Representation Matters

June 3, 2020 in Storytelling - No Comments
“Sandy and Her Husband” by Emma Amos

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.” -Toni Morrison

The other day, we spoke with Shannon about her role as a research associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her particular area of expertise is historic American art. As a history buff myself, the American Wing has always been the wing that I head to first whenever I visit. I refuse to pick a favorite section of this incredible museum, because it would be like picking a favorite child, but I can’t deny the pull of the American Wing. I love seeing the different visual representations that make up the American story.

The aim of The Modern Bee is to tell the different stories and experiences that make up the metaphorical tapestry of a quilt, Each individual piece of fabric in a quilt brings its own story of origin, its own beauty. When you look at the quilt as a whole, you see how harmoniously they work together, how each piece is valuable, and unique and indespensable; without the pieces, you wouldn’t have the quilt.

As a Black woman myself, the stories I know best are those of my own experiences, my own lineage. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an insatiable interest in other stories, because I do; and I believe the stories and voices shared here reflect that, will continue to reflect that and continue to remind us that we can learn so much about ourselves from others, especially those who initially might appear so different than us.

But back to art. There is a textile artist named Roachelle Negron who creates thought-provoking, imagination igniting pennants under the name rayo & honey. She combines texture with words: snippets of historic phrases, proverbs and poetry to inspire. Texture and words? I’m in love. I’ve been going back and forth recently about which one I want to purchase for a naked wall in my home. Which got me wanting to see what other artists were up to, what else I could proudly display next to my own piece of rayo & honey once I’d made up my indesivie mind on that front. Representation always matters to me, and this morning, I was specifically looking to see what women who looked like me were creating. This is just the tip of the iceberg, some are old favorites of mine, and a few are new to me artists. I’ll never be the Met, but I’m looking forward to slowly building a collection of art that depicts my American history, reflects the diverse America I know and love, and shows hope for the future of the America I strive to fight for.

Lanecia Rouse Tinsley is an inter-disciplinary visual in Texas. What drew me to her work was her focus on subjects rooted in justice (because, always!) and also her Art Made in Quarantine series (because, I can’t be the only one who is sick of seeing all the Tik Toks made in Quarantine, right?)

Ron Nicole is an artist who works with plants, flowers and other botanicals in Bucks County, PA and is currently at work on a plaster relief series. I was so drawn to her story because it felt a lot like mine (from the city burnout to the affinity for nature) and her work instantly brought me back to my childhood days when I would collect any flower or leaf I could and press and preserve it in a photo album.

Emma Amos is a longtime favorite of mine who recently passed away. She broke barriers and in the process created some of the most vibrant (both literally and metaphorically) art I have ever seen. She was a figurative artist whose work addressed issues of racism, feminism and privilege.

Bisa Butler is a textile artist. What I aim to do here with words and stories metaphorically representing the pieces of a quilt, she achieves so beautifully with colorful, layers of assorted textile in actual quilt form. Her work truly makes me shiver in the best way. Just looking at it makes me feel like I’m wrapped up on a comforting quilt on a chilly, late summer evening.

The Quilting Women of Gee’s Bend aka the women who played a major role in my inspiration to start The Modern Bee. Steeped in history, community, storytelling and beauty, it would be remised to not acknowledge the quilters and the little town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama for their contribution to American art and culture. Throughout their history, the making of the quilts generated income, fostered community and were a symbol of the ingenuity, persistence and creativity (and that’s just the least of it) of the women who made them. Stunning, priceless creations and even better? Each one has a story to tell.


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