George Barlow

WHEN PAPA WENT COURTING

For Dock Brooks Barlow


See, it was 1912 in Mobile
and he started seeing her everywhere:
pretty as ten speckled puppies!
Amelia Blossom—sweet Jesus!
one of the Nelson girls—
strolling past him everyday
in pink, yellow, and white
God-fearing dresses, strolling past,
eyeing him and the colors
he planted up and down Dauphin Street,
all over the neighborhood—
crape myrtles, orchids, rododendrons—
strolling and willing her way
into his dream of Sundays on her porch
and walks down the avenue
past flowering dogwoods and camellias.
Sundays and walks, a little house
and a nursery of his own,
and babies, babies.
Oh, and did he shine
when he went courting!
Dressed to the nines,
this Alabama man in his
pinstripes, high collar, and spats.
See, he was a clean man—dark, wirey—
a little piece of leather
but well put together.
He was a good man,
shining so much that God
came to him one day in May—told him,
shonuff, the sweet Amelia,
his Mobile dream, could be his
if he could outsit the other man
who was studying on her,
starching his collars, too,
slicking his hair down, too,
making with the glad eyes, too.
Papa spoke to the man,
good man to good man,
and told him to go away—
flashed the grim owl’s head pistol
he carried in them days
(for White folks and Black folks,
he used to say), and told the man
to get ready for the Judgment
or kindly go away.
The man, who believed in God
and lead, he went away.
See, it was 1912—springtime.
Papa was in love,
and love don’t play, and this woman
kept getting prettier, kept blooming
like the azaleas and roses
Papa saw everywhere.

 

 

NEPTUNE
My father had to love the sunlight & cool air
spreading the beige stain & carnations on those easy waves
that day just inside the Golden Gate, had to love the prayer,
the fat seals waiting for us back at the pier,
the toast for a sailor gone home, our clinking cocktails & puffy eyes,
had to love hanging with us in the bar, like always, full of it,
cracking us up—Barlow, his buddies called him, here here.

Bojan Louis

Arc Flash

All day under influence and startled awake
at midnight, I sought my car
to kill soft snores beside me.
Hauled ass out of urban desert decay
to sandstone cliffs, five hours away,
where centuries of wind
and more recent roadway gusts
have half-piped its base,
though not enough to topple
the edge of another land’s level.
The stars went off and on, as if wired
by to-hell-with-it electricians
tired of lighting scrap-patched houses
connected by threads of predawn smoke
to invisible weavings in the sky.
Dim questions and silent answers.
Cattle, gaunt and wanting, grazed
between weeds across the valley,
interrogated the dirt of wash and creek.
How long since you’ve been clay after rain?
Hours from Phoenix, oasis
greedy and artificial, I needed Crystal,
my dad’s home, and ceremony;
less familiar mountain tobacco.
Not to guide my spirit,
used to mornings being lit,
but to remind my tongue of blood;
cold coffee made by other men’s
women who dispel me with smokes
from cheap packs set, within reach,
on their knees. Maybe they wish,
aside from my soon departure,
that I shared their danger: bastards
who make home, confinement and needs, hush.
I left and arrived months before the rainy season,
though cuts along the cliff face
over Crystal shimmered with mica.
Like stars burnt out taking eons
to reveal their absence
in myth-heavy constellations.
The sun risen
isn’t for me,
cattle being herded,
or darkness in the room
I left to wake alone.
Here, a few cars idled
without drivers,
warmed up before the workday
while smoke from houses vanished
and released the night sky.

 

Middle of the Desert

For the weight of your bones,
my blood thinned. Yesterday,
the east-hefted sun dissipated
humid, empty air
in space comprised of space;
dehydrated cactus and dirt barren
to the idea that it’s cold here, ever.
Nostalgia charmed
out of a hollow:
the feeling, failed duty.
To you, who I’ve departed, walking
carefully as hooves on rained granite
or other stones, are there heights
after plunging, from
which you’ll never rise? Neither of us
is yet dead. When I do go before you,
refer to me simply—don’t ever name.
This voltage wanting
to hold you
when there is no ground.
Go to your home, the one you’ve made.
Ours that’s gone. Rest in yourself and job.
If ever an earthquake or small tornado
hits again, pound
loosened nail back, clean and tape cracks,
prep for texture. If left without power
or light, trust an electrician who knows
luminaries guide only
when there are trees
or buildings to shine on.
Absent from this desert: stacks of bricks
that need to be re-pointed,
leaden Victorian glass unable to hold heat,
and roofs that connect every house
trading mold, alternating leaks.
Yesterday gone the sun lifted off
your bones; barren weight
and humid dirt
caught me cut
short, saying

 

Breech
Sitka, Alaska

I.
It’s years I’ve been recovered.
Parents gone the way of worms
—mom alone, her own decision.
Dad, how he was always
asphyxiated until rolled over.
The frontier I’m abandoned to,
exposed root ribcages above ground,
rained on so much there’s no dust,
no blow away—traceless surfaces.
— — —
With a single bag and one-way ticket
I rented the first found available:
three bedroom, living, kitchen, dining
—filled it with myself, every room
empty, except where I slept.
Girls I had over, fucked to the floor,
left sobered, mostly. Offered other
times at their places later. I accepted,
then abandoned, fixed at the clinic.
— — —
This high north, though not freezing,
an island settlement cut off the coast:
pines, spruce, and chaotic undergrowth
rise up along the crescent of mountains
open toward the ocean.
Rain more sky than the sky is sky.
I’m not home. Less
interested in finding it;
hours from the mainland.
II.
On an outlying island red deer
wait out hunters tracking
shit steam for rifle crack.
Otters cut away
supine through water,
to humans, hypothermic.
The turned engine skiff
on sucking mud signals
the goddamned day’s done.
— — —
Across the still, cobalt inlet,
cairns line the bald rim
of a sundowner volcano.
Glaciers imagined against
the sea/heaven horizon
melt when fog lifts
and missed shots echo,
fade into the tree line:
the casings mimic pebbles.
— — —
Anger defines me, here,
in what’s seen in pictures
as pristine beauty, untouched
by man’s dirty finger:
Dad’s belched regrets,
Mom’s frustrated, unspoken hurt.
I want recompense—solitude
and forgiveness’ distance—nourishment
sought, sighted, and put down.

III.
Where welding fails
release hollers out the soon
to be empty space.
A continent,
a levee. What
rises, takes
—ice given heat,
like a child, spread
with hands telling, quiet.
— — —
Ocean hefted over stern
deflates
my ill posture
gone life drunk;
so drowned in drink
nobody wants to want me.
Rare are dads shouted
at by moms, Get—Don’t feed
us—Sink, be eaten.
— — —
Jonah’s a lucky fuck,
bowel-held
and undigested.
Dumb animal, him. Swallowed
entire, in warmer water.
I don’t believe he escaped.
He’s down in there still.
Hung from the beast’s spine,
feet eaten, body untouched.
This Side of the River

i.
Five years in
my wolf/husky
is poisoned
by an older boy
who’ll turn vegetable
after head trauma.
I’ll smell him, bodied by a horse
run loose on a no moon roadway
from Window Rock to Crystal,
fold my small body and
leave memories of being
fondled in the bathroom unlit;
choked until I complied
to perform naked
with the sitter
for the neighbor—
three tiered event:
voyeur, participant, watched.

ii.
Only in five years,
it’s hard to believe
that you were placed
in your mother’s body
—given and given
to this earth.
You may have broken,
had I known you then. Even
twenty-one years later,
knowing me, you break:
pounded heart, trust inked
out, splayed thoughts
and legs. But you garner
your own garden
—hard intelligence—
trap insects that sting
or bite and scatter them
away from you.
iii.
Hearing piss expelled,
too fucked up on a morning
easily said, beautiful;
too depressed
to fuck, horny
with withdrawal;
I desire the boatman,
am eager to pay
to not get wet
in a border that quenches
and frees me of quench.
Dribble breaking open
this day begs questions:
will I, how’ll I,
stave off, or deny?
Are failed attempts
enough, enough
to be a paid-up fare?
iv.
That łééchaa yázhí, little ground shitter
—protector, shi kis—
I gave his carcass my hope
for him to lap at the river,
wet his paws, and wait for me
to remind me of what I’d lost.

v.
After five years, abuse
lasted five, six, seven more.
Continual blackout
addiction and distance.
I think of that fucking mixed wolf,
hardly beyond a pup,
that taught me how to accept
you and myself; tightened
the connectors powering me
—anger focused joy—
my murder of night drained
down to battery or assault.
From this view on the river,
current arrives and leaves
us—reflects and envisions
the one, now, with the other.

 

Ko’ dóó łeeschch’iih [Fire & Ashes]

The red off the far ridge, an eating dragon, slow
coming down the valley
—my mom’s imagination over the phone,
a quarter-mile of cars ahead.
No one has stopped, on their way north or south,
to capture Hotshots turning the beast to smolder.
Somewhere out in the burn, under dusk, a rattler
den unfurls fast as brush fire
and clenches against the inferno draft
that blocks entrance and escape.
For an instant, or minutes maybe, their unnatural
warmth is a comfort beneath the ablaze final day.
It’s the shape I’m in. I don’t tell her that I will
leave, days from this moment,
the high, dry mountain we drive towards
for ashes of a different monster.

TYEHIMBA JESS

Millie-Christine: On Display
We count the blessings of our doubled shell
with each breath. We prove we’ve endured faith’s storm every time we rise to face the crowd’s faceas
we pay our dues. We’ve proven ourselves
to those who doubt our form. We have performed on display. We’ve been richly, rudely paid
for science. We’ve been taken town to town
-been photographed half-nude, verified to prove veracity. They’ve scanned each side
like prize bovine: We’ve been pawed up and downfrom
my twin’s navel to between her thighs and then back up, staring into my eyeseach
sawbone has searched us from spine to loin-
We’ve been probed, prodded, and roughly examed- from backbone to backbone, from hip to hip,
our wondrous oneness exists. We’re conjoined.
and we’ve lists of doctors who understand our miracle is real. Hear and see this:
We’re not frauds, but born of providence:
God mended two souls into one dark skin.
Millie-Christine’s Love Story
Here – this is our story I want you to hearour
own duet. Listen to how we’re bound in unison. Listen to the grace we have
-one body crooning two notes. By God, we’re
like sympathetic strings. Each sung sound ringing within me and my other half;
airborne, shook and shimmering through my head,
with Christine’s voice at my side. I have sung with Millie’s embracing contrapuntal,
in a way very few could comprehendwith
souls ablaze. This is how I know love- so you can see my life is brimmed. It’s fullwith
every breath we’ve got. I’m filled completely,
the way any other human would love. I live each day like I won’t see its night,
I love my song and dance and familythe
way you love your own blood. Twice as much. I’ve double the cause to celebrate life.
I love this burden that we’ve been givento
ride the shared wake of one blood’s rhythm…

Millie and Christine McKoy
We’ve mended two songs into one dark skin We ride the wake of each other’s rhythm
bleeding soprano into contralto beating our hearts’ syncopated tempo
-we’re fused in blood and body – from one thrummed stem
budding twin blooms of song. We’re a doubled rose
descended from raw carnage of the South with a music all our own. With our mouths
bursting open our freedom. We sing past rage seeped in the glow of hand-me-down courage
grown from hard labor that made our mother shout,
spent with awe. We hymn to pay soft homage
to the worksong’s aria. It leaves us drenched in spiritual acapellas,
soaked in history like our father’s sweat flowing soul from bone through skin. We pay debts
borne of and beyond the flesh: we are just
two women singing truths we can’t forget
from plantation to grave. Lord, here we are, from broken chattel to circus stars,
freed twin sisters who’ve hauled our voices far… we sing straight from this nation’s barbwired heart…
Millie-Christine Buy Land
We’re freed twin sisters who’ve hauled our voices far…
We melodize worldwide. More than just freaks, we’re certified global phenomena:
Wir singen in drei Sprach und machen es schwarz!
Nous avons chanté le français á Paris! We’ve sung hymns before Queen Victoria!
We speak more than one tongue. Wherever we roam
we’ve made our wealth. For gratification, we earn respect. We give solid proof that
this gift’s pure gold! While we travel the road,
we pay mortgage on our old plantation – the Lord provides for us. We make greenbackswith
dimes hoarded by pinching francs and pounds
for our folks. Thus, we buy liberation from each gawking crowd. Meanwhile, dollars stackagainst
servitude. We sing freedombound
-and we know the cost. We’ve overcome from the root of our guts. We give back
with duets all mingled up to heaven
-we’ve bought land that once enslaved our parents…

Millie-Christine are Kidnapped
Straight from America’s barbwired heart
we’d been rented and sold, then snatched! Taken like doubled dark treasures; entertainment
at the age of three – we’d been kidnapped afarlike
contraband, we’d been shipped to Britain, imported by a scallywag agent –
we’d been stolen from mother and master. Absconded,
we’d been smuggled to freedom’s soil. And yes, from slavery we’d slipped into libertythe
thief ’s greed had set us free! Although bonded,
though we’d missed family, were we not blessed? because of our great popularity
we’d earned a London court’s sympathy, and thus,
we went back to bondage in mother’s arms. we sailed back to our Carolina home.
We returned to a master we could trustchoosing
between homeland and untold harms, torn ‘tween family or freedom’s unknowns
our mother left England and went back South –
Straight into Dixie’s rebellious mouth

KWAME DAWES

FLACK
For days it has been raining a brittle, cold deluge
slicking the streets. Even the horses have been
dragging their buggies with haste to find refuge
in warm stables quicker than ever. I have seen
in this twilight the rain stippling the eastern window
panes, your lithe body, a brown glow against
the pewter grey of the sky, your scarf aglow
as you collect the bucket, now full of rainwater.
And you have come in smelling of sweat
and the biting salt of sex, poured the cold water
into my soldier’s flask, your eyes wet
with the laughter of satisfaction. I grow hard
again with gratitude as you soak a blue rag
and cool my brow and say, “Ah, my love, my stag.”

107 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
IF YOU KNOW HER
If you know your woman, know her rhythms,
know her ways; if you pay attention
to her all these years, you will know
how she comes and goes, how she slips
away even though she is standing in
the same place, you will know that her
world is drifting softly from you, and she
may not mean it, because all it is
is she is scared to be everything, scared
to be finding herself in you every time,
scared that one day she will ask herself,
all forty-plenty years of her, where
she’s been; if you know your woman,
you will know that mostly she will
come back, but sometimes, when she
drifts like this, something can make her
slip; and then coming back is hard.
If you know your woman, you can
tell by the way she puts on heels,
and she does not sashay for you
because it is not about you—how
she will buy some leather boots
and not say a word about it,
and you only see it when she walks
in one night, and she says she’s had
them forever; you will see the way
she loses the weight and pretends
it’s nothing, but when she isn’t seeing you
looking, you can see how she faces the mirror,
lifts her chest to catch a profile,
and how she casually looks at her
ass for signs of life. If you know
your woman, when you are gone, she
will find things to do, like walk
alone, go see a movie, find a park,
collect her secrets and you won’t know,
because she is looking for herself.
And she won’t tell you that she wants
to hear what idle men say when she
walks by them because what you say
is not enough. If you know your
woman, you know when she’s going
away and you will feel the big
hole of your love, and you can’t
tell why she’s listening and humming
to tunes you did not know she heard
before, and she will laugh softly
at nothing at all. If you know your
woman, you will see how she comes
and goes, and all you can do is wait
and pray she will come back to you,
because you know that your sins
are enough for her to leave and not return.

 

108
By
KWAME
DAWES
THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROAD
Hard not to want somebody standing by
the road with a bucket of water, somebody
ordinary but with eyes old as anything
around you to tell you that it is alright.
Who wouldn’t want to hear a woman
singing a baby song, a lullaby at the edge
of the night, something to calm you,
make you sleep because you know
that when you wake, she will be
there, her hands smelling of thyme
and garlic, onions; her rheumy
eyes still alive with questions
and knowing, her spotted skin basic as dirt,
and her gravel voice—such a calming thing
for you. Yes. You can’t blame me
for searching out the woman on
the hill, the woman with a bandana
and a long skirt stained with the dew
and grass from the thick bushes;
a woman with arms taut as
a tree’s limbs, a woman who will
hear all your sins and tell you
that you will still live until
tomorrow; a woman who will
embrace your body wracked
with disease and let you know
that crossing the water is not as harsh
as you might have thought,
to tell you that there is more light
in the grave than you may think.
We are all looking for the woman
with two hundred years under
her skin; the woman who can
touch you and remind you
that there are things bigger
than the sky, bigger than today.
And what we fear most is that
we will travel for years
always looking for her, but
never find her. We fear
this more than our nightmares.

109 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
OLD MAN UNDER A PECAN TREE
Two trucks and five dogs behind the chain-link;
you come up to this pecan tree-shaded
colonial ranch bungalow, squatting low
and brown in the deep green. A man sits
as always, under the crowd of shadow
and light, looking over the low fence
to the stretch of tobacco and soy, acres spread
out under the constant Southern sky, from
here the rumble of the freight and the
midnight howl of the clandestine Amtrack
takes him into the history, long before
stocks and shares, government subsidies,
401ks, the gleaming monstrous trucks panting
in the driveway. Ask him about life,
he will tell you about the great grands
living up in Pittsburgh or the favorite
girl running things in the legislature—
how far we have come, what a truck
load of watermelons and the ingenuity
of two felons can do. He has bad dreams
of France, the blasted bodies of soldiers,
the mud, the idle hours waiting for
bombs, the dead, the dry dead on green
fields, staring; those are his only nightmares.
The rest are battle trophies, the funerals
for those big-bellied white landowners,
all dead falling into wells—a breeze,
a circle of confusion from whiskey
on a suffocating August day, a wrong
step, a flood of guilt for a life of sin
sending them hurtling their useless selves
into the mossy wells—all trophies, the things
a man can look at and say, “God is watching.”
He is a man at peace with it all, when
you find him, when you come off the twolane
highway, right by Talbot’s
peach stand and liquor store, take the old
dust road for four miles in until you come
to a long stand of pecan trees, and this
homestead of cool air, dogs, and rusting
trucks—you will find him here—he never
left. They all went, headed North,
got a new language, but he came back,
ever after the war, after white women,
after good wine, he came back, old country
boy, to keep the gravestones washed clean,
to stand guard, to sometimes walk
to that place where the tracks used
to cross, to squat on the stony ground
and listen to the ghosts of those boys
thanking him for staying back to hear
them. He knows he has the power
to keep those spirits where they must
stay: and when he goes, he will
have a hand on them, and that
will be good, so good.

110
By
KWAME
DAWES
PENNIES
The city is crowded with head-bowed dreamers,
they are searching for pennies. A woman as old
as the pliant boards she stands on, as old
as the shallow-roofed shelter beneath the house
where in the wet season, the rats sought
warmth in the frowzy and sour scent
of fear sweat runaways; waiting for open
roads, for news of a creaking cart to take
them West and the North, to Winnipeg,
to Edmonton, to places too cold
for people finders; too barren for anyone
to care that black folks are raising
a city in the middle of a prairie—
a woman, old as those stones of the dead
whispering to the living, urging
them on. These dreamers have been
told to seek out the pennies, side
by side on the road, heads face-up,
waiting to be found, waiting to be collected,
waiting for the searcher’s head
to flame with the shock of prophecy
fulfilled; waiting for the name
of that old woman who has walked
these paths late at night, dropping
copper pennies like seeds of faith,
offering prayers like first rains
over the pennies, willing them to grow,
bloom, leap into wild giant
entanglements of mustard trees.
The name is spoken, again and again,
centuries of searchers, centuries
of believers, leaping the rocks
and rotting logs, heading back
along the river’s edge to the city
of bones; the white city of caught
light shining against the night.

111 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
EXILE: READING THE SKY
A dollop of white smeared liberally on the off
white embossed sheet, generous water so the spread
is untidy, the paper pulping, then a tab of blue,
its veins crawling across the uneven surface;
summer before sunlight, then the storm
of black deep in the belly of the white
paste; and the inky morning light over
the steep steel surfaces of the city is Pittsburgh
washed in a constant thin rainfall;
and a shattering crowd of starlings sprints
madly over the gloom like a wild spotted
silk scarf, its carefully embroidered filigree
of leaves swirling over the sorrow
of our mourning. This is how far
from home we are, far from the useless
combustible abundance of pine needles
in a forest, from the staining annoyance
of red dirt, from the steaming peach groves,
from the skies that stretch beyond us
towards the sea—a mountain of swollen
clouds filling us with a sense of God
in the heavens. In this city, men no longer
look to the sky for news; we are all
illiterate to this dialect. Rain and snow
always surprise us, and we know that
the crazy birds are drunk with berries
and will die for want of a landing. In this
city those who keep staring South, waiting
for news that the rivers have all fallen
into their walls and that the land is still
waiting for us to plant seed and trim
the hustas now entangled with dry leaves
over our people’s graves, will be disappointed.
More are coming walking across the bridge,
undone, with nothing but sorrow in their eyes
and a mouthful of questions for ways
to survive in this cold. There are days,
you promise, on a Friday night, with change
hot in your pocket and your stomach
warm with good juice, when you can
catch in the sky a hint of red and then flirtatious
lavender of wisteria. Then you feel
to sing like good old country folk do.

112
By
KWAME
DAWES
THE BURDEN
So sometimes you just want to shoot the poet
because he carries no piano, no guitar,
no horn you could smash or sink
in deep water; the poet is just a head
of conundrums; and you know that
this divining music man, this trickster
with two faces, one to ritualize
holiness, the other to sniff out
the perfume and money in a woman’s
skin; this filthy priest with clean
eyes and stained hands is the shadow
you carry for months while these
spirits swirl around you—young
man, you will die young once
you have exorcised this century
of souls, cast them out into light,
into the bodies of the penitents;
the broken hearts of actors who
give of themselves each night—
young man, you have always
had an old soul, an ancient
poet’s soul, and your back has
carried every instrument of praise
there is, a sack of noises
dragging you down, while you
walk through this world, and
sometimes your forget yourself
because this poet consumes you,
and you wonder who is talking,
who is carrying you down, and you
want to shoot the poet, but
this is all you have left,
quick-stepping dance man,
this is all that makes you breathe,
this journeyman of many voices,
who sometimes, after eating
his fill of the world, will stretch
out and sleep, leaving you
light for a spell, easy in your skin,
finding the calm of death.

113 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
THIEVING
When does the debt end? How long must pass
to make up for your hundred years of taking
from people everything they have and giving
nothing in return? When is the debt
full paid? How much thieving and
killing must a man do before it turns
into sin, when all he is doing is taking
back what was taken from him, from
his father, from his father’s father?
How many bales of cotton must a man
steal to make up for all the cotton
he picked that went into somebody
else’s pocket, somebody else’s belly?
How many stacks of wood can you
take before you have covered
all the losses, before you have
repaid what a man has done
to that pink private place
of your mother’s mother, that thing
that left her covered in shame
for the rest of her life; how many
pianos can you steal for the
bones in the backwoods, for
the anthem of those leading
us to the blackened bloated bodies
of those boys who they lynched
at midnight under flambeaux light,
how much thieving can a body do
before it balances things out? How
much can you take to feed the gap
in a people’s memory, the erasure
of the language of the ancestors,
the deafness they caused you
to the whisper of the gods, the house
of bones, the valley of bones,
the deep rift valley of bones,
covered by the weight of the Atlantic,
where the water stripped these bodies
of all their flesh, all they had
in the bowels of their undoing?
How much does a man have to steal
before he can say, “Now I have
all they took, now all I am getting
is what they got fair and square,
now we are even, now I have
what is mine, and every time
I take from them from now on,
you can call it thieving”?

114
By
KWAME
DAWES
THE TRANSACTION
Ms. Ophelia with the watery eyes
was well cared for by her lanky
big-bellied husband, Scutter, who would
look at her laid out in white
on their bed and think what a sin
it must be for him to mount her
and do with her what he would
night after night on the road
back from the grounds in the string
of huts smelling of stale collard
greens and the raw smell of slaves,
the smell of the woman who gave
him milk, the smell that makes
him hungry and small and horny
all at the same time, but for
Ophelia, with her watery eyes,
he sees only the parchment
of her skin and feels only the need
to cover her, keep her as pure
as she first was—his nightmare
is to see Willie Boy, the strapping
African, pushing into her, like
a dog would into a bitch—
he wakes up sweating hard,
and sleeps only after some rum.
So come each anniversary
he will find something grand
for her. The girl slave Berniece
or the pony she loved so much,
or the French perfume he bought
in Mobile or the Chinese fan
a traveling huckster sold to him
for some produce and his last coins;
but this time, he wants her to have
a gift of pure beauty, so he will
sell to Nolander from Georgia
a slave and a half for a piano,
which is how folks lived then;
how a slave could be here one day
in the bosom of family, right
beside the old live oak tree where
the afterbirth and umbilicus
was buried and the next day: gone
where the soil smells different,
where folks talk and eat different,
and where you can’t read the sky for rain.
But he got the plans, and old
Berniece, the matriarch, and that small
Boy, Papa Charles, were gone,
uprooted, taken away, just bring
some music to Ms. Ophelia; ah
the currency in this instruction—blood
in that piano, everything in that piano,
and she plays it day and night,
while he plants his seed in brown soil.

115 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
IRON
Before your journey across the steaming earth
towards the water’s edge, before you step in,
feel the tickling warmth slowly washing dirt
from your salt-dry skin, check for everything:
make sure you have a flask of rainwater,
the knotted torso of a ginger-root, a flower
that broke out of a brittle shell, a piece of paper
with simple verbs scrawled all over
its plain surface, and a piece of iron as old
as you can find. The man who makes this journey
without iron will soon falter, will grow cold
at the sight of the City of Bones. His body
will shiver with fever and the congregation
will sing softly, “Too late, too late for heaven.”

Close Love — A Bop For Fahja By BRENDA CONNOR-BEY

She felt my heart long after I left her womb
This was unspoken but felt by us both. When I
was eight, while she slept on the beach, the song of
salt air, ocean music and voices pulled me away from her.
Even with her eyes closed, she scanned supine tanning
bodies, found me before tears slid from my center of fear.
Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise
Bonds linked so closely create a tortured
route for teenaged lies. Hard to sidestep
a mother like this. Crooked words slid down glass.
Questions darkened greasy walls.
My lies traveled nowhere. I gave up.
Why bother? She looked and turned away.
Like me, she’d had enough.
I felt her heart struggling to breathe.
Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise
Distance smoothes rough edges, gives you space to grow.
Old connections begin to make sense. Phone calls happen,
her voice whispers on summer breezes. Her belief in
the rightness of life gives my heart wings to soar with God’s angels.
But sometimes I crave those moments when she spooned
her body around mine protecting me from the cold.
Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise

FLOWERS III – PANAMA FISHING MAN
I remember you made me hear laughter
instead of loud crying songs
Showed me Caribbean beats as you
placed my small feet on top of yours
dancing the meringue in a kitchen
warm with baking gingerbread
You told me
loose women feel apart
because they lost their senses
You said:
“Let me teach you how
to smell the rain, girl
know when it’s coming
gonna show you what a man really like
I’ll show you the ocean
make you hear the songs
in the waves
You got to know dis chile
‘cause every man want a woman
who know how to fish good!”

35

Midnight Moon
For Marc Bumathi Joseph
This story has been told many times; how the faceless,
nameless Haitian wooed a milk-white, blue-eyed black woman,
loved her till she swole up, bursting with sparkling chimes,
tumbled into life on a moonless autumn night. That child
was blessed with who she would become — Grace.
The story thread, knotted in three-finger
lengths, frayed beyond repair and glued where
its final breath whined before jumping
like water on a hot pan, gathered remnants from last words,
replaced with phrases or scenarios, tickling imaginations of
listeners, making the speaker look good.
My version of this tale landed in a poem.
Images burst through a darkened New England winter
while I dreamed this story. I could see his face;
imagined his tobacco and bay rum smell, knew the feel of
an always-present sun beneath his skin. But I try not to lean
into that dream too long. My inward search
for this nameless man produces a centuries’-old yearning,
something that goes deeper than the soul.
This pain hollows out interiors. It is too great to contain.
It is that yearning pushed aside where links are erased,
making wholeness possible. I seek something to quiet
the shatter shatter of an invisible mirror. It is only an ache,
one that can be healed. This is my reminder everytime
I feel the slipping downward pull of loss and wonder.
How do I say, yes, my grandfather was Haitian?
No, I do not know his name?
No, I do not know which part of the country his family came from?
No, I do not know his name…?
This story lives in the air I breathe.
It travels in bloodlines.
Blood always finds its way home.

Willie Ten Spade
After Whitfield Lovell’s Rounds VIII & Rounds XXV, 2006-2007
We whispered “Willie 10 Spade”
after his scent of Old Spice, Lucky Strikes and
sweet brilliantine hair cream were
left hanging in the air
Could have been that strange cut of hair he wore
Shaved back hairline
shaped his face into a high yella spade
Kinfolk say he was tryin’ to show
off the plains of Indian blood running thru his veins
me and my friends
say he just wanted us
to see
all of him, that’s all!
We all know spades s’pposed to mean
no luck, but Willie was a hard playing
Boston bid whist man
never lost a game in his life
that’s how the story went
when liquor was flowing
and all lies matched the easy down of
sparkling amber liquid
Willie played his cards
played both women and men
but never messed with anyone
always left alone because he
waited for that 4b light to shine
before making his move
Every woman on our block wanted
to be that 9 diamonds dancing lady in 4b
that took his mustard yellow eyes
and purring cat’s voice away from
our imaginings
Us dancing, his wide pant legs
blowing in the wind
but you know the dreams of young girls
We’d wait Saturday afternoons
when Willie walked to 7th Avenue
to get her some chicken and waffles
We’d stand back
Take a deep breath
And dream a little more

 

Woman in the Woods
After Enock Placide’s painting
When I first saw her
I was young enough to believe
the artist erased her face on purpose
a cloth taken to still-wet canvas
brown acrylic smudged gently
erasing her smile
Laughter caught mid air
I imagined where he began
Her dark eyes, doorway to her soul
Was this knowing woman being swallowed whole
by muslin balled up tightly
floating above dappled, muted greens and
browns of the forest in this painting?
Or was her breath snatched away
with a quick wipe of sponge?
Did her nose leave her face the same way?
Or was she in the act of seeking the flowery
pink bursting spores exploding on canvas?
Placide, the Haitian visionary
whispered in moods shifting
between the faceless woman and I
As I grew older, even though still faceless, this
woman in white speaks to me of futures and pasts
Seeks my counsel as the soggy floor on which I stand
disappears, sending me into a downward spiral
until I land at the beginning of my thoughts
once again allowing myself to be led there
where the question of erasure comes and goes
Trusting that, even without a face
she knows what she saw

JAYNE CORTEZ

I AM NEW YORK CITY

i am new york city
here is my brain of hot sauce
my tobacco teeth my
mattress of bedbug tongue
legs apart hand on chin
war on the roof insults
pointed fingers pushcarts
my contraceptives all
look at my pelvis blushing
i am new york city of blood
police and fried pies
i rub my docks red with grenadine
and jelly madness in a flow of tokay
my huge skull of pigeons
my séance of peeping toms
my plaited ovaries excuse me
this is my grime my thigh of
steelspoons and toothpicks
i imitate no one
i am new york city
of the brown spit and soft tomatoes
give me my confetti of flesh
my marquee of false nipples
my sideshow of open beaks
in my nose of soot
in my ox bled eyes
in my ear of saturday night specials
i eat ha ha hee hee and ho ho
i am new york city
never-change-never-sleep-never-melt
my shoes are incognito
cadavers grow from my goatee
look i sparkle with shit with wishbones
my nickname is glue-me

Take my face of stink bombs
my star spangled banner of hot dogs
take my beer can junta
my reptilian ass of footprints
and approach me through life
approach me through death
approach me through my widow’s peak
through my split ends my
asthmatic laugh approach me
through my wash rag
half ankle half elbow
massage me with your camphor tears
salute the patina and concrete
of my rat tail wig
face up face down piss
into the bite of our handshake
i am new york city
my skillet-head friend
my fat-bellied comrade
citizens
break wind with me

 

SACRED TREES
Every time I think about us women
I think about the trees the trees
escaping from an epidemic of lightning
the sacred trees exploding from
compressed matter of cuckoo spit trees
the raped trees flashing signals through
toxic acid of sucking insects
trees used as decoy installations trees
I have the afternoon leaves throbbing
in my nostrils
I have the struggling limbs sprouting from
these ear lobes
I have a power stump shooting from
out of this forehead
I have clusters of twigs popping from
tattooed moles
& sometimes I feel
like the tree trunk
growing numb & dead
from ritual behavior
sometimes I feel like the tree ripping
from the core of ancient grievances
Trees
I feel like
the family tree
relocating under pressure
Trees
I feel like the frantic tree
trying to radiate through
scorched surfaces
sometimes I feel like
the obscure tree
babbling through silver-plated mouth
of a shrinking moon
& sometimes I feel like a tree
hiccupping through
heated flint of gunpowder crevices
I feel like a tree
& every time I think about us women
I think about the trees
I think about
the subversive trees laden in blood
but not bleeding
the rebellious trees encrusted
but not cracking
the abused trees wounded
but still standing
I think about the proud trees
the trees with beehive tits buzzing
the transparent trees
the trees with quinine breath hovering
the trees swaying & rubbing their
stretch-marked bellies
in the rain
the crossroad trees coming from
the tree womb
of tree seeds
Trees
I think about the trees
& sometimes I feel like
a superstitious tree
smelling negative & fragile
& full of dislocated sap
I feel like
the tree stampeding from
a cadre of earth tremors
I feel like the forgotten tree
that can’t live here no more
sometimes I feel
like the tree that’s growing wild
through the wildlife left
in the petroleum pipeline
I feel like a tree
A tree caught
in the catacomb of bones
enslaved in
red-light districts of oppression
I feel like a barricade of trees
& sometimes
I feel like the tree
that’s lucky to be a tree
in the time of
missing trees
I feel like a tree
that’s happy to be a tree
among disappearing trees
Trees
I feel beautiful
like an undestroyed
rainforest of trees
I feel like a tree
laughing in the rawness
of the wind
I feel like a tree
& every time I think about us women
I think about the trees
I think about the trees

HISTORY
Dear Friends
I am not talking about
the black writer and
his white literary father
i’m talking about
black music opposed to
enslavement & colonialism
yes jazz has a color
without that fact
there is no jazz

 

OGUN’S FRIEND
(Metal Workshop)
I saw your eyes like bumps of flint
i saw your shoes like high-top boulders
i saw your hands like faces of fire
i saw your fingers like axes of Shango
i saw your body like a rocker of steel
Yo
i heard a hum down there
i heard a rumble down there
i heard a ghost down there
i heard a thunderbolt expel down there
i heard a anvil in the night go hummmmmmmm
down there
Hey whose metals are shouting so loud
they must be the tapper that Ogun knows
whose are those beads so hot and black
they must be brass for Ogun to fill
who’s that worker with corrugated gums
it must be the worker that Ogun chose
who’s that one with feet like flames
it must be the welder that’s Ogun’s friend
Yo
i smell a chicken in here
i smell some charcoal in here
i smell a goat in here
i smell some wax in here
i smell a dog in here
i smell some clay and some oil and some blood in here
Hey i see your chains like links of teeth
crowbars
i see your coils like female pouches
barbed wire
i see your grills like braided snakes
fish-net
i see your ladder like a totem of pliers
crocodiles
i see your pipes like razors on tusks
wine bottles
i see your scissors and your keys on the table in there
uh-huhn
Yo
you got pant legs made into hats
you got diamond plates made into walls
you got straightening combs made into steps
you got hammer-heads made into skulls
you got flat-rings made into ears
Pant legs diamond plates
straightening combs hammer-heads
flat-rings
yo
I feel your flux
i feel your sander
i feel your drill bit
i feel your grinder
i feel your drill press
i feel your hack saw
i feel your brick ax
Yo
i saw your windows like sheets of steel
i heard a gong down there
i saw some navels like bushes of wire
i heard a bird down there
Hey
you got lizard tongues made into tongs
i feel your bald spot
you got snakeskins covered in bronze
i feel your chin marks
lizard tongues bald spots
snakeskins chin marks
yo
i smell some fish in here
i see a rail down there
i smell some toes in here
i see a horn down there
i smell some funk in here
i see a knife down there
i smell some ratheads in here
i see a person down there
Who’s that one so brown and fine
Ogun’s friend
who’s that one in green on green
Ogun’s friend
who’s that one who eats so fast
Ogun’s friend
who’s that one with toothpaste lips
Ogun’s friend
who’s that one who spits on tools
Ogun’s friend
Yo Ogun’s friend

When the Muse Comes a-Callin’: In the Print Lab with Mary Lovelace O’Neal By LIZZETTA LeFALLE-COLLINS

Last Lay-Up, 1970-79

After teaching at several other Bay Area
institutions—including the California
College of Arts and Crafts, Humboldt
State University, and fi nally the
University of California, Berkeley (cal),
where she became part of the full-time
faculty—she was awarded tenure at
cal in 1985 and appointed chair of the
Department of Art Practice in 1999.
Primarily known as an abstract painter,
some of O’Neal’s most memorable
minimalist paintings have been well
documented. Th ese include her
lampblack series as exampled by (Fig.
1) Last Lay-Up, c. 1970-79 and Abstract
Expressionist works such as Red Whale
(c. 1980s) and Running with Black
Panthers and White Doves (mid 1980s/early
1990s). Other important paintings include
(Fig. 2) Racism is Like Rain, Either It’s
Raining or It’s Gathering Somewhere, c.
1991-93, a piece that was also made into
a lithograph with the same title. While
some of these works will be discussed in
this text, greater emphasis will be placed
on O’Neal’s printmaking work, which
she began in Robert Blackburn’s print
studio in the early 1980s.

 

O’Neal’s initial introduction to
printmaking was an undergraduate
printmaking class at Howard University
with master printmaker James Lesene
Wells. She remembers she couldn’t
be “bothered with” grinding the stones
in a lithograph class—she found
the process cumbersome and generally
loathed the whole printmaking
experience with Wells. She recalls how
he chided her when she left a plate
in the acid too long: “Miss Lovelace,
that was a brand new batch of acid
and you’ve ruined it.”[1] Another
unfortunate mishap incident provoked
his ire and sealed her fate in the class.
After spilling red ink on a stack of
pristine Arches paper, Wells chastised
her again: “ Miss Lovelace, how did
you get that red ink drip down the side
of a whole ream?”[2]

Traditional printmaking is very
process-oriented and Wells, known
for his etchings and lithographs, was
a skilled technician in printmaking.
He was greatly infl uenced by the
woodcuts of Albrecht Durer and
German Expressionists such as Emile
Nolde and Ernst Kirchner. Unlike
many of his contemporaries Wells
viewed printmaking as a fi ne art on par
with painting and pursued the fi nest
detail in line and tone. Th is attention
to detail was a natural byproduct of his
tenure working with Stanley Hayter at
Atelier 17 in New York. Hayter became
known as the father of contemporary
printmaking, and in December 1964
Art in America declared Atelier 17 in
New York and Paris the most infl uential
print studios in the world.[3] Wells
could see that O’Neal did not share his
seriousness about printmaking. O’Neal
appreciated Wells’ printmaking skills,
but was not interested in conforming
to the established printmaking processes
he adhered to. O’Neal railed against
tightly structured processes and
approaches to art and displayed her
indiff erence to structure in Wells’
printmaking class as well as in Lois
Jones’ watercolor class. In printmaking
O’Neal experienced particular problems
with etching, dismayed that the image
could only be realized after several
steps. Recalling her initial impressions
of the printmaking process, O’Neal
shares, “Printmaking at that time was
too labor-intensive and needed greater
focus than I could muster—simply put,
a horrible Howard experience that left
a bitter memory.” Wells was equally
frustrated working with O’Neal, and
she remembers he even pleaded with
her once, “Miss Lovelace don’t come
back, don’t come back.”[4]

 

O’Neal didn’t even consider revisiting
printmaking until 1983, when she
was in New York participating in an
exhibition that her artist friend, Joe
Overstreet, organized at Kenkeleba
Gallery. During the reception, master
printmaker Bob Blackburn spoke with
O’Neal about her work in the exhibition
and asked if she’d like to work on
some prints. The Robert Blackburn
Printmaking Workshop had been
a catalyst within the international
printmaking community since 1948,
“seeding” other institutions, schools,
and workshops as far away as Morocco
and South Africa. Remembering her
experience at Howard under Professor
Wells, O’Neal was leery of Blackburn’s
offer to work at the print studio.[5]
She eventually accepted Blackburn’s
invitation and in 1984 was in his
workshop trying printmaking again,
this time experimenting with a
freer form of monotype printing.
This technique paralleled the way she
painted with vibrant colors and free,
gestural line movements that swirled
and meandered across the surface
of the composition. Remembering
this time, O’Neal says, ”I was given
the bare minimum of instruction by a
fabulous printmaker who became
my printer’s devil. Over the course of
the days I spent in New York City I
was liberated, taught the wonders and
true joys of monotype printmaking.
I discovered that for me it was
the process most like painting in its
directness. However perhaps the
greatest gift to me from the workshop
was a love of printmaking. All of
it—etching, lithography, silk screen,
woodcuts—I was smitten.”[6]
O’Neal’s second foray into printmaking
opened doors to new discoveries.
Working with fluid inks, she could
create one image after the next. She
didn’t even mind the intensive cleanup
with lithotine that was required. She
referred to the printmakers as “mad
hatters,” alluding to 19th-century
English hat makers who suffered the
consequences of exposure to mercury,
a necessary tool of their trade used to
stabilize wool.[7] In Blackburn’s shop,
O’Neal made over 200 prints and
printed two lithographs. Perhaps she
enjoyed the process more in his shop
because there, trained printmakers
did all of the hard work of registering,
mixing inks, rolling up plates, placing
them in acid baths or talcing them up,
and of course, rolling them through
the presses. Blackburn just wanted
to give artists an opportunity to pull
prints, and O’Neal reveled in it.
Blackburn recognized O’Neal’s delight
in arriving at images by monotype and
approximating the same sensibilities
that she sought in her paintings.
Encouraged by her zeal for the
monotype process, he recommended
her for a printmaking residency
in the Printmaking Workshop in
Asilah, Morocco that he had helped to
establish. Blackburn had founded

this printmaking workshop with
another Black American printmaker,
Camille Billops, during the First Asilah
Cultural Moussam (a festival) in 1978.
The site of the workshop was in the
Raissouni Palace, originally built in
1909 and once home to a famous pirate
named Ahmed-al Raissouni before
being renamed the Palace of Culture.
Historically a small fishing town, Asilah
had largely lost its major industry, but
had garnered a reputation as a venue
for a prestigious international arts
festival. O’Neal recalls that this festival
was unlike any other she had ever
experienced, including Venice. When
Blackburn extended the invitation to
go to Asilah, she had to act quickly,
with only a week’s time to travel to
California from New York to gather
her things and return to New York City
to leave for the festival. O’Neal fondly
remembers her experiences in Asilah:
Artists and people literally from
all over the world were invited to
this festival—musicians, actors,
poets, critics, authors, writers,
activists, newspaper columnists,
political theorists, politicians, and
religious leaders, etc. Each evening
there were offerings of dance,
theater, music, poetry and the like.
However what set this festival
apart from most was the fact that
painters and printmakers and one
or two sculptors were invited to
[be there for the] entire run of
the festival in Asilah. Most of us
lived in a one hundred-year-old
palace with great mosaics and
secret passages. My quarters were
covered with rich mosaics and
overlooked the ocean; many nights
I watched the moon until it traded
places with the rising sun. The
palace, the mosaics, my sleeping
roommates, the filtered moonlight
and the black dark of the sky on
moonless and sleepless nights
reminded me of my childhood
and my nights of dancing as one
of the villagers in the opera Amahl
and The Night Visitors.[8]

O’Neal’s time in Asilah thus brought
back memories of Amahl and the Night
Visitors, an opera by Menotti that was
first televised in 1952. O’Neal’s father
directed the opera for Arkansas State’s
Christmas Concert.[9] Her best friend
Marian played the role of Amahl
and O’Neal was one of the dancers.
She memorized every note and
still remembers lines of the aria that
later informed the narratives for
the paintings in her panther series.
The images that she had envisioned as a
child became her reality in Asilah.
A 1986 monotype from this residency,

(Fig. 3) Princess Poo-Poo—depicting her
black Dachshund, “Tillie,” romping
in the palace—served as the model
for her mid 1980s/early 1990s Running
with Black Panthers and White Doves,
in which black panthers roam the black
marble palace of the Black King.
This was a pivotal painting in which she
transitioned from lampblack pigment
in works like the Last Lay-Up, and
began revisiting Abstract Expressionism.
Black Panthers… is an important work
that also contains references to O’Neal’s
activist years, as an undergraduate in
the student-run Non-Violent Action
Group (nag) and following graduation
with the Congress of Racial Equality
(core). In the opera, Amahl asks the
Black king ”Where do you live?” and
the Black king responds, ”I live in
a black marble palace with black and
white doves.” O’Neal’s monotype
(Fig. 4) Untitled (Black King), c. 1991-23
points directly to the Black King in
Menotti’s opera.

In Asilah, O’Neal lived in a palace
with mosaic rooms with other visitors
to festival, including a Chilean woman
who lived in Italy and another man
from Northern Africa. They would lie
awake at night gazing at the moon
as it hung over the ocean. Then the aria
would come to her, alongside memories
of her father directing the opera and
her dancing thirty years ago. She explains,
”The light of the moon would sweep
into the room illuminating the ancient
mosaics. I started to imagine panthers
having the run of the palace and white
doves catching a free ride on the backs
of these mysterious night creatures.
[I visualized] these imaginary creatures
along with the reality of blinding white
light pushing back from snow-white
houses into which flashes of black

veils darted [and] puffs of unblemished
cotton [were] contained in ice-blue
skies.”[10]

“These great far-ranging conversations
[among the visitors] would last into the
wee hours at the restaurants and hotel
bars frequented by foreigners. When
we heard the muezzin begin the call to
prayer we were just turning [our] beds
to sleep, and others were preparing
for their morning prayers,” O’Neal
recalls.[11] Before the intense blues of the
Moroccan sky and sea, O’Neal
worked on the rooftop of her gleaming
white-walled residence in the city
encircled by ochre-colored ramparts.
She painted images onto her monotype
plates on the roof of the palace in
full view of other women doing their
daily chores, from washing and dying
clothes and fabric to repairing and
painting furniture. Their voices filled
the air with chatter, quarreling and
laughter as children ran in and out of
work and play. This scene was repeated
from one rooftop to another—the
rooftops were the location of the
women’s cottage industries. Her father’s
production of Amahl kept creeping
into her memory and then into her
imagery as she captured these unveiled
women moving in and around their
homes. Her monotypes were impressions
of Morocco illuminating “the light,
the national and traditional dress, the
architecture, the color and shape of
food, Tangine pots, sardines, lettuces
and other greens, flat breads, and roasts
on a spit,” in her words.[12] She painted
the monotypes as quickly as she could
because the strong searing heat could
dry out the inks, making the plates too
dry to print in the studio below. “[From
the roof ], I then with great purpose
ran down the steps, pushing my way
on through the narrow passages to
‘bogard’ [cut in line] a turn at one of
the few presses—I rushed the piece
through the press, assessed the plate for
the possible ghost, the residuals of what
imagery might still have viable paint
left to be the seating for the next image
to be laid down,” she shares.[13]

O’Neal’s days in Asilah were filled with
hard sweaty work in a hot printing
studio with no air conditioning. Unlike
the Blackburn workshop, where ample
printers were ready to assist her or to
pull the prints for the artists, in Asilah
the artists had to pull their own prints.
The hot and sweaty days would meld
into balmy evenings, and in the cool
of the late evenings the artists ate
delicious food, listened to lulling music
and poetry and joined in the dance
until the early morning hours. Morocco
offered a rich experience that filled out
O’Neal’s personal and artistic life. She
says that she left it with “firmly placed
postcards in my brain, and friendships
that have lasted to this day.”[14] These
“postcard images” made an indelible
mark on her work, as evidenced by her
statement, “I had to fight to let the
paint rule rather than the postcards
I had filed away in my body and mind
during my days in that country.”[15]
Her mental “postcards” captured many
unforgettable experiences: the blinding
sand storm that she encountered on
the way to Fez; the trip she took with
her friends Mechi and Carmen to
spend a much-deserved girl’s day in
a Hammem where the women tried
to scrub her very dark skin a brighter
shade; and her time in Marrakesh
where she ate with old men at Djemaa
el-Fna into the night and after a brief
sleep, returned in the morning to find
whirling Dervishes, dancing cobras and
a sea of humanity “lost in the deep
medina of the old town,” said O’Neal.[16]
She felt a strong desire to put these
images on paper, but as a student of
Abstract Expressionism she struggled
with the question of the figure.

After Morocco, O’Neal returned to her
studio in Oakland and her teaching
job at cal and began a series of works
exploring the light and architecture
of Morocco that was dedicated to
the women in swirling garments she
had just left behind. In 1985, O’Neal
showed several paintings, including
Hammem, 1984 at Jeremy Stones’ San
Francisco gallery.

In other essays, I’ve written about how
the art of printmaking has been assigned
a low profile historically. I explained
several reasons for this, including
the prevalence of attention given to
large-scale abstract paintings that
engaged the viewer with their sheer
size and the materiality of the paint.
Additionally, modern art assemblages
that bridged the gap between painting
and sculpture and used mass-produced
or found or refabricated/repurposed
objects—including images printed on
fine art presses—were generally received
as wholes greater than the sum of their
parts, comprised of prints and numerous
other elements. Artists used the art
of photography and the hand-drawn
in addition to the printed image in
assemblages. Finally, if one maintained
the traditional method of printmaking,
the labor-intensive process for perfection

in tonal and line qualities and registration
emphasized the skill of achieving
sameness in the production of an edition
of prints in which every print was
exactly the same. Thus the traditional
focus in printmaking has been on
editions, but more recently artists have
been producing smaller editions. The
fine art print is now viewed as something
that can be combined with other media,
and compromising a work by scratching
or painting into the virgin print is
more acceptable. But is such a work
still a print? Most of O’Neal’s
prints are monotypes, and after her
reintroduction to printmaking the
process became an integral part of her
art practice as she realized that
monotype printing was the technique
that was the most easily adaptable
to her dynamic large-scale paintings.

During her first trip to Morocco in the
midst of her printmaking residency,
O’Neal noticed the way Moroccan
women would subvert the large overgarments
required by their Muslim
religious beliefs: “They would have on
pantaloons that would be shocking pink
with gold slippers. [The] most creative
fashion statements seemed to come in
the shoes, which could be exposed—gold
sandals or saddle shoes.”[17] In 1989 during
her sabbatical from cal, O’Neal received
a humanities grant to return to Morocco
and to travel to Egypt and Chile to
develop a new body of work, including
a 1989 video entitled Two Deserts, Three
Winters that focused on the Sahara Desert
in Egypt and the Atacama Desert in
Chile. For her sabbatical project, she
concentrated on women’s dress and
temporarily abandoned printmaking in
favor of drawing furiously and taking
hundreds of still pictures and miles
of video footage for the video project
that included some of the images that
influenced her monotypes in her Desert
Women Series, c. 1990. O’Neal noted that
in the Sahara, groups of women seemed
to appear out of the desert sands from
nowhere with baskets and cloth and then
disappear just as quickly. These images
of women are captured in monotypes
in her Desert Women Series. In this series,
O’Neal plays with the swirling clothing
replicating its silky movement with
the colorful inks. The three examples
pictured in (Fig. 5-8) Desert Women
Series (Sun, Woman in Black Dotted
Scarf, Magenta, and Pink) mirror the
video that captured garment-wrapped
women, and reveal the influence of the
architecture and light that had captivated
O’Neal’s imagination since her
first trip to Morocco. One image that
was stamped on in her memory was a
woman in all black moving through the
beige landscape with bright green jelly
shoes—an image that became one of
what she calls her “postcards” from her
desert encounters. Women entombed
in swirling wind-blown garments, often
revealing dashes of color peeping out
from their over-garments epitomizes this
series. (Fig. 9) Desert Women Series (Two
Black Garments), c. 1990.

52
Known for her fashionable and exotic
sartorial style characterized by multiple
clothing layers, head wraps and bangles,
O’Neal was attracted to these women
for their layered and flowing clothing.
Their style of dress piqued her curiosity
and left her wondering what types
of clothing and fabrics were beneath
the large billowing outer garments
that hid female bodies—she wondered
how they individualized their dress
underneath in order to accept this type
of outer uniform. Most women she
questioned spoke of the practicality of
the dress, but she soon learned that
the women were free to wear anything
they wished under these outer garments.
This freedom underneath led to all
sorts of subversions. The drawings,
photographs, and video footage O’Neal
created while in Morocco would inform
much of her future printmaking
upon her return to the US, including
(Fig. 10) Cora of the Children, 1994.

Her sabbatical also took her to Egypt.
In Egypt, O’Neal reflected on walking
the path where Jesus is said to have
walked. She and her former husband
Patricio Moreno Toro encountered
the ruins of a recent war in the Sinai
Peninsula—a ghost town of leftover
tanks and bunkers scrawled with
graffiti. The combination of the delicate
curvature of the Arabic letters with the
heavy tanks eventually inspired several
monotype prints in the Tanks Series,
ca. 1990s. In the Valley of the Kings,
O’Neal and Toro waved to Queen
Hatshepsut—in the scorching heat of
the valley, the thought of walking up
hundreds of steps made the investigation
of Hatshepsut’s tomb too much to
bear. Back in Cairo, O’Neal witnessed
papyrus papermaking and purchased
some of the paper to use later for
monotypes. She would later discover
that her inks and paints were not
compatible with the papyrus. While
the monotypes on papyrus were a
disappointment, another process
discovered on this trip proved more
rewarding. She and Toro were introduced

weaving schools in Cairo. Upon learning
of the weaving schools, they were
concerned at first, imagining the small
fingers of child laborers weaving the
tapestries. But their fears were allayed
when they visited the school and
found teenagers in training to become
weavers of tapestries illustrating
traditional domestic life and biblical or
Pharaonic tales. Their guide, Tarik,
helped them negotiate an agreement
to make some of O’Neal’s paintings
into tapestries. O’Neal had slides of
the work made into photocopies and
12” x 7” transparences. At the weaving
school, the transparencies were made
into a large “cartoon” for the weavers to
follow. She was told to come back in a
few days and when she returned, much
to her surprise, she found the tapestry
was a faithful recreation of her painting.
O’Neal was so pleased with the tapestry
that she asked the “Old One” about
having other paintings made into
tapestries. He directed her to a town
known for its weavers. There she was
led into a complex littered with vats
of dye, with a loom located below a
broken-out hole in the ceiling—the
only light filtering into the workspace.
O’Neal gave the director the cartoons
needed for Meaningless Ritual, Senseless
Superstition, early 1980s and Hammem,
1984 to be made into tapestries.
They negotiated the project into the
afternoon while drinking mint tea
and devouring little cakes. O’Neal left
at dusk as the livestock were brought
into the work area where they would
sleep for the night. She and Toro drove
back to Cairo having left no monetary
deposit for the work. During the rest of
their trip they visited Coptic churches,
ate pigeons, and watched as butchers
holding long curved knives herded
branded camels through the street to
the slaughterhouse. This scene inspired
several works that included animals, a
frequent subject of O’Neal’s.
Continuing her sabbatical, O’Neal
traveled to Chile, Toro’s home. There he
introduced her to the Atacama Desert
and although there were no swirling
garments in Chile, the isolation that
O’Neal felt in the Atacama paralleled
her experiences in the Sahara, a quiet
and still place, yet teeming with unseen
animal and insect life.[18] She immediately
connected the landscapes though they
were so many miles apart.
In Santiago, Toro also introduced her
to his mentor Nemesio Antúnez,
director of the Museo Nacional de
Bellas Artes, who, upon learning that
she was an artist, invited O’Neal to
present slides of her work at the
museum. She showed paintings as
well as monotypes, and an impressed
Antúnez invited her to be a guest
printmaker at Taller 99 beginning the
following day. Antúnez had previously
directed the print workshop until 1963
before returning to reorganize and
revitalize it in 1986. Generations of
Chilean artists passed through the
Taller, and it continues to play an
active role in art education in Chile.
It was modeled on Stanley William
Hayter’s Atelier 17, where James Lesene
Wells, O’Neal’s printmaking professor
at Howard and Antúnez, had worked.
The aim of Taller 99 was to provide
young artists with the equipment and
encouragement to develop their technical
skills in different print media within an
ethos of collaboration. Breaking away
from initial primitivist/indigenous
styles and content, the Taller fostered
explorations in abstraction and
figuration.[19]
The next morning after her meeting
with Antúnez, O’Neal arrived at
Taller 99, greeted by shop regulars.
These printmakers were the elite of the
printmaking community in Santiago.
O’Neal filled her days printing,
disregarding her initial apprehensions
as she struggled to communicate in
Spanish. She worked from morning to
night, reveling in the blustery winter
evenings in the Taller with artists
bundled up in thick sweaters, coats,
boots, and scarves. She recalls the print
workshop had the smells and the feel
of a “traditional old fashioned print
shop—kerosene, cigarettes, lithotine,
alcohol, coffee, wet wool and the
estufa fueled by parafina.”[20] O’Neal
embraced this dangerous working
atmosphere, grateful that the shop
enveloped and protected the printers
away from the cold night. Her time in
the Taller shop was similar to her printmaking
experiences in Asilah. There
were no “little princesses,” she explains.
“Everyone had to earn their
keep from the moment they crossed
the threshold. From beginning to end
a work was your own, although each
printer was in the end paired with
other driven souls—exchanging the
printer’s devil position. I was allowed
to choose a [lithographic] stone, which
at the time seemed to be just about
as big as I was, and it grew as I learned
to prepare it from beginning to end.
I learned to wash the stone—one of the
most pleasurable processes in readying
it for drawing. One stone washing
the other which removes the old image
of the previous maker, there is a
marvelous rhythm that starts to manifest
as your body and mind get a hold of
the job at hand.”[21]

The process and rhythm of the shop
require the whole body to become a
part of the grinding down and smoothing
of the limestone—something that
would otherwise take years for water
to achieve in the natural environment.
O’Neal completed several lithographs
during her residency at Taller 99, where
her anxiousness to return to the stones
grew stronger each day.
After her experiences with printmaking
and her induction into the Taller 99 in
Santiago, O’Neal returned to cal with
a renewed commitment to reinstate
lithography into the art practice
curriculum. However, the traditional
use of highly corrosive combustible
chemicals made this impossible—the
Environmental Protection Agency’s
(epa) move to rid university print shops
around the country of serious health
hazards posed by toxins was the death
knell for many printmaking programs.
Compliance with epa guidelines
required an overhauling of the process
of printmaking, and as the art practice
program at cal was reshaped, the
printmaking program was terminated.[22]
In the summer of 1989, Robert
Colescott insisted that the University
of Texas at Austin (uta) hire O’Neal
for the second session of his summer
school contract because he had to leave
for Europe. On the first day of classes,
Tom Vanderlyn was assigned to her
as a teaching assistant. Upon learning
that he was a printmaker and had
access to the shop, they decided to
work together for the summer. They
worked after her classes, from 4 pm
until past midnight. “Tom taught
me an enormous amount about the
manipulation of the print process:
how to let the chemicals do much of
the work, how to use the reverse side
of the paper, tiny beads and stones,
fabrics, string, rope and various tools
as simple as a pencil to accomplish
certain quite unexpected and magical
results. I made probably 500-plus
prints, several of which were etchings,”
O’Neal recalls.[23] She was invited back
to teach painting at uta for three
summers in a row, and she continued
to pull prints with Vanderlyn during
these summer sessions. “[Vanderlyn]
was tough. [What] he taught me to do
was incredible,” she shares.[24] She used a
new technique—the reverse monotype
process in which a drawing on the back
of the paper creates a ghost-like image
that bleeds through to the image on
the other side as it is passed through
the press. In addition to this work,
O’Neal and Vanderlyn also printed
monotypes from drawings she created
during her Morocco residency,
including Two Deserts, Three Winters,
1990. O’Neal’s printmaking techniques
and skills improved as a result of
working with Vanderlyn, and the two
shared a mutual respect for one
another. “Tom and his family always
took me out for lunch or dinner before
my flight back to California. We were
forever amazed and amused by the
reception we received in these fine
establishments. You could hear a fork
drop—the African American woman
with this whole family of flaxen haired
people, five of which were beautiful
children,” O’Neal warmly remembers.[25]
By 1992 O’Neal was off again, exhibiting
examples of the monotypes she printed
during her 1984 residency in Morocco
at the Biennale Internationale Du
Dakar, in Dakar, Senegal, Africa. She
had previously represented the United
States at the Second World Black
and African Festival of Art in Lagos,
Nigeria (festac77) in 1977, where she
was in a group exhibition with Throne
Mitchell, Noah Purifoy, Faith Ringgold,
Haywood “Bill” Rivers, Vincent Smith,
William T. Williams, and Melvyn
Ettrick from Jamaica. While in Dakar,
the artists gave workshops, visited
studios and spoke with students at both
the Nigerian and Senegalese festivals.
An extended visit with the legendary
Nigerian artist Twin 77 at his compound
in Nigeria stood out as an especially
unforgettable moment for O’Neal. She
joined his wives in dying fabrics that
were sewn into traditional national
dress and modern and original designs
for men and women.[26] Once again
enthralled by African women and their
colorfully wrapped garments, O’Neal
observed that in Senegal the vibrant
clothing and wraps seemed to be almost
falling off of the women, slipping off
of their shoulders and revealing their
dark skin. The contrast of colored
fabric against dark smooth skin added
to the women’s sexiness—the wind
caught everything in its path, including
their elaborately braided coiffeurs.
This experience in Dakar inspired the
painting When History Speaks, It Dreams
(c. 1992) featuring a stone arch and
its supporting walls depicted in purple
hues. An image of the passageways in
the Goree Castle in Senegal that opened
to the sea, known as the “door of no
return,” this structure served as the last
exit for slaves as they boarded slavers’
vessels bound for the New World.[27]

Another printmaking residence came
as a surprise. Unknown to O’Neal,
her husband organized her prints from
the Blackburn Printmaking Workshop
in Manhattan, the Printmaking
Workshop in Asilah, Morocco, and
the Taller 99 Printmaking Studio in
Santiago, Chile, and sent them for
consideration for an Artiste en France
Award. Returning home from teaching
one day, tired and irritable—a
condition she often found herself in
while working at UC Berkeley at a
time when she felt the art department
was being “dismantled easel by easel,”
in her words[28]—she was greeted by
a pleasant surprise when she learned
Toro had applied for the prize on
her behalf, quietly responding to an
invitation in the mail to send in slides
and other materials. He selected the
slides, filled out the forms, gathered the
materials requested by the committee,
and sent them in. He knew that left
up to her, the invitation might not
get a response. O’Neal won the Artiste
en France award from the French
Government and Moet Chandon.
The award included, among other
things, a studio in Paris for six months,
round-trip tickets on Air France to
Paris, and a beautiful medal created by
Tiffany that would be presented at an
exhibition of her work at the French
Cultural Center in New York. O’Neal
was shocked and delighted.
The exhibition at the French Consulate
in New York was beautifully mounted
and the reception swelled with colorful
flowers, gorgeous food, fine champagne,
and delectable French desserts. She
invited guests from all parts of her life,
from the East and West Coasts, and
places in between. The French Consulate
invited the New York museum
community and gallery directors.
After this event, O’Neal and Toro
returned to Oakland from New York,
packed their bags and left for Paris.
As resident Artist en France at the Cité
International des Arts building, O’Neal
shared a printmaking studio with
other printmakers. Although they were
quite social, the printmakers at the
Cité were also extremely territorial.
O’Neal remembered: “[I] found it hard
[to believe] that as a professional artist
I could still cause a shop to want to
banish me. I am not sure why a brand
new bath of acid tempts [my] worst
behavior. Yes, it happened again—as
the most recent arrival in the
communal shop, I was already seen
as an interloper, taking up more press
time, more wall space, more table
space, more thumbtacks, more very
petty little things, pencils, touche, rags,
the lot. Well, it of course just made
matters worse—I left a plate in the
new acid bath too long and this time it
smoked up the whole lab. No one
actually said go away, but my blunder
was the talk of the Cité printmaking
world for a few unpleasant days.”[29]
O’Neal did have one friend at the
Cité—Bejou, who she had worked
with in Asilah. They were happy to be
working together again. Bejou taught
O’Neal techniques that she hadn’t
used before which were innovations
that Bejou developed from the more
traditional techniques passed down to
her through family. Bejou also tried to
defend O’Neal to the other printers,
but the American artist’s reputation in
the lab was so stained that she decided
as soon as she could find a place, she
would move to what she called “higher
ground.” One evening at the Cite
Gallery, O’Neal ran into an old friend
from her first trip to Asilah, Morocco,
Prince Mohammad Bennani. After the
gallery opening closed, he returned
to her studio and they talked into the
night. Later, it was the Prince came to
her rescue, solving her studio problem
by finding her a print shop that was
about to close due to rent problems.
It was still winter, and this was the
coldest shop O’Neal had ever worked
in—colder than Santiago, and colder
than her studio in the Pardee Building
in Oakland on damp fog-filled Bay
Area days—but she felt she was meant
to be there. All of the paying printers
had deserted, but after she moved in,
some returned and resumed printing
and paying the rent so that the lab
could be sustained.

In Paris, O’Neal made a habit of going
into the printmaking studios and
collecting the torn sheets of printing
paper that other printmakers had
tossed. Sometimes there were printed
images on the throwaways. She retrieved
these from the trash and took them
back to their studio—this was good
paper that could be used again. These
cast-off papers became parts of her
paintings as collage papers, glued
onto the canvases or other surfaces
and painted over. Often, ghost-like
images from the original printer’s
hand showed through beneath the
paint. O’Neal didn’t care. The printed
images were treated just like any
other collage material gathered from
disparate sources. O’Neal and Toro
were sharing and borrowing ideas and
materials from each other during
this time, and these collage paintings
were a favorite experiment of theirs,
allowing them to create a variety of
types of surface textures. They both
were invited to participate in the
Troisieme Triennale Mondiale d’Estampes,
Musee d’Art Contemporaine de
Chemalieres, France, 1994-1997.

O’Neal’s challenges diminished as she
settled into the rhythm of the shop.
She found another friendly face in
Carrie Mae Weems, who had a studio
in the same Cité des Art building.
The two women visited each other’s
studios frequently, sharing ideas on
their respective works, residencies, and
their winter in Paris. The weather was
still very cold—Parisians said it was
the coldest winter in recent memory—
and the whole city seemed to exist in
monotones of gray. Only months earlier
O’Neal had emerged from the arid
sunbaked lands of Northern Africa to
arrive in this color-starved city of damp
narrow streets—the most populous
urban center in Western Europe. In
Morocco, her work mirroredthe colorful
scarves and fabrics that contrasted with
the often all-black sheaths and veils
worn by the women. In Paris, O’Neal
observed the atmospheric change
that caused people to bundle up and
scurry in and out of buildings and
underground passages in search of
shelter. It was during this period that
O’Neal produced (Fig. 11) Dark Days
in the Abundant Blue Light of Paris,
Bojangles Series, 1994, a print that
makes reference to the commonly
expressed notion of Paris as the “city
of lights.” Since the Middle Ages,
Paris has been known as Ville Lumière
thanks to its reputation as a center of
education, ideas, and culture. During
the 19th century, whole quarters
of the city were torn down, opening
up large avenues and letting light
stream through the transformed
modern city—a makeover that further
reinforced the perception of Paris as
the “city of lights.” In the prints and
paintings she produced in Paris,
O’Neal often portrayed the bluish light
emitted by street lamps on cold winter
evenings. (Fig. 12) Claquettes, Bojangles
Series, 1994, is also a part of that series.
As is often with O’Neal her colleague
Robert Colescott, they slyly presented
historical and political antidotes in
their paintings and prints. Here O’Neal
names this Parisian series after the tap
dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, also
one of the Harlem Hellfighters like
James Reese Europe, whose regiment
led the first Americans into France
during WWI and then after the Armistice,
into Germany. A large monotype of
two café chairs, entitled Round Up the
Usual Subjects (1994) alludes to another
iconic Parisian subject. An animistic
rendering of the familiar shapes loved

by visitors to Paris—French black and
yellow café chairs of the sort that are
found in many traditional French cafés,
especially those in parts of the city
frequented by tourists—these chairs
seem to say, “be seated.”
O’Neal searched for and found
color in this gray environment in her
daily walks through street market
stalls, focusing on the fresh fruits and
vegetables, the loaves of bread and
cheese, and the fish and eggs. Thinking
back on those days, O’Neal remembers
the advice she received from David
Driskell, who taught her to always
work in the studio: “You don’t know
the hour or the day that the muse will
drop into the studio. You have to be
in the studio for her to visit. So many
pieces start as a bowl of fruit or a
bouquet of flowers”—or a still-life—
shoes in a bowl as in (Fig. 13) Untitled
(Shoes), c. 1994.[30] She imagined color
in other ways in compositions that
were humorous and tragic as in
(Fig. 14) Willie Jackson Stuffed her in
the Closet and Left, 1993.
Paris served as a needed immunization
against what was to come upon O’Neal’s
return to Oakland. Returning to her
studio, the artist found a notice on the
door informing her that the property
had been sold and all tenants would
have to vacate the building. The building
was a center of artistic activity that
also housed an independent bookseller,
a shoeshine shop, a beauty shop, a
sandwich shop, a metal plating outfit,
an art gallery, and Crown Point Press,
a printmaking shop that pulled prints
with artists such as Robert Colescott,
John Cage, and Richard Diebenkorn.
In my recent essay for Choose Paint!
Choose Abstraction! Celebrating Bay Area
Abstract Artists, I explore the relationship
between O’Neal’s tough paintings and
her printmaking residencies:
“Several residencies marked her
years at Berkeley; the first was
with Robert Blackburn at his
printmaking workshop in New
York. O’Neal was drawn to
printmaking because it provided
an opportunity to make her work
available to more people. Her
monotypes had their origin in
her large paintings, so large that
they could only be exhibited in
museum galleries. Printmaking
also opened a wide door to
another technique, to social
interactions with artists and others
in new places, and to further
residencies: in New York; Asilah,
Morocco; Santiago, Chile, and
Paris, France, at Cité International
des Arts, where she printed Dark
Days in the Abundant Blue Light
of Paris (1994). This monotype
has the same organic feeling as
O’Neal’s paintings, which she says
are alive and constantly changing.
It has two beautiful white impasto
corsets that seem to pulsate out
from their dark blue backgrounds,
and it is the quality of the light
depicted in the print that is so
evocative. O’Neal has described
walking back from her Paris studio
to her apartment and seeing the
brightness of the reflected light from
street lamps against rain-covered
streets and sidewalks. She was in
Paris in the winter, so the contrast
between a multitude of lights in the
darkened city and these artificial
lights created a striking display.
Printmaking was also personally
gratifying for O’Neal. It was more
immediate than painting and
allowed for more experimentation,
and also for her to change from
one medium to the next. O’Neal
later transferred some techniques
from printmaking into painting.
Her paintings from the 1970s
through 1980s are known for
their opaque quality and, when
in color, for the bushiness of the
buttery movements of the paint.

Beginning in 1989, the time she
spent in several printmaking
workshops—especially in Nemesio
Antúnez’s Taller 99 print workshop
in Santiago, Chile—changed her
paintings. Antúnez was known for
his use of new technical methods
that correspond to mechanized
images, which influenced O’Neal.
She began to thin the paint and
scrape it across her canvases with
commercial paint rollers. She
stamped designs onto darkened
surfaces that had been covered
in charcoal, allowed to set, and
then glazed. These works relate
to O’Neal’s lifelong concern with
building up layers. Although
they are paintings, the markings
imitate what she experienced with
printmaking brayers and other
tools. So, while her monotypes
initially replicated the qualities
of her paintings, later paintings
replicated the qualities of
printmaking.”[31]
O’Neal’s transition from the last decade
of the 20th century into the 21st
century is marked by a fluctuation
between paintings featuring a very dark
palette and ones with heated surfaces
of reds, oranges, and yellows. In the
dark paintings, O’Neal uses commercial
paint rollers to apply paint to her
canvases, stopping the roll, skipping
the paint, moving the roller in
different directions, and standing it on
end to achieve varying visual shapes
and textures, thereby invigorating her
canvases with roller marks that suggest
the layers achieved in printmaking.
(Fig. 15) Grave Robbers, c. 1998 was
inspired by Hatshepsut’s tomb in Egypt
that contrasted the ancient with the
contemporary realities of war tanks.
In (Fig. 16) Tillie, Lassie and the Don,
1998, she created a new type of
rhythmic energy on an otherwise
darkened canvas. Alternating from
her signature brushwork to painting
with paint rollers was just one more
way to get the paint onto canvas—to
create spaces and a place for her
drawings to live, a place for the viewer
to walk into and take up temporary
residence with her cast of characters
who could include Tillie, frolicking
Whales, running panthers chasing
doves, and the many fruits and flowers
that are all over the inside of her
home and outside in her garden. Her
hot-palette paintings were inspired
by her last difficult years at cal where
she envisioned gargoyles—hybrid
humanoid and animal forms, sometimes
dancing and happy, and sometimes more
sinister. She focused on the gargoyles
as a symbol of her hard-won residency
in Paris. Because her department head
did not approve her leaving so soon
after her sabbatical, she had to win
the support and approval from the
Chancellor. The gargoyles on Notre
Dame near her studio apartment in
Paris found their way into her carnivalesque
drawings and paintings,
which blossomed into the mixed media
paintings comprised of distinctively
layered competing drawn imagery that
illustrates the profound richness her
various printmaking residencies have
added to her art practice.

Endnotes
[1] The information for this article is based on taped
interviews with Mary Lovelace O’Neal by Lizzetta
LeFalle-Collins from March 2007-2008 and personal
communications by telephone, email messaging
thereafter.
[2] Mary Lovelace O’Neal, email to author, 9 August,
2009.
[3] Notes complied by Michael A. Roosenvelt, “Stanley
William Hayter & Atelier 17,” www.ateliercontrepoint.
com/a171.html. Quoted from Art in America, 52,
December, 1964.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Long exposure to the toxic fumes caused poisoning
and created agitated personality disorders such
as the one epitomized by “The Mad Hatter,” an
eccentric character that behaves erratically at the
tea party table with the March hare and utters
nonsensical poetry and riddles in Lewis Carroll’s
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
[8] Ibid.
[9] O’Neal, clarification by telephone with author.
[10] O’Neal, email to author, 9 August 2009.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17 O’Neal, email to author, 9 August, 2009.
[18] David Driskell and Mary Lovelace O’Neal in
conversation at the Third Annual Distinguished
Lecture at the David Driskell Center, University of
Maryland, College Park, 22 April, 2004.
[19] Taller 99, http://www.taller99.cl/taller99.html
(accessed 9 August, 2009).
[20 O’Neal, email to author, 9 August, 2009.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] O’Neal, transcribed from cassette tape, 15 July, 2008.
[25] O’Neal, email to author, 9 August, 2009.
[26] O’Neal, email to author, 11 July, 2009.
[27] Reviews: African Arts vol. 11, issue 1 (October 1977);
Black Scholar vol. 9, issue 1 (September 1977): 34-37.
[28] O’Neal, transcribed from cassette tape, 15 July, 2008.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
[31] “Mary Lovelace O’Neal: Tough Painting,” in Choose
Paint! Choose Abstraction! Celebrating Bay Area
Abstract Painting, Museum of the African Diaspora,

San Francisco, CA, exhibition catalog, 2012.