Discover more from Be Where You Are
"They can't stop you from doing it"
Faith Ringgold & art as freedom
My friend, Carolyn Oliver, sent me this note stitched into a Faith Ringgold quilt exhibit she visited recently at the Worcester Art Museum and I’ve been thinking about it since. Take a moment and read Ringgold’s note below.
“You asked me once why I wanted to become an artist and I said I didn’t know. Well I know now. It is because it’s the only way I know of feeling free. My art is my freedom to say what I please. N’importe what color you are, you can do what you want avec ton art, with your art. They may not like it, or buy it, or even let you show it; but they can’t stop you from doing it.”
They can’t stop you from doing it.
I’ve been thinking about that line a lot lately. I’ve been racing to keep up with deadlines and haven’t been writing more than random lines in my phone or morning rambles in my notebook. And when I lose the rhythm with coming back to my drafts, I lose my confidence that I can ever do it. I lose the thread. And, that’s when “they” try to stop me from doing it.
“They” are the critical voices in my head. They want me to stop. They say, “What you write is unoriginal. Basic. Why do you keep doing it anyway?”
But this morning, the cloud lifted. I was scrolling through my phone while waiting for my tea to steep and I happened upon Faith Ringgold’s words again. Tess Roby’s “Ideas of Space” was playing (yes, I was triple-tasking and not following my own “one thing at a time” advice, so sue me)—and I was thinking back over what I’d been doing lately instead of writing in the moments when I wasn’t grading or emailing or searching for Lulu’s water bottle…
I was burying Lulu in yellow gingko leaves in Mellon Park per her request.
I was losing badly to Kai in Mastermind, taking in his wide victory grin.
I was asking Nico about what he’s working on these days and listening fully to his answer.
I was standing in Frick park watching the kids be silly and sweet together and not fight after a morning of many fights.
I was saying no to something that I would have said yes to before.
I was stopping and breathing and remembering to drink water in the midst of a rush of work email.
I was checking in on my sister.
I was trying to hold things loosely.
I was pausing and looking for something beautiful in an ordinary moment, like the same view out of our bedroom window.
I was waiting for my tea to steep and thinking about why I write anything at all.
I was remembering that I won’t let them keep me from writing again.
I was remembering that when I do, invariably, let those voices creep in again, I can say no to them.
I will say, “This is how I feel free. And, you can’t stop me from doing it.”
If you have ideas to share for future newsletters, you can reply to this email or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can support this newsletter by liking, commenting & sharing it with other people. You can also find me on Instagram or Facebook or find more info at my website. Thank you for reading!