“Friendship” by Jeanne Rhea
Culture: Southeast Asia
Artist Statement: I chose the Southeast Asian culture instead of any one country’s culture for my art. I have several very dear friends from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. I have always been fascinated by their art, religions, the topography and many other aspects of the cultures. The one characteristic that I found with all was the wonderful friendship. So I chose to make two different villages represented by the two men coming together and shaking hands. All the quotes are on friendship and neighbors as I believe that friendship can transcend cultural differences.
“Mardi Gras” by Nanette S. Zeller
Culture: New Orleans
Artist Statement: New Orleans, in my mind, is truly a melting pot. The foods, traditions, and lifestyle portray the blended ethnic and religious cultures that formed this fascinating city.
New Orleans is known for its party life, especially along Bourbon Street. However, it is also known for its strong faith. Carnival is the celebration that most of us refer to as Mardi Gras. Technically, the culmination of the Carnival events is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is the day after Fat Tuesday. I view Carnival as a free-for-all celebration, where rumpus sinning is allowed, because all will be forgiven during the fasting of Lent.
Many Haitians brought their Voodoo culture to the city. The Spanish, French, American Indian, and Cubans also had their cultural influences on the city and its food. The unique Cajun and Creole foods of Louisiana are the culmination of the blended ethnic groups of French, French-Canadian, Spanish, African-American, and Native-American who lived in the area.
I visited New Orleans once. I loved walking the city and experiencing all the sounds and smells, both good and bad. The music moved me. The human characters intrigued me. The cultural richness of the area touched me. If it wasn’t for the oppressive heat and humidity of Louisiana, I would want to live there. Several years after my visit, I watched the story of Hurricane Katrina unfold. I was heart-sick as I watched the residents of this fine city suffer. So many lives were affected. So much history destroyed. The city may never be the same, but the culture will still be rich.
A blended culture is the backbone of the American experience. New Orleans definitely represents the soul of America. I look at the colors of Mardi Gras – purple represents justice; green is for faith; and gold stands for power — and realize the hues belong to the spirit of this fine city. May the colors continue to stand true for New Orleans, representing the importance of America’s blended historical cultures; justice, faith and power.
Culture: Native American, African, and African American
Artist Statement: My quilt shows two generations of my family, which has Native American, African, and African American ancestry. The center photograph is of my grandmother and her sister; the photograph on the left shows my grandmother’s cousins (also sisters), and the photograph on the right is of my sister and me. My inspiration was sisters, Nature, and fabrics with African and Native American motifs. The photos are placed within or across the fabrics as they relate to the ethnicity of the sisters. Thus, the cousins are fully within the Native American fabric panel, my grandmother and great aunt are positioned largely on the Native American, with a bit on the African (since they both married African American men), and the photo of my sister and me straddle the two fabric panels. The embellishments of feathers, twigs, beads and braids came together as the composition did; each photo is framed by what I believe the sisters would have recognized as part of their worlds.
In my own mixed media work, I am inspired by depictions female ancestry, creating my ‘Ancestress Series’ of shadow boxes and masks which feature women of color. My Cultural Cloth quilt is an extension of this theme on a very personal level.
Artist Statement: In 1531 this image of the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego. She performed a miracle that led to the uniting of all the cultures, languages and classes of Mexico into one and serves now as a symbol of their identity. Her image is still visible on Juan’s robe in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Her feast day is December 12th. Many prayers and miracles have been attributed to this version of the Holy Mother. Even if you do not believe in miracles you must admire the Mexican people for their devotion to their families, culture and religion.
Artist Statement: My Grandfather, who I never knew, was a Swedish sea captain. This piece represents the leaving behind of the old for the new life in America.
Some of my forbears remained in the New York area, while others migrated to the Midwest, where they were hardworking people of the soil, living close to the earth, and using practical skills to make their way in this new and challenging environment.