Jamea Richmond-Edwards

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Madam Spirit
Madam Spirit
My artwork examines the complexities of the subjects within the paintings. Most of the pieces are autobiographical and are inspired by the women in my family. The poet and author Alice Walker stated in her essay, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South (1974).Walker describes in her essay women that have been completely numb and oblivious to the God in them, blinded by the sense of hope that was buried deep inside.

The poet Jean Toomer who observed the women while in the south during the 40’s saw that they entered loveless marriages without joy, became prostitutes without resistance, and became mothers of children without fulfillment.

The women in my paintings are those women described by Toomer and Walker. Their bodies and attire serve as a shrine to those who have used and disparaged them. My goal is not to uplift the subject, but simply to reveal a truth that exists within the reality of those I am inspired by. The subjects are physically beautiful; however there is a pain that resonates deep within which makes each one strikingly human. A question presented to me once about my work was, “Why not make the women grotesque?” I never saw any of the subjects in my paintings or family to be grotesque, in spite of the horrible things they have done or experienced. I created them in the likeness of which I saw them; beautiful but flawed, praised but hated and stern but fragile.

This particular body of work is inspired by the death of my aunt who had an addiction to drugs, and my mother who was addicted to drugs as well. The paintings present a very holistic and complex subject that operates in a way that is genuine to the individuals the work is inspired by. The works became shrines for the different individuals who the women in my paintings served. For example, my aunt was a prostitute majority of her life. The times she would dress herself up would be to serve the men who sought her services for salvation. Not only did she serve the various men in her life, she also bore several children that she never fully connected with and that she inevitably abandoned. The women in my paintings reflect the hollowness that I perceive she has within, yet she displays an almost spiritual like essence that she is not quite aware of.

Ink is my choice of medium because of the precision I must have when drawing because there is no erasing. My intention with the ink is to create very sculptural like portraits as if the figure was hand-carved from ebony wood. The folded papers and fabrics used for the garments form a low-relief sculpture on the surface it is adhered to. I am interested in manipulating the illusion of space by combining the 2D and 3D elements. The textural elements of my works draw in the viewer, creating a very intimate interaction with the subject. I am most interested in superimposing a variety of materials and techniques that I am successfully able to synthesize.

My goal is to meet the eye on the simplest level of appreciation and to lure it in. As one’s comprehension increases to successively more complex levels of enjoyment, they will notice the intensity and firmness of the gaze. Contemplation about her past and her story will then begin to unravel. If the viewer proceeds with no further investigation into the subjects “story”, they will indeed have a satisfying aesthetic experience, but with limited scope.