement 2008, Produced in Tandem with Debut Show, "Portraits From Montgomery to Paris," Rosa Parks Museum Gallery and Library, July-Sept

Artist Statement

by Riché Deianne Richardson

As a self-taught quilt artist living and working in California but very much identifying as an Alabama artist, I focus on making applique art quilt portraits. This is a style that stems from my original interest in creating scenes featuring colorful silhouette collages on fabric. A few years ago, because I longed to capture my subjects in more specificity and detail, I began to draw and paint features on their faces and to give them rooted synthetic hair. I often attach eyelashes. The quilts that highlight more of the body also have fingernails. I even used makeup to highlight features on a couple of them. Sculpting is sometimes evident. In the more recent quilts with shoulders exposed, I've incorporated collarbones. Indeed, the quilts evoke elements of soft sculpture to some extent. This is natural, I suppose, given that some of my earliest art projects in childhood and teen years were dolls. I'm continually refining the technique. Some quilts feature details like jewelry, flowers, and even ribbons, shoes and socks. In general, my goal is to create a realist, portrait-like image.

My supplies come from a variety of places, depending on what I am trying to do. Art stores (for fabric paints and acrylic paints), beauty supply stores (for synthetic hair), drugstores (for nails and eyelashes) and fabric stores are all places where I routinely gather materials. When I'm at the fabric store, clerks always ask me the question, "What are you making?" It can be hard to say, for I'm usually buying supplies for multiple projects, so I usually give a very simple answer like, "Well, I'm a quilt artist so this is for my different projects." Sometimes, I go to clothing stores to look at clothing just to get inspiration for certain things I'm trying to do. In the process of making my quilts, I can be a makeup artist, a hairdresser and a manicurist. It just depends on the project. All of these hats are fun to try to wear.

I never buy any supplies beyond the ones that I actually need and use-supplies that I'm using distinctly for a purpose-and buy them slowly as my work progresses. Going to the art store to buy paint is my favorite thing to do as an artist but I rarely have the opportunity to go there. To keep it simple, I buy paint one little jar at a time-and it lasts a long time. I need to buy it so rarely that I get very excited every time the opportunity comes. I think this is because I like the boost that comes with walking around art stores. They can be so inspiring and stimulating.

The two quilts featuring my grandparents on Palafax Street during their time living in Pensacola, Florida in the 1940s during World War II ground the family series. The story of this time is tacit in them. My grandfather, like my grandmother's brothers and so many others from Montgomery, made up a Montgomery diaspora there and worked in construction building barracks. The wives tended to go along, and so my grandmother eventually joined him there and worked ship service in the Navy yard, filling in ledgers and passing out uniforms, among other things. This is such an intriguing time, and builds upon her early work experiences as a trainee in the NYA and jobs at places in downtown Montgomery like Arlene's Hat Shop, where she arranged the window displays. After that, they moved on to Daytona where the men built beachfront homes, and only resettled in Montgomery in the late 1940s. I think it is powerful that she regards her time working in Florida as the happiest in her life thus far, and still has her identification badge from that period. A testament to what a great time it was is that a few years later once they had children, she took my mother and uncle on a visit to Pensacola to meet her co-workers.

This is part of the story embedded in the baby quilt entitled "JoAnn and 'Junior Man'", which is based on a 1954 photograph of my mother and uncle. The white photographer's studio that contacted my grandmother and took it at her and my grandfather's house told her that it was their first of "colored children" in the city. It shows my mother and uncle but tells a story about my grandmother, too, in terms of her eye for beauty and adoration of her children. She says that she had just gotten her paycheck, saw that beautiful blue dress, and bought it right off a display in a store window. I try to recreate those outfits in the quilt, down to their colors. The quilt tells an Easter story from around the time before Brown v. Board, and a year before the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. At a deeper level, it captures the beauty, harmony and dignity of black family and community rituals that were in place in Montgomery not only in my grandparent’s house on Union Street-which they owned and rented out while they were in Florida-but also in many other homes. My grandfather's father, who was buried on the day that he was born in 1915, was a painter, and they kept his self-portrait on the living room wall of their home. 'Junior Man' is the name that my uncle's aunt and later uncles gave him as a baby, a title showing the joy and delight they found in him.

As the family series continued to develop beyond these early works, I also stepped out to capture political and cultural figures, building three other main series with titles such as "Paris," "Political," and "Hollywood." The political series began with a quilt featuring the triumvirate Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and John F Kennedy, and there is a also companion one of Malcolm X. I opt for this juxtaposition and think it is important because his tragic loss in 1965 is often not mentioned in descriptions of the tragic losses of national leaders during the civil rights era.

There is a quilt featuring Josephine Baker, a nude in a banana skirt that evokes the art of Paul Colin in the Paris set. It features Simone de Beauvior. The Beauvoir quilt is bright pale yellow and reproduces the cover of her first autobiography. I've found that candid smiling shot of her with her hair up to be quite captivating and representative of her intellectual spirit. For nearly the past five years, one of my projects, off and on, has been reading Beauvoir's autobiographies. The third work in this series is of Sally Hemings with the features of the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and dressed in a court gown like Marie Antoinette's. The trimming in gold and the background in indigo blue evoke the French royal court of the late 18th century. The quilt, which presents a Hemings with skin as white as Jefferson's might have been, and with red hair, is designed to question racial presumptions that are often made about her appearance, the kinds that are questioned by the historian Clarence Walker, to whom the piece is dedicated. For instance, he has argued that in casting of films on Hemings, Hollywood has typically relied on a very narrow and even stereotypical notion of what a woman with her racial background might have looked like. Another series that I've designed treats black stereotypes, which will include a white Uncle Ben with the title "Uncle Ben's Converted Race." These pieces play on the "crossing" theme that runs across some of the quilts.

The quilts that inaugurate the Hollywood series all focus on Gone with the Wind, a production that punctuated the 1930s and the golden era of Hollywood film, and recreates its characters such as Scarlett, Mammy, and Rhett. The quilt featuring Hattie McDaniel repeats an early image from the film. Yet, with its bangs and tendrils, it also attempts to convey the actress's beauty and what we might have seen on screen if there had been even more room for her to express herself and the phenomenal style and glamour that she had as a woman. The background for the appliqué is a dish cloth, her dress is made of pure cotton, the buttons are of whalebone, and because McDaniel's weight was a feature in and of itself, it's also the only quilt across these series that is stuffed.

Each applique can take months and months to complete because of the level of detail and intricacy. They have various "special effects" that make them unique and challenging. Among such details are Malcolm X's glasses, Josephine Baker's banana skirt, my grandfather's hat, the knitted sweaters on the quilt featuring my mother, the shoes on the three installations, the braces on the one featuring me in high school, etc. I have to go where every quilt takes me, in a sense, in terms of pulling off these effects. For instance, it took over two years, and thinking through a lot of possibilities (to the point of even considering having shoes sawed down the middle) to come up with a plan for positioning the shoes on the baby quilt featuring my mother and uncle. I can't believe that the final plan was so simple, in light of the gymnastics that I went through before I came up with it. And it wouldn't have been good enough to me to have the legs melt into the bottom. The shoes had to be there. Dr. Kelly Gianetti, who was treating me with Invisalign at the time, kindly sterilized and donated a set of appliances to me for the quilt featuring me as a high school graduate. With Beauvoir, I tried something completely different in facial sculpting to capture her rich facial contours and beautiful smile, so that quilt took far longer than I thought it would.

Overall, my style is minimalist in the sense that I try to use very basic materials, very few instruments, and I do all the work is by hand. Quality matters more to me than quantity. Speed, convenience, and efficiency in the process are never my goals. We are living in a time when bodies are frequently replaced and displaced by machines and computers. I have collected a few antique sewing machines, but don't own one that I can practically use for the purpose of quilting. I prefer to hand quilt, which is another reason that I must work so slowly. That the work goes so slowly feels very counterintuitive and insurgent in this day and time. Indeed, the wagon wheel is the main symbol that comes to mind when I think of the rhythm of what I do. This suggests the rhythm of the work, but also points to little features in the neighborhood where I was raised. That is to say, my neighborhood in Montgomery where I grew up in the Cloverdale area has homes with special design features. A very large wagon wheel painted white props up the clothesline in our backyard. So when I think of wagon wheels, I also think of home. There are two wagon wheels that spin in the front yard of the house next door, along with an old iron washpot. We'd stand and spin them around sometimes when I was a child outside playing. Inside our house, even as a child, I was inspired by the carved wooden and iron fireplaces. I grew up seeing a lot of older household items, which my grandparents held on to, like wash stands, tin tubs, ice cream scoops and wash stands. A large, ornate barber shop fan used to be on our front porch. We use irons in our house as nutcrackers. We keep umbrellas in an old butter churn. In his On Art and Life: You Must Either Make a Tool of the Creature, or a Man of Him, You Cannot Make Both, John Ruskin remarks that "The needle is the woman's plow." My work as an artist on some levels, is an iteration of the tireless and restless rhythms of women across generations with needles.

It's true that to be done well, some quilt projects require a range of specific materials. In general, though, I don't like the current sensibility that suggests that in order to make quilts, it is necessary to go out and invest in a host of expensive gadgets that people would not have felt so dependent on even a few generations ago. What I call the "state fair" approach to quilt-making (i.e. quilts that are designed in strict conformity and measured with precision to increase their likelihood of being "prize-winning") has no appeal to me. I have to actualize the image that I am imagining, and if that means that I have to break the "rules," then so be it. I work by instinct and try to make whatever feels pretty to me without getting too caught up in specific recipes for quilting. It's very much like the
instinctive approach that the French are often described as taking to their home cooking. I'm very precise in cutting fabric, and prefer monochromatic backgrounds with simple colors, and use a few very simple quilting designs, like straight lines and diagonals. I rarely even piece quilts anymore, because for me, the appliqué is always the main feature, and I like to keep the attention on it. In my work, I try to push the concept of quilting to the limit. The quilts in the debutante series are designed to raise basic philosophical questions like, "What is a quilt?" For they lack background quilting. One of my older quilts that I began in the 1990s, a quilt that I've yet to finish and tentatively entitled "What is Africa to Me?" incorporates wood and straw into some of the architectural structures, as well as kente cloth. I tend to treat my quilting backdrops as canvases and the style of applique that I do tends to prevent me from synthesizing my quilts in the organic way that some purists prefer to see. But this stylistic adaptation is also a reflection of my artistic identity and is mandated by the kinds of projects that I am interested in making, for my goal has been to give my quilts a very life-like aura. I give them a three-dimensional, coming up
off the page effect.

This is not to say that I do not place a priority on matters of form. All of my moves in stitching techniques tend to be very standard. I am extremely meticulous in developing the quilts, down to their very intricate details. I've often worked for hours on features of quilts, like shirts, that will even be covered up. Yet, I know myself at least that the handiwork is underneath and that I have worked my hardest to achieve the precision and intricacy that are important to me in my work. I include slips as undergarments under all girls' dresses, and have to make them myself, because they are in such short supply in many stores these days. I think that this commitment explains why I inhabit applique so intimately as a style and have attempted to adapt the genre over the years to suit my own purposes. In the process, I have developed my own style of appliqué. Because most of my projects are smaller in scale, they feel more manageable.

For the painting, I sometimes mix my own colors to get the effect I need. I use a very, very narrow palette, and so far, have had just one faithful brush. I used the same one for all of the painting in my first four series. I usually nail the essence of my subject on the first try, and I try to capture it within a half hour. In drawing, I begin with a pen and so mistakes are a no-no, or else I need to use a new piece of fabric. The drawing and painting is work that I have to build up to, and I pour all of my energy into it whenever I do it. It usually occurs as I begin to work toward beginning another quilt in the series. In a few instances, I've had to redo facial images (which means re-cutting and re-painting the faces completely) to adjust features (i.e. make a truer nose, alter a complexion, or re-root hair). I'm never satisfied until I have actualized the image that I am imagining. If it's not right, I take it apart and do it again. I replaced the suit jacket of Robert Kennedy because I didn't feel that the texture of fabric that I had originally used for it was quite right once things came together. This process was time-consuming, but it was gratifying to see the revision in the end.

I used to write poetry. From the time I was 14 until age 22, I wrote one a month at minimum, and the highest tribute that I could pay to someone was honor in a poem. Now, on some levels, I suppose that my quilts are my poetry. In order to do the work I do, I must address topics that I care about, images that I love and or images that are at least fascinating to me, for I can literally journey with these projects for months on end. Something has to be there to draw me in and keep me there until the work is done. Off and on the first baby quilt took nearly four years to complete, and so did the one of Josephine Baker quilt.

It's interesting. Complexions are rarely true in my quilts. In the Florida quilts, my grandparents have slightly darker skin. I imagine them as having been kissed by the sun. The same is true for those of my mother. Black and white photos tend to evoke images that are much darker than their subjects, and these disparities are sometimes evident in my quilts. In general, it can be difficult to find fabric that is a true color approximation at times. But I rarely reproduce the person. I'm more interested in the specific images that some of the photos are conveying that often help to inspire my work.

Photos of my mother and aunt from the 1950s and 60s feature them with black dolls, which my grandmother says she bought from a Jewish man in Montgomery at Weil's. She herself and her sister, she says, also played with black dolls as children. And so did I. For me, this background belies the by now familiar narrative that every black woman grew up worshipping white dolls. That history is important and, of course, very true in many instances. But African Americans' lives have also typically been much more complex and textured.

The hair that I do for each quilt portrait is very individual. My techniques in this instance are very much informed by black beauty shop culture and hair fashion. I think that this familiarity helps me to know what kinds of textures to use in each instance to get the look that I'm going for. The hairstyles on the quilts can take me in a zillion directions. The flip style on the high school graduation quilt of my aunt Pam in 1976, one of the quilts in the education series within the family series was challenging to accomplish, but it was important to me to capture the flavor and fashion of the time that she so classically embodied. She's also wearing elegant jewelry and blue eye shadow. In general, her graduation pictures, including double exposures that she took for her Master's graduation ceremony, provided important continuity with studio photography and were among my favorites growing up. The techniques for rooting male hair draw on elements of needlepoint. One of my interests in making my quilt portraits, too, is in reflecting the beauty and diversity of the human spectrum, racially and otherwise.

The quilts of my mother and uncle in the education series capture their graduations in the late 1960s from Booker Washington High School in Montgomery, which was right down the street from where they grew up on Union Street, and after the interstate and urban renewal claimed this home, on Elmwood. The graduation quilt of me in the family series, which is also an initial self-portrait, reflects one of the best traditions at St. Jude Educational Institute, located on "The City of St. Jude" campus historically known as the final camping place for Selma-to-Montgomery marchers in 1965. One of many traditions mandates that only the senior class ever uses the elegant marble stairs. For a long time, the St. Jude hospital was the one place in town where blacks could get quality medical treatment in the Jim Crow South. Even as a student there, I was very inspired and impressed that pictures of graduating classes going for back decades line the hallways, so that some students could go and pick out photos of their own parents. My aunt's boyfriend's sister had been a graduate from St. Jude in the early 1980s, and gave my grandparents one of her pictures, which they included in our living room. From the time that I was 11 or 12, I dreamed of what my own St. Jude graduation picture might look like someday. Indeed, I am not sure that most people realize how much they might promote a stronger sense of community and also inspire their own children's success by displaying the graduation photos in their homes of all students they know who are graduating. To be drum major, Miss St. Jude, student council president, Miss Varsity, a cheerleader, etc., were cherished positions. My own senior photo from St. Jude, where I was elected student council vice-president and later president, is not unique but is one of thousands. Of people like Beverly and Wayne, cousins on grandfather's side of the family who were brother and sister and legendary in Montgomery. Confused and fascinated whites, as I've heard it, would drive by slowly or even stop and stare as Beverly played outside with my mother and other children, because of her light skin and long straight hair, whereas Wayne was very dark. To me, she looked like a cross between Denise Matthews and Natalie Wood.

The debutante series has very similar effects, given that we have all come out in the Phi Delta Kappa cotillion in Montgomery, beginning with my aunt's ball at Garrett Coliseum in 1976, which I remember attending at age five. The next time I attended the ball, I was 11. The next time I attended the ball I was in it as a sophomore and junior debutante. Finally, in 1989 as a senior, I was in it myself. The debutante quilt featuring me in the debutante series reproduces the sepia photo from the program passed out to the audience the night of the event, which was taken in the white lace dress that I wore as a date to Sydney Lanier's Military Ball as a junior. My actual debutante dress was the last of 40 that I tried on over many months, and we found it two weeks before the ball, which many people praised in the days and weeks after the event. My mother took some of the ruffle tulle from around the bottom to edge my gloves. It's interesting. The photos in the debutante series register profound and amusing generational shifts. My program photo is from the 1980s and seems buttoned up by today's standards. The sepia program photos of my cousins Keri and Megan, from 2004 and 2006, like all the girls in their years, feature them in white boas with upswept hairdos. My actual dress showed a little cleavage and pushed the envelope a little for the time, but dresses today are also very spare. I admired that my cousin Keri opted to wear a sheer cover around her shoulders at her ball, and it was nice that she and her escort also got a close-up newspaper photo. Megan added mesh straps to her dress. Always, we give the dresses a homemade touch. As is the case with the education quilts, the quilts that reproduce our debutante photos are among many others. The cotillion is another important means of local community support for education.

In general, some of the quilts, as they have been conceived, explore or allude to aspects of the past like Easter Parades in the Montgomery community. They take us back to a time in the past when May Day celebrations were a major event for black schools. Indeed, the backstory to the debutante quilts in the family series is that my Uncle, Joseph, was named the May Day King at his school as a little boy, and the queen was named Mary. Similarly, my aunt, Pam, was also May Day Queen one year at her elementary school. For the next family series, I'm doing a quilt featuring these images, as well as one of my uncle and my mother dressed in matching cowboy outfits with their toys under the Christmas tree.

Another thing that I have discovered is that good and even professional photography has been the inspiration for some of my quilts. I would go as far as to link it to their very conditions of possibility. My grandparents would hire a photographer in the community to come in on holidays like Easter and Christmas to photograph their children. These images are remarkable. I have mostly copies at hand-none of the originals. My mother made very good copies for me. They give me a similar feeling to the one that I get when I look at some of the photographs of James Van Der Zee. I think I can only make some of the quilts I make because of these artistic foundations. I fear that in an age during which many people are now self-reliant photographers, there is less discipline in these processes. Amateur work is fine for some purposes, but I hope that people will also continue to find value in studio and professional photography and won't just get into patterns of doing it themselves in the future. In general, it's also interesting and in some ways ironic to me, as I think toward the prints, that I will have to "translate" back to photography images that were in some cases inspired by photographs in the first place.

Some quilts, such as the ones in the political series, which include images of figures like the John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, hearken back to a civility and respect for leadership that have been somewhat eroded by an invasive, corporate media. Civil rights/black liberation history as related to Montgomery and issues concerning the South more generally are dominant themes. For instance, in addition to King and Parks, the Clarence Thomas quilt merges Confederate flag iconography and the "X" symbol, interspersing them with images of the American flag, to allude to Thomas's curious admission that he keeps the Confederate flag on his desk because it "reminds me of home." Furthermore, it acknowledges his admiration of Malcolm X, and highlights the curiosity and irony in juxtaposing the latter's philosophy with Confederate flag symbolism. It evokes Thomas' reference to a "high tech lynching." This quilt will be positioned in the series next to the Malcolm X quilt. In general, the Thomas quilt intersects with the "Ties that Bind" series, which is unified in the fact that all leaders wear red ties, symbolizing the tragedy of their deaths. The tie for Thomas will be made from rope. These quilts in the political series might also be interpreted, of course, as an adaptation of more traditional "tie quilts."

I love this work and am continually inspired by it. My journey as an artist is literally a walk by faith. My Southern folk art collecting also keeps me inspired as I work toward my artistic goals. The art in my own living space, which is from the folk art genre, primarily includes the work of Alabama artists such as Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Bernice Sims, and Mose Tolliver, along with works by Myrtice West, Zelle Manning, Ruby Williams and Michael Banks. I keep pictures of some of these artists on my refrigerator door. I even regard the sofa that serves as its centerpiece, which was a gift from my grandmother upon the completion of my graduate degree, as a form of Alabama art given that it was produced at the Martha House company in Montgomery, whose beautiful store window displays of furnishings fascinated me during my childhood. Beyond Southern folk artists, I am inspired by the examples of a range of artists, including Edgar Degas.

The size of my quilts and the methodology of my quilt-making are very much impacted by my space constraints. I don't have a lot of art studio space at home for making large-scale projects or for storing lots of supplies. Even work in progress tends to be hung around, so that I get an idea of how a piece will look and hang once it is finished, or even of how it should be developed. I also find myself taking liberties to revise pieces at times as new ideas come. My art studio and display space is primarily a corner area in my living room, along with an improvised gallery in my foyer area, which is okay for now.

It has been nice to draw on some of the artistic energies in downtown Sacramento as I live in what I have been cultivating as a "Paris apartment" with a Southern folk and vintage twist. My Southern folk art collection and the art that I make give it the feel of a place for art and artists. It has a kind of bohemian feel at one level. The study filled with books adds to this. But the collection of large gilded French mirrors that I've been building, which is propped up or hung around, and the decorating with antiques, also gives it a feeling of formality, along with the linen collections, including lace, Haviland china and other kinds, a few French statues, and sterling silver candle holders. Rose motifs are subtly evident, and fully come to life on the balcony in a potted garden with all pink roses. Another inspiring spot is the vanity in my bedroom, which displays debutante photos and other dress-up pictures of women in my family, along with my own debutante and other formal photos in silver frames, and meshes in an interesting way with my collection of books on Southern femininity nearby. At this point, my goal is the exhibition and to continue to develop and refine my techniques. As a precursor to the exhibition, eight prints have been photographed professionally by Keith Stevenson, beginning with a color print and postcards of "The Ties That Bind," which again, features Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. This image, in black and white, was cover art for an English department newsletter sent out from UC Davis in 2004.

When I was starting out as an artist, and throughout most of the 1990s, it was inspiring to engage with and draw on the energy of the creative community generated by Georgette Norman. I met her in Montgomery while volunteering at a Girl Scout camp for a week during the summer after college. At that time, she was the director of the Alabama African American Arts Alliance. She now directs the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery at Troy University. I was working on a series called "Daughters of Africa" back then. There was just something so amazing to me about the fact that her house, like mine, was the same one in which she had actually grown up, which they were then remodeling. I loved to spend time in this room in the attic that you had to climb up into, where there were different books, and art, and a skylight. One day, we sat up there and I made the appliques for a quilt for Georgette, as Nomad brought us different snacks. It was wonderful time, a special and inspiring time for me. She regularly had gatherings at her house where actors from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, musicians from the city orchestra, and a host of others would come and talk, eat, and listen to music, or even play music. The food at the table was usually grown in her and her partner Nomad's organic garden, Imani Farms. Really, being there was like being part of a "salon" of artists. My mother would tell me that I always seemed so happy when I came from over there visiting them, or attending one of their parties. Soon, she started going too. There was always good food and good conversation. And the parties were always so distinct and memorable. There was the night, for instance, that a blues musician played for us in the backyard. There was the annual Kwaanza dinner. One night, I'd promised to go out with two of my girls friends, but said I had to go to a party at Georgette's first and wouldn't be back home until around 10. I told them to call me after then to check and see if I'd made it home. But they got it in their heads to just stop by there and pick me up. They stood in the door for five straight minutes just looking in on the scene of people laughing and talking, dressed in such interesting ways. I was in the group that was busy learning African drumming techniques from an expert on one of the large beautiful carved drums scattered all around the living room that night especially for this exercise. I was keeping up with the new rhythms that were limned out for me by our teacher to follow every few minutes. Being so absorbed in this was one reason that I didn't see them when they came. Later, when I left with them and we were walking to the car, they said that they were just shocked, completely fascinated, and had never seen such interesting people in their lives. I'd always hear people complain that it was boring and that there was nothing to do in Montgomery. But I always had a good time. I am so honored that Georgette, who has long encouraged me as an artist, is the curator for my exhibition in Montgomery. Her salon has been one of my most valuable sources of inspiration in the arts.

When I lived in Baltimore, Maryland a few years ago, the goals of the Great Blacks in Wax museum were something that I identified with as an artist, for though I use a different medium, I am also attempting to actualize and reproduce a very realist image. I think that art is useful in that it may give a more divergent range of voices access to the public sphere and conceivably helps to make it more democratic. I hope to use mine to explore initiatives that will serve and inspire communities. For instance, I want to draw on my education series in outreach to schools. In general, the community work in my family is ongoing, and volunteering has also been a central aspect of my life's mission from high school. As a student leader in high school, I eschewed the meet market at my school where guys would come over and scope out St. Jude girls. I spent two years volunteering at the YMCA on Rosa Parks Avenue, where I designed a group for children in the community that met every Friday for a range of activities. The day that we had one of our practices there, whereas the children at the Y were strangers to the other debutantes and their escorts, I knew them and brought them in and sat them down on the bleachers to observe our practice. In college, I volunteered weekly as a tutor at Morehouse in the Frederick Douglass Memorial Tutorial program, and at Spelman's nursery school. In graduate school, my first year, I was a tutor weekly in Delta's life development program at First Calvary Baptist Church, at the Durham Food Co-op, and supported projects of the labor organization Black Workers for Justice. It seems that these days, fewer people take the time to give to others. But that's the best thing, and it can even open doors. Again, I first met Georgette and got on the track to my exhibition as a volunteer. Preparing for the show has taught me a lot and exposed me to crafts such as filmmaking and photography while including the work of talented practitioners in these areas. I'd be less interested in this venture if it were only about promoting my own work because that of others is more fascinating to me. I even dropped my own autobiography quilts series from the exhibition because I'm more interested in and captivated by the stories and images of others. One thing that I pledge to do as an artist, too, is to tithe 20% for community projects from any sales that I ever make on art. Increasingly, I'm also interested in exploring environmentally friendly textiles.

Art Quilt Exhibition Preliminary Overview: "Portraits from Montgomery to Paris"
Artist: Riché Deianne Richardson

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

1. "Sunday Afternoon on Palafax Street in Pensacola, Florida during WWII": Emma Lue
Jenkins Richardson
2. Sunday Afternoon on Palafax Street in Pensacola, Florida during WWII: Joe Richardson
3. "JoAnn and 'Junior Man': Easter Sunday, Montgomery, Alabama, 1954"(Installation)
4. "Pam's Graduation from First Grade at Mrs. Drake's"(Installation)
5. " JoAnn Richardson: Graduation Picture at Booker Washington High School"
6. "Joseph Richardson: Graduation Picture at Booker Washington High School"
7. "Pamela Richardson: Graduation Picture at Jefferson Davis High School"
8. "The Honeymooners: Celebrating 47 Years: Emma Richardson"
9. "The Honeymooners: Celebrating 47 Years: Joe Richardson"
10. 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
11. Riché Deianne Richardson, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 1989" Self-Portrait
12. . "'Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes!': Keri and Megan-School Days at St. John-Resurrection"(Installation)
13. "Keri Diamond Smith, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 2004"
14. "Megan Chereé Smith, Age 17: Debutante Cotillion Program Portrait, 2006"

from Paris Series #1

15. "Playing Venus Hot to Trot?: Josephine Baker"(Commemorating 100 years, 1906-2006)
16. "Remembering a Dutiful Daughter: Simone de Beauvoir" (Commemorating 100 years, 1908-2008)

from Political Series #1

17. "The Ties that Bind: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy"
18. "A Tie, Too?": Malcolm X"

from Hollywood Series # 1

19. "Playing 'Mammy': Not Hattie McDaniel!"
20. "Sweet Scarlett?: Vivien Leigh Playing Southern Belle"