This Woman's Work


 "So are you concerned about this-the oral stimming, the mouthing of objects-do you want therapists to get him to stop?" "Well, yes I am concerned about it because he's putting things in his mouth that aren't healthy or safe like batteries/charging cables/my rings/his clothing...but I don't want him to stop stimming, no-I don't want him to stop doing something that helps him find comfort and process stimuli (internal or external). I'd much rather focus on helping him find safe things he can chew or mouth on, you know? Like chewy tubes, or some kind of fidget that can help him get the input he's seeking orally. But I don't think this particular stim is one we should work on getting rid of. No."

I spent 2 hours in a room doing this-advocating for my kid, talking, explaining, objectively and constructively fleshing out as accurate of a picture of him, his needs/strengths/abilities/struggles as I could for the intake therapist at Easter Seals. Just like I did last week for an hour with the speech therapist, last month with the team at Kaiser's Autism Center in San Jose during his assessments, and as I've done repeatedly for the last 3 years for Alex. It's a weird balance trying to maintain when you're working to get your kid the help he needs while also making it clear that he is not "broken". It's pushing back at the subtle and overt messaging that there are parts of your kids that need to be fixed by asserting instead that perhaps what needs "fixing" are the classifications of certain behaviors as "typical" (i.e. "good") + a world that isn't inclusive of difference that exists outside of narrow parameters. It's choking back whatever worries/anxieties/fears you have as their parent and steadying your voice so you come across as concerned but informed/proactive/capable. It's ignoring the surprise that starts in their eyes and spreads across their face, alters their body language, and shifts their tone and warmth toward you once they realize the Black woman sitting across from them can talk about things like language development, the vestibular system, primitive reflexes, sensory integration, and varying behavior modalities on a "professional" level. It's verbally adding nuance to the questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes/no/sometimes" or the 2 lines they give you to "explain further". It's smiling and relishing in the moments in between answers when you can elaborate on who your kid really is in spite of what's in the reports and diagnoses.

I've done it so much for all 3 of my kids over the last 3 years I've learned how to talk about them/their needs/their struggles as their mother and advocate simultaneously. I've learned how to detach emotionally and be objective and firm. I've learned to remember what's been said in every evaluation/appointment/therapy session. I've yet to learn how to keep it from exhausting me though. I'm hoping they learn from watching and hearing me do it how to do it for themselves as they grow and navigate the world on their own. 

It's what I wasn't taught how to do by my own parents. Isn't that the goal, ultimately? To do for the next generation what couldn't be done for your own, so that each one becomes more equipped to navigate life and better themselves and world? That's the work we've been asked to do isn't it? It's exhausting work but I choose to believe it's worth it. I do. 




Haven't been in here for 3 days, (back pain, ugh) but I stepped in today and poured out what I've been carrying, because the studio is the one place that can bear the full weight of it...and me. I stepped in and to the canvas because we can't deal with what we have going on inside of us until we have the courage to face it.

Painting does that for me: gives me the boldness necessary to confront myself with grace, compassion, and honesty. It holds the burdens my arms/heart/mind/soul can't.


Art as Protest: Leila Weefur's "Dead Nigga Blvd."

This morning while scrolling through Betti Ono Gallery's Facebook feed, I came across the work of stop motion animation artist Leila Weefur. They posted a video of hers called"Dead Nigga Blvd." that is a must see.

 "Dead Nigga Blvd. exists somewhere between life on Earth and the afterlife. Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin dwell in frustration and confusion as they are forced to confront their deaths in the same way we all have confronted their deaths, through a broadcast. These three young men represent only a small percentage of deaths caused by racial injustices but their faces have become iconic in the conversation of American racism." 

You can watch it here:

and also check out her piece titled "To Be Constructed"  





Breathe and Stop



In the midst of commissions, prepping for my pop up at West Elm (check my IG for more on how that went), and feeling like crap physically (more on this later), I've been quietly playing in the studio with new color mixing/color combinations, tools like screen printing squeegees, and a different style. Just experimenting, imitating to see what fits, and exploring what elements I can adopt and use to evolve + expand my own process of expression. It's a fun but also head scratching aspect of the growing process as I question where to go next + what dead pieces to prune away & leave behind and what to continue to carry with me.

What works? What doesn't? Does it add distinction to my work or simply make it "trendy" (i.e. commercial enough to sell)? What scares me about going darker, weirder, about deconstruction in general? All questions currently rumbling through my brain that can only be answered as I continue to play and hone in on my artistic voice. I'm not completely sure what's next stylistically, (or even conceptually, kinda, maybe) but I'm committed to the process of finding out and to trusting where the Muse leads. 


I conceptualized and submitted three solo exhibition proposals and submitted work to other local group shows this summer. All were rejected, so I'm also processing that. Rejection #51 was hardest to absorb out of the other 50 submissions & rejections this year, mostly because the work I created for it is such a vulnerable expression of my origins and story.  I wasn't able to see why it hit me so hard until my new therapist gently laid it out in front of me with a question: "What if the impact of this rejection pierces deeper than others because of the content of your work-what if it's because you feel like it's a rejection of you ...of your lived experience and what you've been fighting so hard against for much of your life?" 

It was a question that made my heart constrict painfully in recognition that she was right. Trying to vocalize a response in that moment was a failure because tears quickly closed my throat shut, so I just weakly nodded. 


Summer is waning and I spent much of August fortifying myself against the annual arrival of my SAD symptoms on top of feeling pretty awful physically. I'm committing the rest of 2016 to taking a break from trying to put myself and my work "out there" + production/quantity, prioritizing my physical health in a way I haven't in at least a year, and going inward to get attuned to where I need to go next creatively. Craving silence, retreat, breathing room, rest, and exploration. Doing my best to lean into my desire for those things and embrace the shifting. We'll see how it goes. 


My Heart, The Punk


Let me tell you something about hope + nerves: both will cause your heart to free fall through your stomach and out your ass when you're sorting your mail, flip over an envelop, and see the name + address of a place you recently submitted an exhibition proposal to...even when your head knows notifications of acceptance or rejection aren't due to be sent for another 13 days...and even though you know the probability of rejection is high, you still stubbornly hold onto hope because you know you did your best and you believe just the act of showing up matters/is enough...but somehow it isn't until you feel your heart crashing against your rib cage on its way to falling out of your body that you realize just how badly you are hoping/praying/wishing/wanting what you dared to believe you could get if you just tried.

In other words, I nearly fainted outside in our driveway while checking the mail because my heart saw MOAD and thought for .005 seconds this was either a rejection or an acceptance. My heart just gave out like some Ol weak ass, punk ass punk. Because hope and nerves has it shook. 

Do not ask me what I will do once the actual notification shows up on the 31st. If today is any indication, I might need a defibrillator to get through it. 

So what IS in this envelope? Our new membership cards. 

On Being a Woman Outrunning Yet Still Carrying the Impact of Male Violence

I've spent far too many of my 33.5 years on this earth trying to survive, navigate, mitigate, and outlast the impact of violence, abuse and harassment from men and the shitty consequences of their harmful decisions. From my father, stepfather, boyfriends, the guy who tried to rape me in my dorm room on base in 2003, the random dudes who felt they had a right to follow/touch/say whatever they wanted to me as I walked past them in school, on the street, in formation, on the dance floor, during deployment...I am so tired. 

Weary of apologists and the laundry list of excuses and explanations that work overtime to evade accountability. Of rape culture. Of beliefs and mindsets that reinforce and enable violence + the idea that being a girl or woman (cis or trans) = being owned, commodified, used, and treated however men deem is convenient, comfortable, and appropriate for them at home, in schools, on the job, in faiths and places of worship, in politics, in every space women exist.

The impact continues to reverberate and be felt in my relationship with myself, with my husband, in my parenting, and in my relationships with others. I received a text today that reminded me that I may never outrun it, or be free from/completely done with it in my lifetime no matter how much work I do in and out of therapy...and grasping to understand this just reveals how tired I am. I'll be 34 in December and what I want more than anything for my next 34 years is to just be free from the impact. That's it. I'd like to be free. Not just healed, FREE. I'm working my ass off to ensure my boys are so that the cycle hopefully doesn't continue with them, but what I wouldn't give to be free from it too.

I know I'm not the anomaly. So many women have experienced assaults, abuse, harassment, and mistreatment at one point in their life. Too many lose pieces of ourselves or our lives altogether to the act and the impact that reverberates and alters for long after it happens. What I wouldn't give for us to be free so we wouldn't have to carry the impact of this depravity within us. Yes, some of us survive it, but it always costs us something. Our identities, our wholeness, our  mental & physical health, our sense of worth & value, our costs us something. 

There is more to living as a woman than this, isn't there? What does it take to survive as a woman in a world where patriarchy negates our right to exist and thrive outside of its terms? What toll does this emotional labor have on our beings? 


 "What's the greatest lesson a woman should learn?

that since day one. she's already had everything she needs within herself. it's the world that convinced her she did not." - @rupikaur_Milk and Honey 

"But She Has Everything She Needs With to Survive", acrylic on canvas, from The Laughing Barrel series, an exploration of the historical origins and personal impact of emotional and expressive suppression in Black women. 

"But She Has Everything She Needs With to Survive", acrylic on canvas, from The Laughing Barrel series, an exploration of the historical origins and personal impact of emotional and expressive suppression in Black women. 

Here's What I Know About Korryn Gaines

Her life mattered.  

Mass murderers who shoot dozens of people get taken into custody alive and are treated humanely. 

Video after video and report after report show White people waving and pointing deadly weapons at police officers-even actually physically assaulting police officers-and yet they still make it to stand before a judge and answer for their actions. 

We see this happen time and again, and yet... 

We don't and can't know why she chose the actions that she did because she's no longer here to explain it from her perspective. I don't know if she was ill or if it was the impact of being harassed by police and experiencing racism that made her at the very least fear for her safety when the police showed up at her door. 

But I do know that her life still mattered, regardless. I do know that her 5 year old son didn't deserve to experience violence by police nor witness his mother lose her life as well.  

Everything about this case is horrifying and leaves me with nothing but questions. (Essence Magazine asks 7 questions about this case here

Her life mattered. That's about all I know and believe at this point. 


The Laughing Barrel


For the last 4 nights I've been painting "laughing barrels" in my dreams. Supposedly, slaves used to place their heads deep inside these barrels while working in the fields so slave masters wouldn't see or hear them laughing. They were used to hide/suppress emotion and expression, because to laugh or express any part of your humanity equaled punishment, even death...In every dream I'm standing in front of a canvas, painting the barrel and whatever I paint inside of it then becomes animated and MOVES. In my dream Tuesday night I painted a talking head inside of the barrel and everything that came out of the head's mouth danced. Aside from the barrel and head, everything that became animated were abstract in shape and of varying colors.

Initially, I thought what triggered my dreaming about them is the reflecting/writing/painting I've been doing this summer around Blackness as an experience, the power of expression, why it's so threatening, and why and how it becomes silenced in our lives individually and collectively as a people. Today though, I'm realizing how they connect to and are representative of my own traumas around expression both when I was a child, and as an adult Black woman. I'm seeing that as a child, my mind was my laughing barrel. It's where I went when I needed to cry, laugh, scream, allow myself to embrace the tiny moments of joy I squirreled away every time I left my home-the place where any expression of independent thought or emotion in my voice, on my face, or in my body language put me at risk for-and usually subjected me to-violence. I taught myself how to be blank and expressionless on the inside, trained my eyes to be walls instead of windows, the muscles in my face to remain slack and only move in swift response to a command. Emotions were as robed, consolidated, and stifled, shoved deep, deep, deep, deep down in recesses and compartments of myself before they really had a chance to grab ahold of me. I couldn't risk their existence being detected on my face or in my body language or bursting out of me. I hid everything, even from myself. It has taken me just over a decade to find and excavate  all I hid those first 19 years.

And so as I think about these dreams and this laughing barrel concept, I'm understanding that this is really what my work is about: that excavation of everything I've had to hide in the barrel, in my mind, in my body. It's about reclaiming the power of expression that was stripped from me and denied to me during my formative years, the ones described as the most important in a child's life. It's about the impact having to live an emotionally blunted existence has on a body, a psyche, a heart, a soul. It's about identity:  the deconstructing of a person and the reconstructing that occurs once they're able to start forming new identities on their own terms. It's about the process and how it shapes, alters and refines every part of a person. It's about who I was, who I am, and who I hope to be.

I've always been intrigued by process-by the How and the Why that triggers or birth the What a person or being is/becomes. I like the middle and it's where I tend to find myself in most situations or dynamics. As gorgeous as butterflies are what fascinates me is the metamorphosis that happens in the cocoon. That's why when I started my blog in 2010 I called it Butterfly Confessions-my heart's always longed to hear and tell the stories that come from that messy place and intense stage of development. So as I'm beginning this piece, I'm finally seeing that this is what my visual story is. I've explored it some in words the last 6 years, but the desire now is to paint it...and my hope is that by exploring it in this way I can also paint a journey, experience, and struggle that speaks to what Blackness has endured for centuries. I hope that makes sense. I'm honestly struggling with how to articulate this all in a way that's coherent and not in the roiling, jumbled knot as it is inside of me. Im trying to untangle it and unwind it loop by loop, in word when necessary, but more so through image. we go. 

Freddie Gray Did Not Kill Himself

Severed neck and spine.

A "rough ride" in a police van.

Death ruled a homicide.

"We do not believe Freddie Gray killed himself."

6 officers involved. 

4 acquittals. Remaining charges dropped against the rest this morning. 

Freddie Gray did not kill himself. 

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

The "Justice" system did. This country's love affair with supremacy and brutality did. Our failure to hold someone involved responsible for his mistreatment and death did.

We did.  

 Freddie Gray did not kill himself.


Questions, Answers, and The Power in Choosing How to Explain (or Not)


"It is as difficult for [the Action painter] to explain what his art is as to explain what he himself is; but, since he paints with the question and not with the answer, explanation is not an issue." -Elaine de Kooning, 1958

I've mentioned this before, but I think this is why in part, writing has become secondary for me, for the first time since I was 13. For me, writing places a (subconscious) demand on me to explain and most cases before I am fully aware of what desires to be expressed or have an emerging understanding of what I'm experiencing internally. With writing, I can't just ask the questions, you know? In the past, words have been a means of processing my thoughts and emotions and keys to freedom, but more recently they have felt like chains, binding me to the floor, restricting fluid thought, movement, and expression.


"You need to write your book," he said to me last week. "People need to read it. It could help people."

I nodded but said nothing in response because explaining my Why for not giving myself to that process is difficult for me to articulate coherently. I know the book is there, in the queue, waiting. I know the format, the themes it'll explore, and even the title. But I can't bring myself to go back to writing it. The words it requires feel

like prison.  


I think the truth is I don't want to use words to explain certain parts of my story, of what the inside of my mind, heart and soul have looked like these 33.5 years; I can do the work to excavate what the The Impact of events in my life look and feel like, but I balk at the demand to describe it in words. That doesn't feel like healing or liberation to me, when I think of explaining it or my living in that medium. I'd much rather just paint the questions and let a piece explain those things that I can't quite wrap my words around. Painting is sanctuary, freedom and peace. 


Like I said, I know I've discussed this before, this retreat from words and full throttle immersion into and preference for paint. I continue to share about it because it's a very real aspect of my creative process, and I've had to work my way to accepting it as a reality, which hasn't been easy. While it has felt freeing at times, this gravitational shift also hasn't felt comfortable or familiar during others. So I share it-the messy middle, the discomfort, the joy, the freedom I find in embracing the nuances and growth that occurs within this entire process in the hopes it encourages you to do the same regarding your own creative process-whatever that may be, and especially if you create in more than one medium.

Don't be afraid to to yield yourself to the shifts in seasons and rhythms, to let one replace another in the driver's seat. Scratch that-be afraid. You can be afraid. That's normal. I am about 80-90% of the time, honestly. Just don't let that fear paralyze you. I'm getting better at that-at acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to restrict my movement or expression. Be afraid, but do and give yourself fully to the process and your creativity anyway.

Year Seven


First met: August 2008

First date: July 10, 2009.

We always always always forget our anniversaries until the end of the day or the day after. Nearly 8 years ago I met him at a business meeting with a client. 7 years ago today, he took me out to dinner at Karma in Philly and we walked around Rittenhouse Square. Tonight he made me a PB&J as I updated the shop here in the site. 

8 years of knowing.

7 years of working and searching and striving and building then rebuilding. 

The years been full of difficulty and pain but also growth and striving. We're somehow still here. Our therapist said that despite how different we are from each other, she believes we're perfect for one another because we've individually survived so much. "You guys are survivors. You have a lot to offer each other that can bring healing to the both of you." I think she's right. We're survivors.

We fail and fight but somehow keep finding our way back to each other as we both evolve and find our own ways as individuals. We may be in different stages of living (hello age difference) but we're working hard to find ways to coexist and thrive together. Big personalities, big passions, big hearts, mad survival skills: that's us. I don't think I could've found a better person to learn from and partner with to raise our kids. He's the best man I've ever dated.

If I had to do it over again, I'd still say "yea, I'll go on a 'friend date' with you. Sure." (Don't ask me what a "friend date" is-it's been 7 years and we still argue about the classification of our first date. Yes, we are indeed a mess, mind yo business.)

Happy "Friend Date" Anniversary, B. For better or for worse I'm a better human, a better mother, a better believer, a more embodied woman because I am loved by you. Truly. Thank you for giving me space to find my own way and be as I heal from so many things...your love and respect and friendship are worth the work, worth the risk. Always. 

 "True love never has to hide...I trade your broken wings for mine...when you get deep you touch my mind...Nothing real can be threatened, true love breathed salvation back into me...My torturer became my remedy...Oh I've missed you my love." (All Night/Beyonce)


Lives Lost, Lives Taken


I've been quieter about it this year than I have in years past, but my silence doesn't mean I've stopped observing, processing, facing, or grappling with the reality that hate is taking lives...collecting them like trophies. I'm not lost to the fact that racism, nationalism, supremacy, extremism, and terrorism both domestic and global are obliterating innocent lives. 

Tonight I learned about Alton Sterling. This morning, Medina. Before that Baghdad. Bangladesh. Istanbul. Orlando. There's Brexit. Donald Trump is running for president on a platform rooted in willful ignorance, nationalism, and xenophobia. Police officers continue to not be held accountable for any of the brutalization or deaths they cause. 

Muslim lives. Black lives. Brown lives. Queer lives. Trans lives. Young lives. Innocent lives. Too many lives taken by hate. 

It's just too many. I don't know what to say about so much loss, but I'm bearing witness to it, and desperately hoping we find ways to do and be better for each other.I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about it getting worse before it gets any better. We deserve more than hate, fear mongering, oppression, and brutality. We deserve living, thriving, humanity. Love. We deserve love.

Don't we?  Where is it?