My Ugly Art

Me with Domestic Violence Series (3)

So here’s my art, I’ve tried to make something that’s very ugly beautiful, so we all can see it.

October is domestic violence awareness month.

I didn’t know about domestic violence when I was growing up. It wasn’t that I was shielded from it, I wasn’t. But I just thought it was quite normal for grown women to get beat up by their men. Because in my neighborhood it happened quite regularly.

We kids would sit on the front stoop and listen to the noise and yelling that filled the air. And it didn’t seem odd at all, that in the twentieth century men were acting like troglodytes, pulling and beating up on their women.

Ironically, I didn’t see it much on television. Ward Cleaver never beat his wife June, on the “Leave it to Beaver” show and although Jackie Gleason always threatened to punch Alice to the moon, he never once actually did it on the “HoneyMooners” TV show.

Still I thought it was commonplace, and that it happened it everyone’s house. And I knew that there was a shame around it, no one spoke about beatings, because there wasn’t anything to be proud about. As I grew older, we still weren’t talking about it, but I began to notice that it wasn’t cultural. I thought it was. And as I grew wiser, I thought it was economical, that domestic violence only happened inside of poor homes. Untrue. And for years, I thought it was normal, part of a healthy relationship. It’s not.

But then again, there wasn’t national awareness of domestic violence when I was growing up. So what I saw, was what I knew.

Big Fist by DaNice D. Marshall (20 x 24)

I now know that Domestic Violence isn’t limited to gender and it can occur in any relationship. I knew a woman who was regularly beat by her wife. And the thing that stood out for me, was that she wouldn’t leave her wife. Which threw me for a loop, because in my mind women are suppose to be nurturing, patient and kind, but I was wrong.

I was probably in my early 30’s when I discovered by watching Oprah Winfrey, that domestic violence is a vicious cycle, that children who witness domestic violence, will in al likelihood grow up and be violent themselves, at least once.

It explained things about my own behavior that I hadn’t understood, for instance why I didn’t limit an argument to my words. It was because I had grown up seeing domestic violence from my crib, as if I was watching a movie in a theater. And it wasn’t limited to my mother, those beatings extended to my sister and brother. My parent’s marriage ended when I was four years old, but the impact and the damage had already been done.

It seems only natural that siblings squabble and fight, because that’s what children do. But when I was eight years old, my older brother began to teach me how to box and that’s quite a different thing.

He taught me how to stand, how to duck and how to cross my arms to protect myself from being hit. He also taught me to throw a closed fist punch. “Girls always slap,” he instructed me, “but slaps won’t stop a guy who’s beating up on you,” he explained, then punched me hard.

After a few more jabs and some more solid punches, he bloodied my lip and laughed. I asked why he was hitting me so hard, “To toughen you up,” he said. “Because, I’m not always going to be there to protect you.”

A decade later I would better understand my brother’s instructions and I’d be grateful for the lessons he taught me. Because of him, I was able to defend myself against the boys who came into my life to love me. Because of him, I was able to strike first during an argument and not be limited by my words.

To look at me, you might not know my early years were filled with violence. That my mother, who had three small children would face the fight or flight, instinctive response to a threat, her husband, my father. And that in order to survive and save her children from the vicious cycle of violence, she would take us away and leave family and friends behind.

You wouldn’t know any of it, but I’m sharing it now because the more we talk and tell our stories, the more we know.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

If you need help, or want additional information: https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/understand-relationship-abuse/

If you’re in an abuse relationship it’s not ok. There is help.

Big Momma’s Kitchen

Nana’s Kitchen (acrylic on staples canvas)

The kitchen. It was where we gathered to talk and to listen. To share and to gain lessons through those with more of life experience. Those who had been hit by the proverbial bus and who had survived to tell us the story.

A lot of what we do with food is emotional. How we feel as we prepare a dish is infused in the sauce, it becomes part of how it’s tastes to others. Some of the best recipes become the worse meals, if the person doing the cooking is angry, agitated or sad. That is those emotions are imparted into the taste of the food. And that’s why we make our best dishes when we’re happy, content and full of joyful. So it’s no wonder that during the holidays we make our best memories, our best meals.

When I was growing up, in a family with little the kitchen gave us so much, it sustained us. It was an intergenerational meet-up, where wisdom was passed along on a plate of greens, with the glass of wine and a paper cup filled with Kool-Aid.

Interruptions were scorned at, so if I wanted to ask my Nana a question, I had to wait for a pause in the adult conversation, and then say a polite “excuse me”. But even then, I couldn’t speak. Nana would hold up a finger to acknowledge me and then still make me wait. In that way, she taught me patience.

Conversations in the kitchen were sometimes “adult only” that is I could be in the kitchen, but I could neither interrupt or join in. Period. It would help me later in life to be a good listener. I would listen to some of the juiciest, the best gossipy, most delicious bits of stories about family and friends from my quiet place in the kitchen. Sometimes I’d whisper what I overheard to my sister and cousins, but mostly I kept what I heard to myself and that trait allowed gained me permission to be in the kitchen.

But some of the best memories I have of Nana’s kitchen are of just me and Nana. Just us. She took care of me after school, before my mother came home and the other kids came home. The house was quiet, and Nana liked to give me instructions for little things that I could do on my own.

And then we’d go about the task of preparing my lunch and a big dinner. All the while, not speaking. Nana would just be humming a familiar gospel song that I didn’t know the words too. Sometimes I’d ask her what the words were, just to see if she knew them. Sometimes she’s tell me children should be seen and not heard. And then we’d be quiet again.

Not speaking, just cooking and baking biscuits and filling the house with all those good smells that give good feelings.

Today, when I invite my family and friends to dinner, we always end up talking in the kitchen. It’s the hub of family conversations and deep discussions, it’s where some of my best ideas have been baked and my finest plans have been hatched.

And Nana would be proud, the kitchen is still where we gather, share food & show our love.

My Art Appeal

Her Colors (acrylic on canvas)

People look at my art and ask me questions:

Where do I get the images that I paint? They are the bits and pieces of my life, as I remember them, that are highlighted by my emotions. A feeling I once felt and a life that was once mine to touch.

My paintings are always in retrospective, as I explore what I imagine to be a commonality in mankind, that is we are more alike than we a different.

People ask are my paintings for sale? And only now am I beginning to understand the value of that question.

Woot! This month has been a whirlwind of excitement, from my first exhibition at Piano Craft Gallery, to my first overseas sale, to my first commissioned artwork, wait… what? And it’s all rather humbling, partially because the process of creating art is such a solitary experience, but also because it’s taken me out of my comfort zone and forces me to share me with the world.

I’m beginning to realize that as much as I enjoy those hours in which I hone my passion, both escaping reality and finding my real self, others are enjoying the results of my endeavors and the end result is quite sexy.

But as in all relationships, even this surreal one between a potential unknown patron and me, the artist, I have questions too.

Like, how come I can’t match the human skin tone? Exactly? Why can’t I replicate the various hues found throughout mankind, while using a Q-tip? And why can some humans change color in a blink of an eye, just by blushing? That’s a big question for me.

I don’t think that my art is less appealing because I can’t replicate skin tones, that’s not at all what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that skin tone doesn’t matter because it’s mutable and often times look muddy, both on canvas and in real life.

And what if that’s the real appeal of art, that it’s not transfixed, but rather it’s fluid and organic. We humans stare at a painting and feel what we see. Even with no formal training, art reaches out and touches us in some nondescript way, emotional like the Mona Lisa portrait, a smirk held captive by time. Period.

Pretentious Art

This past week we had the Geek Squad come for an ordinary appointment to install an ordinary TV to the wall.

That Kid (Paint & mixed media on cardboard)

But the most extraordinary thing happened as the two technicians entered my home and saw my walls. They were awed by my paintings that hung there and I was awed by their genuine appreciation of my art.

It made me think about my life and the people that I’ve met. Some of them have always known what they wanted to be. They ‘re that kid you grew up with that spent more time taking care of fallen birds than playing. Or the kid who liked cooking food more than he liked eating candy. No one’s surprised to hear that Sally Sue has become a veterinarian or Mary Lou has her own restaurant.

I’ve been mesmerized by them, their stories and their successes. On their walls are displayed the bits and pieces of their achievements, a dateline of a life well lived.

My walls are covered in art. Like my life, it’s a myriad collection of my work, all churned out in the last four years where I’ve produced over 80 paintings. Depicted on the canvases are moments in my life, when I’ve paused, enjoying a moment of a remembered view.

And I’ve envied other people, their clear cut destinies seem to me, to be an easy journey. Those high achievers, the dreamers and those people who have just always known what they had come into life for.

Because life for me, has been stressful. Comparable to when you enter a room, forget what you came in for, standing there unsuccessfully trying to remember and then, after you’ve left the room, to remember what it was you had gone in for… It’s not a good look and it’s not fun.

And here’s the irony, that now in my sixties I seem to have an idea of who I want to become! Wait.. what? Yes, I see where I’m going. But of course, it’s a bit of a bummer having more life behind me, than what’s ahead of me. Still it’s exciting and I’ve settled into the new me nicely. That is, I’m comfortable in my skin and I’m confident in my environment.

Part of me wonders what I could’ve done with a whole life, if I had known what I wanted to be when I came in. If only I had been one of those kids who pretended that a loose rim was a steering wheel and empty milk crates were seats, and I was a bus driver…

But of course then I couldn’t have done all the things that I did, all the bits and pieces that I’ve painted and that are hanging on my walls in my hallway.

Love is Love Art

Love is Love (acrylic on canvas)

Every painting has a story. Every artist is but a narrator who shares that story, with broad strokes of color on a canvas, across boundaries to fully relay the playful, mindfulness of emotions. It is the art of the soul that gets our attention, as we stare at a painting and allow it to speak to us.

Sometimes, life and living and loving all come together in such a beautiful way that we’re swept up and spread out. We don’t care who sees us, or who knows that we’re in love. And it can tax the soul, not only because it’s right, but because parts of society says it’s wrong.

Recently my daughter, DaNice W. married the love of her life, her girlfriend Tia, and like the actress Neicy Nash, they’ve felt some backlash. The slow discovery that not everyone is happy about their life choices. But as parents, we’re so very happy that they’ve found happiness. And luckily, during a global pandemic we were able to virtually attend their wedding, perched in our little box above the screen via Zoom🥰

DaNice W. & Tia exchanged vows on August 28, 2020

Love is love. It’s particularly important during life’s difficult moments, those sobering life events like death and dying. Because we all get down on ourselves sometimes, a dark feeling that often precedes depression. And it’s at those times that we lean and need to be propped up. We need to know who has our back, who’s in our corner. Because life is life and there will be good times & the bad times, knowing that we have a friend, a companion or a lover is motivational. And believe it or not, it just makes us happy.

Full disclosure, I almost titled this artwork “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right” after an old R&B song by Luther Ingram, if you haven’t heard it before or haven’t listened to it in awhile, check it out. He sings those words so soulfully, so deeply… right down to the marrow. And you just know he’s right, that it’s true, how could it not be? Because if loving who you love is wrong, why would you want to be right?

#YOLO

Congrats to DaNice & Tia 🎉🥰

Congrats to Neicy & her wife🎉

#Art #LoveIsLove #BostonArts #GayMarriage #InterracialMarriage #artsboston #artistssupportartists #yolo

Memory, The Tool of Art

Double Dutch Jump Roping

Taking this one down. My painting, “Double-Dutch Jump Roping” has been on my wall for years. Always hanging in the background during colorful conversations of growing up in Roxbury. A moment in my childhood, not limited to a Black & White memory, because no photograph portrays this level of happiness and it isn’t always replicated in adulthood.

And yet, inequality and social injustices have often triggered the jumpy feeling in my legs, ever ready for the flight or fight response. A deep reminder that life isn’t always fair, but government should be.

I painted this piece because I wanted to show how games are the tools we use for training, that these are the tools we use to become our better selves.

Jumping Double-Dutch jump rope is an intense game that requires agility, focus, athleticism, hand-eye coordination and trust. It’s precision timing and teamwork, are necessary carry-overs into a successful life. As Rodney King lamented in 1992 after the Los Angeles riots.

“Can’t we all just get along?”

So I wanted to depict all of this, as a complete metaphor of life. It was important to me, that I show the kid’s agility, that the buildings are made of brick implies a sturdy background, a fire hydrant suggests peril, the car that moves them away from their childhood and the tree suggests life.

These are the things that embrace us. We must remember it closely, as we live beyond the memory, we don’t have to forget the moment. Yes, we can get along.

More of my art can be viewed at www.danicedmarshall.com

Singing. The Art of Being Heard

Church Ladies In The Park

My daughter is from Boston. She’s an activist, she wants to share truth and reality to the masses of people via a bullhorn. She wants us to know that racism is wrong.

It’s quite an emotional feeling to see your little girl all grown up. It’s quite another to watch her on television, as WCVB channel 5’s news camera is rolling. It’s humbling to read the Boston Globe and see her being quoted, to hear her familiar voice in the words written there.

Aired on WCVB Boston Channel 5 (Sept 9)

I can’t replicate her thunder, except to join in its clap and share her here, that she might be heard. So I support every bit of her message, because her dedication and passion for social change is palpable. And it’s so very necessary.

My daughter’s flyer.

And still, from where I sit, this woman old enough to be a granny, is in awe of her. She personifies America’s female abolitionists, those who spoke out against slavery like Sojourner Truth, who asked:

“Am I not a woman and a sister?”

My daughter epitomizes the righteousness of having a voice, particularly if you’re a woman and precisely if you’re a woman of color. There can be no denying Elizabeth Cary Stanton’s push for women’s rights, that ERA which has yet to be ratified is even more evident because suffragettes won the vote. I’m smiling because my daughter is engaged in activism at a time that makes success possible. Because I know that voting is a crucial tool for an activist, that social change is hampered or pushed through grassroots activism.

And in the midst of Covid-19, a global pandemic here my daughter is flying across the country to educate people, to share Boston’s history by walking along the Freedom Trail and to remind people, freedom ain’t freedom to colored people, who are killed like George Floyd and brutalized like Jacob Blake, shot 7 times in the back by policemen, in the modern version of the cruel slave catcher.

And in the midst of all her activism, my daughter lovingly met me at the Piano Craft Gallery on Tremont Street in Boston, where my artwork went on exhibit for the very first time. She even was so brilliant as to bring me flowers!

Me and Deanna B. at my 1st art exhibit

Just because our daughters become women, doesn’t mean that we stop being mothers. Motherhood lasts beyond the toddler & teenage years, and if we’re lucky, we see our kids growing into themselves.

More to write later…

My artwork can be seen here: http://www.danicedmarshall.com

The Art of Venting

As much as things seem to be stagnant, in the midst of a never ending global pandemic, technology seems to be just plugging along. I can gauge it moving by my struggle to use it, because new technology doesn’t come with paper instructions. And for whatever it’s worth, I like reading.

The Girl Chat & Wine

Is it just me, or do you remember the old days, when you purchased a product and you could assume two things to be true (a) it would work right out of the box, if not it was returnable for a replacement and (b) Instructions were included.

I don’t know about you, but right about now, I would appreciate my devices to just work, without me having to schedule updates and without having to download the newest version. Period. Maybe I’m just getting moody, having been stuck indoors because of COVID-19. Or maybe I’m just getting cranky because the summer has ended and for me the beach never opened, there was no family vacation and no family cook-out with left overs.

Basically, it’s just been one big blur of days that go by because there’s a morning and a night, but there’s no interesting stuff in between, like having marshmallow spread between two slices of bread, the bread is torn and the texture is off putting.

And if this summer wasn’t a disappointment enough, my devices were constantly sending me notifications of things that I don’t care about. What I do care about is a return to normalcy, a world in which I understand how to post a blog, without having to call my kids.

A world where I can book a vacation to England and be afraid, to have a fear of flying, not because of a virus, but because, well… I have a fear of flying. That’s normal.

Thanks for listening.

Walls Are For Art

It use to be that walls were primarily meant to provide shelter. They were meant to hold up ceilings and solidify floors. They were built to protect people from the cold and harsh elements of this world, like gusting winds and freezing rain. Walls can safeguard, fortify, defend and also display art.

Rich With Laughter

Imagine, a room with four unpainted walls. Empty & void, until we add a clock. Not a substantial timepiece, just a bare clock, that ticks. On and on incessantly, in that room with our four unpainted walls.

And then we add a window. It’s purpose is to let fresh air in. Not a fancy, stain glass window, but a bare single hung window, with two panes of glass. Where the bottom sash is lowered and raised inside of a frame, without a spectacular view.

But we soon realize, that the window allows us to witness a show. We can watch leaves flying by and the sleeting rain. And sometimes we look and see pillowy clouds float past, and sometimes even a rainbow! But the these picturesque views are few and often far in between.

Meanwhile, the other three unpainted walls seem to stand defiant and plain. And it’s clear that a wall, even with a window carved in the middle can function as they do, just holding up a ceiling, solidifying a floor and protecting inhabitants from the harsh elements of outdoors isn’t the end all, be all to the wall’s usefulness. The window starts to make sense.

And then the season changes, it’s mostly bleak. The unseen trees are bare, so that not even a leaf blows by. No rain, so there’s no rainbow and no pillowy clouds to imagine things by. Just the bleak overcast that hangs heavy. Depressing.

And the room, with the view-less single hung window and it’s unspectacular ticking clock seem depressing because the human brain requires external stimulus.

Perhaps the other reason that we have walls is to paint them with Behr wall paint, because there’s a purposefulness given to a wall that’s been decorated with color! Or maybe the wall can be used to display a child’s drawings from kindergarten through grade school. Or maybe the empty wall can motivate us to discover artists and their art with a visit to an art gallery.

One thing is absolutely certain… walls can do more than just hold a building together. Look around you, what’s hanging on your walls?

In case you’re wondering, aside from holding my house together, my walls do an awesome job of holding my art. I like to think that they’re embracing my artwork, hugging my creativity and showing me my accomplishments, my walls are strong and such a rich source of inspiration. What are your walls doing?

At the time of this posting, My work is currently on exhibit at Piano Craft Gallery in Boston, MA.

What is Intuitive Art?

Intuitive art is seamlessly created. It begins with a moment of inception, when something is seen, as if for the very first time and my mind takes a snapshot. It could be as simple as a flight of stairs that lead into an old brick building, or looking at an ice cream truck. Ordinary, every day items that I call a kismet moment. Right then and there, it strikes a nerve and I know, one day I’ll paint it.

But the item isn’t always prominently displayed in my work. Sometimes it’s obscure, because I’ve painted it, then embraced it, like giving it a hug, I’ve surrounded it with other items or people, until it seems less of a focal point. Yet it is, when you look at the painting, some part of you can see it emotionally, that’s how the work will make you feel it, that’s prominent.

So my story is in bits and pieces, seemingly disconnected, as if I’m living multiple lifetimes all at once. But for the past four years, I’ve been painting continuously after nearly dying, when my body began shutting down for no apparent reason. And when it stopped attacking itself, I was left deaf in one ear, had permanent lung damage and was released from the hospital with my companion, a walker meant for an old lady. I was 56 years old.

Some days I’d wake up in so much pain that adding a “t” to the word “pain” seemed to just make sense, as it added color to what I was feeling. In that way, I could stop complaining. I could perhaps show and share my experience beyond the existence of debilitating discomfort.

Of course, that wasn’t completely possible, because there’s no magical art that allows you to brush away reality, but it can be suspended. And in that way, I was able to convincingly paint myself out of a rut, my brush strokes led me to an escape route, where my art carried me safely away from stress and death.

But even now as I’m writing this, I know that I will never be well again. That the rare disease that I have, Granulomatosis with Polyiingitis, isn’t only rare because people don’t get it, but because people rarely survive the disease. There’s no cure. Medicines can suppress it, and they create a false sense of security, but the illness remains within me.

“Daddies Dream Too”

Intuitive art captures the feeling of forlorn & brings awareness of what’s wrong, by giving it color, so people might actually look at it and SEE.

These ideas are intuitively represented in my artwork, “Daddies Dream Too” and “She Named Her Daughter Hope” which is now on display at the Piano Craft Gallery in Boston (exhibition in person with COVID-19 protocols in place, and in-line #SocialDistancingGallery, September 4 -27th) My hope is to open our eyes to all manner of discomfort through art.

I don’t have formal training. No one taught me how to hold a paintbrush or how to master a brush stroke. For me it’s just been picking the up the paint and putting it down.

Some paintings have more meaning to me than others, like my three part domestic violence series, which draws the viewer in, seeing at first beautiful colors, and then the brain comprehends that they’re admiring a giant fist punching a woman in a beat down. My intuitive Art aims to make people more aware.

Untitled (Domestic Violence)

If by chance you see me, through my artwork and it looks easy. Good. Maybe that’s why I survived, maybe that’s what I’m here. Maybe…

Without any classical training, no art instruction, no lessons in the fine art of painting… I’m suppose to make it look easy, so others might try. If so, mission accomplished.

What are you here for? What do you think?