We’re coping with the continued uncertainty of the pandemic, the stress of the recent election, the anxiety of tumultuous racial tensions, and the distance between us and our loved ones.
In the midst of all this, Dr. Jeffreen Hayes, PhD, says our homes can become a source of comfort.
“The home is supposed to be the one place that you can just be your whole self,” she says.
Hayes is an art historian, curator, and executive director of Threewalls Chicago, a contemporary arts organization. She believes that now is the time more than ever for people to make their home a reflection of what brings them to life.
Our home can “remind [us] that while there’s so much death around us and we’re confined to a space, that there’s still life happening,” Hayes says.
And for evidence of life happening all around us, we need only turn to the arts.
Despite current conditions, art can continue to be a mode of expressing and experiencing our humanity.
And while we may not be able to go to a museum, a poetry slam, or an art walk during the pandemic, we can surround ourselves with inspiring, life-affirming art every day.
The artists below are women of color (WOC) who are bringing hope and inspiration with work that reflects the beauty of Black people and Black culture.
Marsha Hatcher is a visual artist who works in acrylic. Her subject matter most often involves people of color.
Hatcher’s goal as an artist is to get people who view her work to think about what she’s captured in her painting, not just see it.
She also wants to see more representation in art.
“We as a community should support locally what we would like to see nationally. Success in anything we do should begin at home,” she says.
Hatcher practices what she preaches by surrounding herself with art in her own home, with works done by herself as well as other artists of color.
“Every piece of art has an identity, memory, or story associated with it. My home is a reflection of what I’m passionate about, my safe place where I create and find peace,” she says.
Princess Simpson Rashid
Princess Simpson Rashid specializes in painting and printmaking. She creates abstract work that emphasizes energy, movement, and color.
“I often use nonobjective abstraction to investigate how people move through and navigate spaces not designed for them,” Rashid says.
Her most recent work focuses on the expression of Black joy through abstraction.
Rashid wants collectors of her work to not only support her career but to stay in touch and get to know her.
“We strengthen each other by supporting each other… building our own table instead of waiting for others to accept or validate our work,” she says.
Rashid wants viewers of her work to be open to polymathic thinking and empathic thought. In the same way, she surrounds herself with original art as well as books about art, science, philosophy, and poetry.
“Art is powerful and can help us heal and even dream,” Rashid says. “It can help protect a sense of peace in a space. It can bless you in the time you choose to spend with it and really look.”
Erin Kendrick’s work has layers: There’s the painting, and then there’s the installation that goes with the painting.
She says her goal is to either construct or deconstruct a narrative.
“I do my best to tell stories that humanize Black women,” Kendrick says.
In Kendrick’s work, the viewer is both the seer and the subject as they stare at the eyes of girls and women who stare directly back at them. This breaking of the fourth wall includes the viewer in the construction of a new story.
“We control the narrative,” she says. “We, as contemporary artists and collectors, are the record keepers of our own truths.”
As an artist, Kendrick surrounds herself with things to which she feels emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually connected, like furniture, plants, and art.
Buying paintings for your walls isn’t the only way to beautify your space with artwork.
“The way that heirlooms and material culture objects are displayed in our homes connects us to our lineage, to our history, to beauty,” Hayes says. “It’s a very intimate space, and it’s a space that also requires a kind of a sacredness because it’s our home, and it’s an extension of your heart.”
Feminist writer bell hooks noted that the Black home is the first gallery space many African American people are introduced to.
These next three creatives are part of Black-owned Etsy shops. Their work offers an opportunity to make your home an extension of your heart.
Christina Springer is a Pittsburgh-based artisan who creates Black womanist lifestyle objects. These objects include throw blankets, luxury bath sheets, throw pillows, mugs, socks, hoodies, and more.
Springer says the driving force behind her shop is that Black people deserve to see themselves everywhere, most especially at home.
“Not everyone can afford gallery prices for original fine art, but [almost] everyone can afford a throw pillow,” Springer says.
Her work reflects the political and spiritual zeitgeist of the African diaspora.
One series called “Everyday Kwanzaa” reminds people to practice the rituals of Kwanzaa at all times. Another, “Every Divine Day,” reflects on the Orisha, or deities, of the African traditional religious practice Ifá.
Springer, with 30 years of practice in multiple art disciplines, says that the home can be a refuge where everyone, especially Black womxn, can feel safe and supported.
“If we can exert one small reminder of our destiny to achieve our highest self, if we can exert that tiniest amount of control over our visual reality, then we can see ways we might be able to exert control over another part of our life… until we are closer to whole,” she says.
Your home is a major part of your environment, but so is your body and how you adorn it.
Alicia Goodwin creates sculptural, stylish jewelry, and has been selling on Etsy since 2006. She likes working with gold and texture to add depth and symbolism to her work.
Goodwin wants people who wear her work to realize that they can do anything.
“Anyone who appreciates good work and/or craftsmanship is the right person for me,” Goodwin says. “I don’t care who wears it, as long as they feel good in it and respect the work.”
Goodwin says she first creates a work for herself, but has been blown away by how many people appreciate her artistry. She believes that the current state of affairs in the United States makes right now the best time for people to get to know themselves, including their likes and dislikes.
“There might be more freedom [soon] to be able to explore yourself and what you enjoy,” Goodwin says.
If the body is part of your environment, so is the skin you live in.
Latoya Johnston is the creative behind the Brooklyn-based skin care line Fresh Seed Glow. Her company specializes in products that are made with natural and organic ingredients.
The small-batch line includes face serums, lavender water toner, and a rose-infused body scrub. All products are chemical-free and designed to pamper the skin from head to toe.
Johnston started her company when she embarked on her own journey to find natural products for her hair and skin. She says she wants customers to feel good about the quality of her skin care line.
“I take time to curate each and every product,” Johnston says.
She believes in being conscious about what you surround yourself with and what goes on and into your body.
Whatever your needs, you can find ways to imbibe your environment with meaning, comfort, and beauty.
A little card goes a long way
You may not be the type to send cards or letters, but it’s easy to find stationery with beautiful art prints. A miniframe is all you need to put it on display with style.
Use what you already have
What’s already in your house that’s beautiful? Maybe you’ve just forgotten about it.
Pull it out of the closet and put it on display.
“I was gifted a really beautiful African blanket years ago, and I had put it aside,” Hayes says. “During the pandemic I brought it out.”
Dig through your belongings to find things you treasure, and let them see light.
Patronize the arts in your community
Acquiring unique pieces that speak to your soul may be more accessible than you think.
Both Hayes and Kendrick suggest contacting an artist about commissioning a piece within your budget. You may be able to work out a payment plan that allows you to support the arts and the creatives in your community.
“Really look and see who’s in your community that’s a maker who might appreciate a request,” Hayes says.
This appreciation works both ways and may lead to generational wealth, according to Kendrick.
“Art collection is also a solid investment. Most artwork appreciates in some capacity over time and can be passed down through generations,” she says.
Go ahead: Surround yourself with provocative art, decorate your home with meaningful items, adorn yourself with one-of-a-kind jewelry, or pamper your skin and hair.
Your home, your body, and your environment can be a reflection of beauty, culture, and life.
Nikesha Elise Williams is a two-time Emmy award-winning news producer and author. Nikesha’s debut novel, “Four Women,” was awarded the 2018 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award in the category of Adult Contemporary/Literary Fiction. “Four Women” was also recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists as an Outstanding Literary Work. Her latest novel is “Beyond Bourbon Street.”