I made this painting after I visited the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) and was incredibly inspired by the art made by the protesters and the particular moment that we are currently going through. I feel like there is light coming in and our country is going through a shift. Change feels possible.
This painting is the third of several large acrylic paintings I have done on paper lately. They are meant to be fast and spontaneous. A real departure from my oil paintings which I spend weeks on. This one is 48" x 62" and took me about 5 hours.
I was thinking of my white ancestors who settled in the Oregon Territory in the mid 1800's The people in the painting are based on this family photo that was taken on Broadway - in Seattle ( just up the block from CHOP) in 1896:
The two men seated are my great great grandfather and his father, who moved to and settled in the Oregon Territory in the 1850s. Black Exclusion laws were the law of the land in Oregon, starting when it was a territory into the 1920's. My ancestors settled and prospered in Oregon 160 years ago because they could. Slavery was illegal in Oregon, but black people were forbidden from moving there. (Incidently, I never learned about any of that in school in Oregon, which is a problem.)
They were all very religious christians, and I have no evidence that they were racist. But, as far as I know, they were completely removed and silent about the brutality suffered by black people. And that silence was passed down through the generations.
I have lived much of my life in the same way.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I can easily avoid dealing with the pain suffered by such a large part of our population. My whole life has been built around whiteness, and the comfort that being a white woman affords me. That makes me feel uncomfortable, but at this moment, I want to lean into that discomfort as much as I can. I think that is where change and growth can begin.
To me, Divesting from Whiteness means rejecting a culture that insulates and protects white people from the racism and brutality that is suffered by people of color. I have a lot learn and unpack, and I am not even sure how to do it, but I think this is a start. I will not be alone and I will keep my eyes, ears and heart open for the helpers and the healers.
I plan to paint more about this. They will probably be big, fast, imperfect paintings like this one.